When Dr. Thesi Reddy, a renowned South African physician, was diagnosed earlier this year with an invasive brain tumor, local doctors told him they could not perform the extremely delicate surgical removal. They informed him that he had only nine months to live.
Naomi Hadar, Executive Director of African Friends of Sheba Medical Center, didn’t accept that prognosis. Despite the obstacles caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Hadar worked against all odds to bring Dr. Reddy to Israel. Helping people and saving lives has always been her mission, and she decided nothing would interfere with getting Dr. Reddy the medical treatment he desperately needed.
“Saving one life – Jewish or non-Jewish – is akin to saving an entire world … One of my goals is to help everyone and anyone; to do Tikkun Olam. It’s a very important part of why I do the work that I do,” Hadar said in an interview with IsraelNewsStand.
Dr. Reddy’s research led him to learn about a special helmet, designed and manufactured in Israel, that could help him. His friend and colleague, Dr. Maurice Goodman, advised him to reach out to Naomi Hadar. Once he did that, the wheels of his life-changing journey from Durban to Israel were put in motion.
Before departing South Africa, Dr. Reddy consulted with a neurosurgeon at Sheba who said he could help with treating the tumor. Hadar handled all the necessary paperwork, working overtime to submit it and be granted permission for her, Dr. Reddy and his son, Neim, to travel urgently to Israel. At that point, the borders of Israel were closed to foreigners due to COVID-19. The moment permission was given, the three of them flew out of Johannesburg, from an empty airport.
“Our plane was the only one on the tarmac,” Hadar said. “We landed in Israel at midnight and were at the hospital by 1am.”
Upon arrival in Israel, all three travelers entered quarantine. Yet, while in quarantine, Dr. Reddy was able to undergo several tests at Sheba. He also met with Dr. Zion Zibly, one of the hospital’s most prominent neurosurgeons, for the first time. Zibly evaluated his case and stated that he was confident he could remove 85% of the tumor, helping to provide Reddy with the best quality of life possible.
When Dr. Zibly performed the brain surgery, he succeeded in removing 100% of the tumor. Afterwards, Dr. Reddy also received the special helmet used to treat brain cancer, and he is currently taking special medications and chemotherapy.
In Dr. Reddy’s words, “[I] marvel at the first-class medical staff at Sheba Medical Center, which is truly a wonderful facility with caring people,” he said. “As someone who has been deeply involved with the medical community in South Africa, my goal is to help our country forge better ties with Sheba.”
Although Reddy was fully aware that the complex brain surgery presented high risks, he said that with Dr. Zibly, he knew he “was in good hands.”
“We help everyone and anyone, that is what we do,” asserted Hadar. “This is a prime example of how Sheba extends an outreached hand to the world to treat people from all walks of life.”