|Israel Resource Review
||4th May, 2002
Paula Finer Discusses the Tragedy of her Daughter, Now in a Permanent Vegetative State
Subject of Israel Resource News Agency Pilot
private support from many circles, Israel Resource News Agency
has produced a pilot film for what will hopefully evolve into a
full fledged documentary concerning the plight of victims of
The first family that the IR video deals with is the family of
Chana Nachenberg, a woman who has been lying in a coma,
described by her doctors as a "permanent vegetative state", ever
since she was injured by Arab terrorists in the Sbarro
restaurant attack last August.
Chana's mother, Paula Finer, who was interviewed for the film,
recently provided the following personal account to a visiting
delegation of Jewish Americans who came to visit Paula at the
Reuth Medical Center where Chana is hospitalized.
"We would like to thank you for coming to see us, your kind support, and the
Reuth Medical Center for enabling us to meet with you this afternoon.
My name is Paula Finer. I am not a speaker or a politician. I am a mother -
the mother of my newlywed son Zev who was just called to reserve duty in
Gaza, the mother of my second daughter, Shoshana, who lives with her young
family in the West Bank settlement of Eli. And the mother of Chana Tova
Chaya Nachenberg who lies here in this hospital attached to a respirator
because she was hit in the heart and lung by shrapnel in the Sbarro
restaurant, terror suicide bomber attack. Chana was rushed to Hadassah
Hospital in Ein Kerem but by the time she got there the bleeding from her
damaged artery caused her heart-beat to stop. The doctors immediately
operated to resuscitate her but the anoxia to her brain has left her
unconscious till today.
Chana remained in the intensive care unit in Hadassa for 7 weeks before she
was transferred to Reuth. The doctors say that Chana is in a persistent
vegetative state - a condition with a poor prognosis. The R.M.C. here
provides wonderful care for Chana's physical condition, and we her family
work with her every day (except Shabbat) from morning till night trying to
stimulate her to awareness. We work and pray for another miracle. We give
her things to smell, like vanilla or mint and work using all five senses.
For this reason, I often wear my bright red hats.
The first miracle was that Sara, Chana's three year-old daughter, who
although she sat by her side, was untouched by the blast. But the trauma of
seeing her mother fall over, of being taken in the ambulance with her
unconscious mother, of being deprived of her mother's warmth, smile, hugs
and kisses has left an indelible scar on Sara for life. Sara comes to see
her mother here, kisses her, brushes her hair but her once bubbly mother can
not respond. The psychological scars are exemplified by Sara's reactions to
things that other children take as fun. Yesterday, Sara went with her father
to a Lag Be'Omer show where a magician performed. A trick with a flash of
fire caused Sara to burst into hysterical crying. Fireworks also bring out
the same reaction. It is difficult for David, Chana's husband, who has to
cope every day, as a single parent.
The terror attack on August 9, 2001 has changed our lives. Yet, our family
works hard together. When Chana's husband David returned to work, it fell
upon me and my husband Itzie, to take Sara to kindergarten in the morning.
We leave our house at 6:45 to allow David to get the 7:00 o'clock bus. My
husband rushes to synagogue while I feed and dress our granddaughter. At
7:45 he returns and we take Sara to Gan (kindergarten). Then my husband
hurries off to his course while I have just a short while before I leave for
the hospital. It is a long day. After his course, my husband comes straight
to Chana where we stay till 8 p.m. By the time we get home we are exhausted
from the long grind. Sometimes we would like to take a few hours off but we
are stopped by the recurrent crises - bouts of pneumonia, urinary infections
caused by the catheter, and just unexplained temperature spikes that occur
in the vegetative state.
We would like to go home and write the many thank you notes that are in our
hearts to all the people who have helped us since August 9, but after a long
day we simply don't have the energy. I used to work teaching English lessons
in the afternoon, but now my job is to teach my daughter, Chana Tova Chaya.
To sing to her, talk, tell her stories, to move her arms and legs, to wipe
her mouth. Hoping for a miracle that may never come.
Innocent people have lost their lives or were maimed in violent terror
attacks. We are the victims, not the aggressors. It hurts to read and watch
the news every day. We are frustrated. We are fighting for our existence -
for security and peace, yet the world through biased media coverage sees us
the villains. The viscous attack this past Shabbat received one small
paragraph in the international edition at the end of an article about
Israel's hesitance to cooperate with the U.N Jenin investigation.
Israel, at the expense of their public relations, respects the privacy of
the affected families. They do not use sensationalism to win a point. People
around the world cannot and do not realize the long lasting effects of these
terror attacks. You are here now, and perhaps you can bring back some of
these messages to your communities.
Again, thanks to the Reuth Medical Center for their care and dedication.
Thank you again for your support - for coming to Israel in these hard
times - to show us we are not alone. Your caring gives us strength to go on
every day. May you continue to have Chana Tova Chaya and all Israel in your
prayers. Thank you".
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