Born in Critical Condition, Bat-El Meets Rambam Team that Saved Her
Bat-El Eden Shabtai, a young Israeli living in the USA, celebrated her 20th birthday in an unusual place, Rambam’s neonatal ICU. The reason? An emotional meeting with those who saved her life when she was only a few hours old.
The Department of Neonatology and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital at Rambam has witnessed many personal victories for our tiny patients. However, the story of Bat-El Eden Shabtai, a 20-year-old Israeli woman living in the United States, touched the veteran medical and nursing staff. Twenty years after fighting for her life in the NICU, Bat-El arrived with her father, who lives in Israel, to meet the doctors and nurses who saved her when she was only a few hours old.
No complications were anticipated, but as her birth progressed, the delivery team noticed Bat-El suffering respiratory distress from inhaling a mix of amniotic fluid with feces. They attempted various types of resuscitation but the infants’ lungs collapsed and the team was forced to drain the liquid to save her life. “Time passed slowly and gradually I realized that something awful was happening,” recalls Gadi Shabtai, Bat-El’s father, “I remember the doctor walked her out in an incubator with tubes everywhere. The situation was critical and they gave her a 1 on the Apgar scale (a scale of 1 to 10 that marks the newborn’s physical condition at birth). We didn’t know what to expect.
“Against all odds, Bat-El survived a potentially fatal birth complication and grew up to become an exceptionally successful young woman. At 16, she won the President’s Award for academic excellence. For years she led her high school soccer team to many victories. Today she is finishing her studies in biomedical engineering at the University of Arizona, USA, while serving as president of an organization for hundreds of Jewish women at her university.
In the meeting held in the Department of Neonatology and NICU at Rambam, she impressed veteran and new staff who marveled at how this once fragile baby girl had grown into an amazing and graceful young woman. “Her postnatal condition was very challenging, but we managed to overcome all the obstacles and here she is,” said Professor Shraga Blazer, former director of the Department of Neonatology and NICU at Rambam who supervised Bat-El’s delivery team at the time. “When the Department of Neonatalogy at Rambam was established 50 years ago, our treatment capabilities were very limited. Thirty years ago, providing artificial respiration to preterm infants just under a kilogram was a great achievement, but today we are resuscitating 400 and 500 grams premature babies! If once the struggle was over the life of these preterm infants, today it focuses on protecting their cognitive and functional abilities, so they will have the opportunity to develop like Bat-El.
“In honor of the occasion, the medical team accessed Shabtai’s medical file and shared with her in detail the medical drama that occurred 20 years ago around her incubator. Later, Professor Blazer and Professor Amir Kugelman, the current Director of the Neonatal Department, showed Bat-El and her father Gadi the new Department of Neonatology and NICU, describing the current treatment capabilities at Rambam.
“These doctors, and of course the other doctors in the wards and the nursing team, are simply angels in white,” said Gadi, Bat-El’s father, during the visit. “I have no doubt that Bat-El’s life was saved because of the magic you provided.” Bat-El added, “This is my opportunity to say thank you and to give you hugs and flowers for everything you do, not only for me. Without you, I wouldn’t be here today. This is my first time to visit here since I was born, but I have always felt that Rambam is my home.”