Every time little Rukia Burgel cries at night, a different person comes to soothe her. That person is neither her mother nor her father, but hospital nurses, male and female. They are angels in white and green scrubs who calm her down, ease her pain, make her laugh and give her a hug when they can.
She has been here since she was 10 days old, in the intensive care unit of Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. She arrived in grave danger with a birth defect in her heart, and was hooked up to a respirator. Only today, at the age of 2 years and four months, does Rukia breathe on her own for a few hours a day. Her world begins and ends inside three white walls and one glass wall that faces the nurses’ station. The playpen, which is made of metal, features little scratch marks – reminders of the time when Rukia was teething and tried to bite the bars to ease the pain.
Rukia was born in Nablus to Mohammed and Nibeen Burgel. Since birth, she has suffered from a heart defect that prevented her airway from developing normally. After her birth, Rukia was sent to the hospital for life-saving surgery, but in the end she remained dependent on a respirator to survive. She has been here since – for two years and four months – in Room 7. The 10 staff members, who for all intents and purposes have raised her, are always there for her, at all hours of the day and night. They lift her from her bed when she wakes up crying, sometimes caress her and sing her a comforting song, change her diaper and take care of the respirator. She has many fathers and mothers, because her actual parents are not here very often.
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