News and Events

From Iran with Love - Decades Later She Helps Save Lives at Rambam

Publication Date: 2/28/2024 11:00 AM

At the age of eight, Bita Nuhavandi Morovati fled from Iran with her mother to receive a life-saving cancer treatment in Israel. Now she has come full circle and is bringing new hope to cancer patients at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel.

Bita Nuhavandi Morovati meets a young patient in The Joan & Sanford Weil Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Rambam. Photography: Rambam HCCBita Nuhavandi Morovati meets a young patient in The Joan & Sanford Weil Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Rambam. Photography: Rambam HCC

Bita Nuhavandi Morovati (46) was first diagnosed with cancer 9 months after her father passed away from the same disease. Relatives in Israel told her mother about doctors who could potentially save Bita’s life. Without hesitation, mother and daughter, as well as an older sister, left everything in Iran and traveled to Turkey, where the Israeli Embassy facilitated their immigration.

Arriving in Israel marked a new beginning, and within days, the eight-year-old underwent life-saving surgery at Rambam. Bita recalls those early days: “My uncle in Haifa handled the arrangements here. We arrived in Israel on a Friday, and the next day, Professor Yehuda Bar-Maor, who would become my surgeon, examined me at his home. Four days later, I had my surgery at Rambam.”

Her post-surgical follow-up lasted several years and Rambam became her second home. “Despite the tough moments, I fondly remember those times. We spoke no Hebrew and my mother spoke only some English, so the nurses, along with my uncle, created a special Hebrew-Persian dictionary. We formed a close bond with the nurses even after some of them moved to other hospital departments.” Professor Myriam Ben-Arush, then Director of the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Department, remained in touch with Bita for many years after her recovery.

Bita went on to serve as an officer in the IDF and then moved to Los Angeles. Decades later, she faced another battle when her husband David was diagnosed with cancer. She turned to Rambam for advice and information about possible treatments. “David was in remission, but then the cancer returned,” she recounts sadly. “We were in touch with the physicians at Rambam and discussed experimental treatments and planned a trip to Israel to try them. Sadly, the pandemic broke out and everything came to a standstill – everything except the progression of his disease.” Bita recounts the tragic sequence of events, “David z”l, was a man who loved to give. Always looking to do good, contribute, promote, and provide meaning. We were both very connected to Israel; he was a Zionist – more Israeli than the Israelis. Even when feeling poorly, he talked excitedly about wanting to be in Israel during Passover. Unfortunately, he passed away on the second night of Passover, without making the journey to Israel.”

Following David’s passing, Bita closed a circle by turning her painful experiences into a victory in his memory. To commemorate the first anniversary of his death, she organized a fundraiser in Los Angeles. Together with a personal contribution, the funds raised that evening were donated toward a specialized oncology/hematology emergency room (ER) at Rambam.

Thirty-eight years since the first time she stepped foot at Rambam, Bita returned to the hospital for the dedication ceremony of the David Morovati Examination Area. “When I arrived, I wasn’t alone.” Bita continues, “I could feel David with me. During my visit, I saw the ER becoming a reality. Even after his death, David will live on and do good for others, just as he did throughout his life. That was my way of commemorating him – giving the gift of life.”

Pain is a powerful motivator and Bita explains that it drove her into action, “When David was ill, I focused on his healing. When he passed away, I focused on honoring his memory. A family friend recognized that I was turning my pain into strength; I thought I was doing something small and intimate, but through the eyes of others, I understood that I was conveying a broader message.”

During her visit to Rambam, Bita met Nahara, a sweet girl who is battling cancer, in The Joan & Sanford Weil Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology. Bita was deeply moved by the visit, “I was strong and cheerful in her presence, but I cried for half an hour after I left. It brought back painful memories. Life is a revolving door and hope is crucial. I spoke with Nahara’s mother; I wanted her to know that there is life after this illness and that she is in good hands.”

Now, Bita finds that she has come full circle. Having faced cancer in herself and loved ones, she has also recovered, handled loss, gathered new strength, studied, married, and is now facing a new chapter in her life. “My longing is constant, and my pain will never go away, but when I see a glimmer of hope in the eyes of others – the families and the children – I know that I’ve done my part.”

About the New Danny & Cathy Rosenkranz Oncology/Hematology ER

A few weeks ago, the new Danny & Cathy Rosenkranz Oncology/Hematology ER was inaugurated at the Joseph Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam – the first ER of its kind in Northern Israel.
Built according to the highest of standards set by leading international oncology hospitals, the new ER will provide comprehensive emergency medical care to cancer patients of the region.

Professor Irit Ben-Aharon, director of the Oncology Division at Rambam says that the new ER will significantly improve the quality of care and services for cancer patients.

Treating cancer requires the involvement of multiple medical disciplines, and there are risks: treatments can compromise the immune system, making patients highly vulnerable to infection. The new ER will minimize this risk and concomitantly provide the best emergency care possible. The ER’s multidisciplinary team is highly trained and experienced in providing triage services, support, and urgent palliative care.

The state-of-the-art, Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam treats over 5,000 new patients per year and provides close to 30,000 chemotherapy and biological treatments and 40,000 radiotherapy treatments annually. Relevant clinical trials provide cancer patients with early access to the latest treatments and therapies. While Rambam’s general ER receives approximately 2,500 oncology patients annually, Professor Ben-Aharon estimates that the number of patients arriving at the new oncology/hematology ER could reach twice that.

In addition to the new Danny & Cathy Rosenkranz Oncology/Hematology ER, additional services for cancer patients are being introduced at Rambam, including a new center for complementary medicine.