News and Events

Living and Celebrating Life

Publication Date: 4/9/2023 11:00 AM
Nine-year-old Yogev Shay was hospitalized at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, and then released to home with ongoing treatment. The last three years have been a daily battle, but Yogev’s family celebrate life with him whenever possible.
Shay Yogev with Dr. Aharon Gefen in the Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital. Photography: Rambam HCC.Shay Yogev with Dr. Aharon Gefen in the Ruth Rappaport Children's Hospital. Photography: Rambam HCC.

Three years ago, during the Covid-19 crisis, Yogev Shay, a nine-year-old boy from Kibbutz Degania in Northern Israel, was admitted to the nearby Baruch Padeh Medical Center. Yogev was suffering from a high fever and terrible pain in his legs. “When the attending doctor came to talk to us, he had a serious expression on his face,” recalls Nimrod Shay, Yogev’s father, “I realized that something terrible was happening, and our lives were about to change.”

Suspecting leukemia, the treating doctors decided it would be best to transfer Yogev to a more advanced facility that had the tools required to confirm his diagnosis. He was quickly transferred to the Joan & Sanford Weil Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, in Rambam’s Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital.

Yogev was hospitalized for an entire month. A central venous catheter was inserted, enabling easy administration of medicine, fluids, and food. However, his behavior was worrisome. Hysterical, kicking, and screaming, Yogev refused to be touched by the medical team. Over and over he shouted, “don’t touch me, stay away from me.” Yogev’s real message was quite clear to his father and mother, Meital: their son was terrified. The parents decided to do whatever they could to make him happy.

After being discharged from Rambam, Yogev complained of severe pain in his head. More tests were performed. Dr. Aharon Gefen, director of Rambam’s Reiner-Shudi Bone Marrow Transplant Unit told Nimrod and Meital that cancer had returned and spread to Yogev’s brain. Their son needed a bone marrow transplant, and Nimrod was the best donor.

Between hospitalizations and further surgeries, the family arranged fun activities for their son. “Yogev’s life was in the balance, so I decided that he needed something special to cheer him up,” Nimrod shares, “I arranged a barbecue on the hospital patio, took him to a shopping mall, the cinema, go-karting, and all did him good. I also took Yogev to visit other patients in the hospital.”

Yogev delighted in these activities and recalls, “It was fun and helpful.” Dr. Geffen comments, “We were impressed with the family’s positive approach, and we saw an improvement in Yogev’s behavior.”

Now recuperating at home, Yogev visits Rambam as an outpatient for periodic check-ups. His parents are optimistic about the future. Nimrod concludes, “We hope for the best. Cancer comes with many uncertainties. I hold on to what I can, and for the rest, I let the universe decide.”

Based on an original Hebrew-language article in Ynet news.