Through a joint effort of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa and the Palestinian Authority, a resident of the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria who is severely disabled by Parkinson's disease received Deep Brain Stimulation therapy.
51-year-old Tarik Sadek Abu Baker came to Rambam Medical Center this month for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapy in a successful bid to control the disabling symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Abu Baker, an accountant by profession, developed an aggressive case of early onset Parkinson's disease at age 39. Twelve years down the line, he had stopped responding to Parkinsonian medications. On his behalf, the PA turned to the Movement Disorders Center at Rambam, directed by Senior Neurologist Dr. Ilana Schlesinger.
Deep Brain Stimulation therapy to correct movement disorders was pioneered by French neurosurgeon Prof. Alim-Louis Benabid in 1987 and has been available to the medical community since approximately 1999. It has been available in Israel since 2003 and at Rambam since 2008. The surgery involves implanting two electrode-equipped leads in the brain and two battery operated neurostimulators in the chest.
The Movement Disorders Center at Rambam has treated approximately 25 DBS patients over the past 4 years and has quietly made a name for itself throughout the Middle East, with inquiries reaching Dr. Schlesinger from as far as Iran.
Nurse Ilana Erikh, who coordinates the Movement Disorders Center, recalled initially evaluating the suitability of Abu Baker for the treatment. The evaluation requires overnight hospitalization and withdrawal of Parkinsonian medications in order to determine which movements a Parkinson's patient can perform without the drugs.
“I had never seen a patient that bad,” she said. “He could barely move or talk because of severe rigidity and tremors. It hurt me to see so young a person entirely disabled and trembling, who couldn't do anything without assistance. He obviously needed extraordinary measures.”
In June, Prof. Menashe Zaaroor, Director of the Department of Neurosurgery at Rambam, implanted the leads and neurostimulators. Three weeks later, the patient reported again to Dr. Schlesinger. She and her team members, neurologist Dr. Maria Nassar and Nurse Erikh, switched on the neurostimulators' batteries and calibrated the voltage. Within an hour of stepping into the clinic, the patient was a new man. He could walk and move freely. He had no visible signs of his disease.
While neither medications nor DBS therapy can cure Parkinson's disease and can only address the symptoms, those symptoms or their absence make the difference between severe disability and good quality of life.
The patient’s wife, Ginan Salim Abu Baker, said, “We have received warm consideration at Rambam, and we were made very happy last week because my husband, who has needed me to help him with personal hygiene, eating, and preparing for sleep, has improved and doesn’t need my assistance anymore. We didn’t expect such quick results.”
More than once, Israeli doctors have helped save the lives of PA Arabs from both Gaza and Judea and Samaria who came to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals.
In one case, the Israeli Civil Administration and the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem provided and even funded medical treatment for a PA Arab.
Last year, doctors from the Rambam Hospital successfully saved a Gaza toddler who was suffering a brain tumor.
Over the past few months Hamas, which controls Gaza, has “punished” Gazans for its disagreements with rival Fatah by refusing to allow sick individuals to enter Israel for treatment.
Despite Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza, Israel continues to coordinate treatment of Gazans with the PA Ministry of Health which is run by Fatah.