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Prof. Gilon 'Moved' by Rabbi Yosef's 'Welcome' on Entering Room

Cardiologist who treated Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Ztz'l and broke news of his passing has reflected on the last few weeks treating the Torah sage.
By Adam Ross
First Publish: 10/8/2013, 6:23 PM

Prof. Gilon
Prof. Gilon
Flash 90

Professor Dan Gilon, the cardiologist who treated Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in the last weeks of his life, has spoken of his experiences to the hareidi website Kikar Shabbat.

The Director of the Hadassah Ein Kerem Echocardiography Unit said Rabbi Yosef had left him with emotional memories. He was particularly moved by the efforts Israel's leading Torah scholar had made to welcome him to his hospital room and thank him whenever he was able.

It was Professor Gilon who broke the news of the Rabbi Yosef's death to the news reporters camped outside the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital early Monday afternoon. Rabbi Yosef had been hospitalized for two weeks.

The website said Gilon appeared calmer than he had shortly after Rabbi Yosef's passing, and "more relaxed," although clearly emotional. 

Being with Rabbi Yosef for such a long period of time had been "an experience," said Gilon. 

Kind manners

Referring to the rabbi's kind manners even in his last days, he added: "He even summoned the strength to wish me 'welcome' (Baruch haba) when I entered his room and also said 'thank you' (todah) in reply to explanations that I gave him. They were emotional moments" he said.

Difficult moment

"When the difficult moment came, the moment when hundreds of people cried "Shema Yisrael," Professor Gilon said, he would "never forget the moment Rabbi Yosef died."

"The news was very hard for us. We knew it would come. We tried to explain that - but when the moment came, it was such a difficult situation, extremely sad and very heavy," he said.

Kikar Shabbat noted that although professor Gilon is not a religious man, each day as he entered the building where Rabbi Yosef was being treated, he would tell reporters camped outside, "only prayers will help."

Heart warming memories

Despite bestowing the news of his passing, Professor Gilon said that he also had some more positive moments to remember from treating his most high profile patient.

"Seeing him briefly return to himself and in particular to see his functions return to him," after waking from a sedation after doctors fought to save his life Professor Gilon said was a heart warming moment he would remember. "Seeing him fully awake, expressive and able to communicate," Gilon said was "especially emotional," adding "He was even able to speak, a little and was responding to those near him and touching him."

He continued, "when we told him his condition had improved slightly he made signals that he understood. We were happy at that moment."

Heavy challenge for hospital

Turning to the challenge for the hospital of caring for Rabbi Yosef, professor Gilon said it had been "extremely difficult and a heavy effort that needed a tremendous amount of staff organization,"  and that it had been  "very difficult and painful and emotional for everyone involved."

"Everyone has reacted in their own way according to their own emotions," he said, paying special tribute to the medical team who had treated Rabbi Yosef in his final hours who he said had done so with "the expected level of professionalism."

Professor Gilon said despite the brief period of slight improvement in his condition, Rabbi Yosef's advanced age and multi-system failure meant that his condition always remained extremely serious throughout the last few weeks of his hospitalization. Despite being removed from a breathing apparatus for a short period of time on Sunday, he later suffered a serious deterioration and died a few hours later at 1.30 pm early Monday afternoon.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's funeral was the largest in Israel's history - with police estimating some 850,000 people took to the streets of Jerusalem to bid him farewell.