JERUSALEM (Sep. 10)
Israel’s third heart transplant patient, Ovadia Matzri, is doing well at Hadassah Hospital where the surgery was performed two weeks ago by a team headed by Dr. Joseph Borman, chief of cardiac and thoracic surgery.
He was fit enough on Wednesday to talk to reporters. Matzri, 50, a former security guard, said he was determined to undergo the operation in Israel. “I wanted a blue-and-white operation, I wanted to hear Hebrew when I awoke from the anesthetic,” he said.
Although the first two heart transplants were performed in Israel nearly 20 years ago, it was only last year that the Health Ministry gave official permission to Hadassah Hospital to do the delicate surgery.
The rabbinate had objected on halachic grounds and it was only after prolonged discussions between medical and religious authorities that a 12-point guideline was approved. The rabbis, who held that life ceases only when the heart stops beating, accepted the medical definition of brain death.
In the interim, Israelis who needed heart transplants had to go abroad. Now Hadassah Hospital expects to perform about 60 transplant operations a year. Meanwhile, Matzri will spend another few weeks in the hospital and may be able to return to work in three months.
He thanked the family of the heart donor. “I am a new man and so happy to be alive,” he told reporters. “I want to help others as I have been helped.”