A cornerstone ceremony was recently held for construction a hostel that will host pediatric cancer patients and their families coming to Rambam Health Care Campus for treatment. The hostel is the result of a collaborative effort between multiple organizations and donors.
“Shoham, 11-and-a-half years old, has been coping with cancer for two years. We believe and hope that he will beat this, but at the moment he must receive treatments, and his treatment plan requires us to arrive once every three weeks for five consecutive days of treatment,” shares Hani Shamir, Shoham's mother. “We live in the Galilee, and every trip to the hospital takes at least 75 minutes, even though we drive against traffic. After an exhausting day of treatments that leaves Shoham feeling quite a few side effects, a journey like this is really difficult – especially when it is done day after day.”
Approximately 450 to 500 cases of pediatric cancer are diagnosed in Israel, 130 of which are treated at Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital at Rambam, the largest medical center in the north, and the only one treating children with cancer. Of the 130 children treated each year at Rambam, 20% live in northern communities that are more than an hour—sometimes more than two hours—away, on every treatment day.
The hostel will serve as a convalescent home for children with cancer coming from communities far from Haifa. These children—who face intensive day care treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or biological treatments that weaken the body—are also forced to cope with difficult and exhausting trips. The hostel is being established through an initiative of the non-profit humanitarian organization, Lev Chash, with support from the Haifa Municipality, Rambam Health Care Campus, the National Insurance Institute, and Mr. David Fattal, a former Haifa resident and owner of the Fattal hotel chain.
“A significant percentage of children treated in the department must receive daily treatments that can be long and exhausting, and radiation therapy can last from one to two months,” explains Professor Miriam Ben-Arush, the director of Rambam’s Pediatric Division, as well as of the Joan and Sanford Weil Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation. “For these children suffering from the side effects of their treatments, traveling daily make it very difficult for them to cope. There are treatments starting at 8:00 AM, forcing the family to leave home very early in the morning. In addition, the condition of children receiving bone marrow transplants is more difficult, and parents want to be nearby, even at night. Our department only allows one parent to stay overnight. The hostel will be an excellent solution for such situations and will make it easier for the children.”
“The long journeys and hospital waiting times make the recovery process difficult,” says Rabbi Yehoshua Rauchwerger, founder of Lev Chash and initiator of the establishment of the hostel next to Rambam. “In addition, the families of long-term patients often find themselves without a reasonably priced place to sleep nearby and are forced to stay at the hospital or travel daily. Religious families can find themselves without a solution for Shabbat and holidays.”
“I am happy to have the opportunity to help families and children who face difficult challenges,” said David Fattal. “Helping the community is rooted in Fattal’s corporate culture. I hope the hostel will be a warm and pleasant place for families and their children, and that the activities and support will help them to gather strength until they beat cancer.”
Dr. Michael Halberthal, director and CEO of Rambam said, “Today is an important and happy day for the children, their families, and the hospital staff. This hostel, being established to benefit the children and their families, is an important element in the process of caring for sick kids and will lead to a significant improvement in their quality of life. For children who receive daily radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatments, this hostel will make things easier, sparing them the hassle and suffering of having to travel back and forth.”
The hostel will include 15 guest rooms for patients and their families. A dining hall will provide cooked meals, a cultural center with daily social activities, a study center with a computer room and library, and a treatment center run by a social worker and empathetic caregivers.
Dr. Michael Halberthal, Mr. David Fattal, and Mr. Yehoshua Rauchwerger. Photography: Pioter Fliter.