News and Events

Rambam's Mystery Patient

Publication Date: 7/4/2018

He was sent to Rambam in serious condition. Recovering, the lack of an ID, passport or other identifying information, prevents this man's release and he remains in the hospital, unable to go anywhere.

Professor Ullman with Rambam's mystery patient. Photo credit: Pioter FliterProfessor Ullman with Rambam's mystery patient. Photo credit: Pioter Fliter

He has a very long name, but no one is certain if it is his real name. Apart from that, no one has a clue as to the identity of the injured man hospitalized for more than two months at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel.  His condition stabilized, the lack of an ID, passport or other identifying information, prevents his release and he remains in the hospital, unable to go anywhere.

This strange story began a few months ago. "The man arrived at Rambam in critical condition, with third degree burns over his entire body, and he had to undergo multiple surgeries," explains Professor Yehuda Ullman, Director of the Department of Plastic Surgery and Burn Unit at Rambam.

Later, it was discovered that he was injured due to a fire in the shack where he was sleeping. The fire apparently destroyed his all of documents and meager personal possessions, which included a cell phone that stored all of his identifying information. Because of the mystery shrouding his personal identity, the man has been nicknamed Patient X.

When the patient revived, he was able to give a few details about himself in in a mixture of Arabic and broken Hebrew: "I am 37 years old, I arrived in Israel from South Sudan, where I left behind three children, and my name is …." According to Rambam’s staff, the patient has occasionally changed these details, possibly as a result of confusion.

Yesterday, from his hospital bed at Rambam, the patient told a reporter from a major Israeli newspaper what he remembered about himself: “I arrived in Israel eight years ago from South Sudan. I ran away because there was no work, no food and life was extremely difficult. In the beginning I worked in Be’er Sheva, Rahat, and Ashkelon. Later I moved to Kfar Manda in the north, where I was a construction worker.” He explained that he has no memory of the fire, "I went to sleep and then I woke up in the hospital. The only thing I want now is to return to my family in Sudan.”

From a medical perspective, discharge from the hospital would be possible, except for the complete lack of any identifying documentation. The patient insists that if his name is placed in the computer, it will be possible to identify him.  But efforts to determine his identity through the databases of several government ministries have come up with nothing—his name appears nowhere. Inquiries made to the UN Commissioner for Refugees have also been unsuccessful.

Because he is alone, Rambam  is paying the cost of his hospitalization, which is now approximately NIS 240,000 (~$68,000). According to Professor Ullman, the patient will not be abandoned, “he needs an organized facility capable of assisting him with the functions of daily living. At the moment, Israeli taxpayers are bearing the burden of his medical care,” said Professor Ullmann.

August 2, 2018 Update:  Rambam's mystery patient has been identified by the Interior Ministry. However, there is nowhere for our patient to go. He needs a place to live, or to return to Sudan. Either process involves all the authorities, and at present, no solution is available for him. Thankfully, he is able to remain at Rambam until a proper solution can be achieved.

You can also watch this documentary that was broadcast on Channel 11 TV in Israel (Hebrew). The pictures tell the story...