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South African doctor flown to Israel for life-saving brain surgery despite corona pandemic

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Earlier this year, Dr Thesi Reddy was told he had 9 months to live. Despite the challenges of coronavirus, African Friends of Sheba Medical Center moved mountains to bring Reddy to Israel so he could undergo a life-saving operation


“To save any life – Jewish or non-Jewish – is like saving the world.”

These were the words of Naomi Hadar, executive director of African Friends of Sheba Medical Center, who went above and beyond the call of duty to save the life of renowned South African physician Dr Thesi Reddy.

Earlier this year, Reddy, who is from Durban, was diagnosed with an invasive tumor and was in dire need of a highly delicate operation to remove it, which, he was told, could not be performed in South Africa.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Hadar and African Friends of Sheba Medical Center worked against all odds to bring Reddy to Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer last month.

For Hadar, helping people and saving lives is something she has always wanted to do and the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t going to stop her in her tracks.

“One of my goals is to help everyone and anyone; to do Tikkun Olam,” she told IsraelNewsStand. “It’s a very important part of why I do the work that I do.”

After being told that he had nine months to live, Dr Reddy found out about a special helmet that could help him and it’s designed and manufactured in Israel. A friend and colleague of Reddy’s, Dr Maurice Goodman, told him to approach Hadar, which he did and so began Reddy’s life-changing journey from Durban to Israel.

Prior to their departure, Hadar and Reddy spoke to a neurosurgeon at Sheba Medical Center who said that he could help the physician tackle his tumor. 

Hadar worked day and night to get the correct paperwork in order so that she, Reddy and Reddy’s son Neim could get permission to fly to Israel, which is still closed to foreigners because of coronavirus.  After succeeding in her arduous task, the three flew from a completely empty airport in Johannesburg to Israel.

Above Photo: Dr Thesi Reddy and Naomi Hadar, executive director of African Friends of Sheba Medical Center
at the airport in Johannesburg just before their flight to Israel.
Featured Photo: Sheba Medical Center’s Dr. Zion Zivly, Dr Thesi Reddy and Naomi Hadar at the hospital.
(Photo Credits: Neim Reddy)

“Our plane was the only one on the tarmac,” Hadar said, as she recalled their departure from Johannesburg. “We landed in Israel at midnight and were at the hospital by 1am.”

While in quarantine, Reddy underwent several tests at Sheba Medical Center where he met his heroic neurosurgeon Dr. Zion Zivly, one of the medical center’s most prominent neurosurgeons.

Zivly was confident that he could remove 85% of the tumor and was determined to give his patient the best quality of life possible. 

During the surgery, Dr Zivly “wasn’t just able to remove 85% of the tumor, he was able to remove 100% of the tumor,” Hadar told IsraelNewsStand

“Dr Zivly was unbelievable,” she said, “It’s such an accomplishment, he will now have a good quality of life and longer life.” 

Hadar added that Reddy also received the special helmet used to treat brain cancer and is also on special medication and chemo. 

“We help everyone and anyone, that is what we do,” she emphasized. “This is a prime example of how Sheba extends an outreached hand to the world to treat people from all walks of life.

Hadar pointed out that Reddy is one of the most respected medical professionals in South Africa with over 30 years of experience and that she’s “truly happy that Dr. Zivly and Sheba’s talented medical staff were able to treat Dr. Reddy amidst challenging circumstances. 

“This is a beautiful example of Tikkun Olam and how we want to assist the people of Africa,” she stressed.

Following the treatment and surgery, Reddy said that he is “extremely pleased with the way I was treated.

“[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 [Medical Center].” 

Reddy added that despite the risks that this difficult brain surgery had, he knew that with Dr. Zivly, “I was in good hands.”

Speaking about the surgery, Zivly said that “this was quite a delicate surgical procedure and Dr. Reddy was a great patient.

“We wish Dr. Reddy a speedy recovery,” he concluded.

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