A failed attack recalls the pain of Jerusalem Survivor remembers bombing and recovery

July 21, 1998|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- When Shoshana Katsav learned of Sunday's foiled terrorist attack in downtown Jerusalem, the horror of the suicide bombing she survived a year ago tore through her.

Screams filled her head. The mayhem that followed the twin explosions in Jerusalem's main outdoor market flashed before her eyes.

Katsav had been leaving the Mahaneh Yehuda market when the bombers struck July 30. Sixteen people died in the attack; 70 were wounded.

She spent 5 1/2 months in the hospital, and the rest of the last year as an outpatient learning to regain use of her battered and burned body. Yesterday, she finished her last physical therapy session.

"Everything came rushing back to me -- the screams, the destruction, all the pictures," said the 45-year-old mother of four as she sat in the physical therapy wing of the Hadassah Hospital at Mount Scopus. "I was very emotional."

When rescue workers pulled her from the smoldering debris last year, Katsav had a fractured right arm, head injuries, and second- and third-degree burns on her face, chest, back and legs.

The initial prognosis was poor.

"Ninety-nine percent of me was already up in heaven and only 1 percent was on the ground," Katsav recalled her doctor's assessment. "Only now, people are starting to tell me what happened because I'm not ready to hear it all."

When Katsav thinks about the two suicide bombers, she says quietly: "I hate the people who did this, but that doesn't include all Arabs. One of the doctors who took care of me was an Arab. He did everything to save me."

Dr. Salah Odallah is the chief anesthetist and co-director of the intensive-care unit at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where Katsav spent about 5 1/2 months. For the first three, she was kept in a coma because of the severity of her injuries.

Odallah, 38, who was born in Arab East Jerusalem, said Katsav couldn't breathe on her own and was placed on a ventilator. Patients in her condition, he said, are sedated so they can be treated without worsening their pain.

Katsav underwent several surgical procedures. When her condition stabilized, she was taken off the sedatives, he said.

Odallah spoke several times a day with Katsav's family, detailing her treatment and condition.

"I told them if she is still alive after three or four days, the prognosis would be better. The very difficult days were the first ones," he said.

The family kept a round-the-clock vigil. Odallah made arrangements to have Katsav's 13-year-old daughter, Hadass, who also was injured in the bombing, transferred to Shaare Zedek so the family could keep watch over them both.

From the start, Odallah said, the Katsav family knew he was an Arab. It never was an issue, he said.

"As a physician, you cannot have two personalities, to treat patients" and sympathize with terrorists, he said. "To agree with the killers, it is impossible. You cannot continue to be a physician."

Odallah, who has worked at Shaare Zedek for 14 years, and the Katsav family have stayed in touch as Shoshana Katsav underwent intensive physical and occupational therapy.

Katsav considers the last year of her life a disaster. She had to learn to walk again, bathe and dress herself. She has regained minimal use of her right arm.

"What I wanted to stress is that it was a combination of her physical wounds and post-traumatic stress syndrome," said Tami Yosha, the occupational therapist who worked with her. "The rehabilitation takes longer when it involves an emotional wound."

As part of her recovery, Katsav must wear an elastic XTC undergarment known as a "pressure gown" to help soften and thin her burn scars, Yosha said. Katsav may have to wear the gown for up to two years.

"My family kept me together. The staffs of the hospitals, they are amazing, fantastic people. They gave me a lot of strength," said Katsav, who lives in Pisgat Zev, a settlement community on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

But Yosha said Katsav also appeared to have an inner strength. Throughout her long recovery, the therapist said, "she was always smiling."

Before Katsav left, the staff at the Hadassah Hospital held a small party for her.

Pub Date: 7/21/98

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