|IN THE HOSPITALS|
Within minutes after the explosion, the emergency rooms of the Ikhilov, Wolfson, Tel ha-Shomer, Beilenson and Schneider hospitals turned into battlefields. The parents ran around, crazed with worry. The teenagers ran around, looking for their friends. People cried, screamed, shook in hysteric fits, passed out. The information desks fielded hundreds of calls. The hospitals stayed in touch with one another, constantly posting additions to the Wounded lists. Around four o’clock, they announced: No more wounded. The parents who were still missing their children were directed to the Abu-Kabir morgue.
Some children came out intact physically, but traumatized psychologically. They still have nightmares of the explosion and their dead and wounded friends . . .
|The Wounded and Their Parents|
My wife Irina and I came to the Dolphinarium, but it was cordoned off, and no one was allowed through. Then we went to the Ikhilov Hospital. We were looking for a girl with long blond hair and blue eyes, and we were told they didn’t have anyone like that. They showed us pictures of unconscious children they could not identify. Alena was not among them. We were told to go to the Abu-Kabir morgue. We filled out a form there with all the data, every little birthmark, every little scar — we spent about three hours there. A policeman brought our a whole pile of cell phones, and we found hers there.
Then Irina’s sister Vika went back to Ikhilov and found Alena by her bracelet. She overheard someone talking about jewelry and remembered that Alena had a bracelet made of blue stones. She was tagged No.129. They had been unable to ID her because she had her head shorn in the ambulance, and her eyes were closed. She was unconscious and could not utter her name. Then we came to the hospital and they told us, Yes, she’s alive.
The surgeries were over by seven, and they wheeled the children out of the operating rooms. My wife — Alena’s own mother — didn’t recognize her. But I did. She was all swollen, she couldn’t breathe, she was hooked to a machine. Yulia was there, too — at least she could breathe, but by the morning she died anyway. Of all the children who were in grave condition, only Alena survived. An Israeli friend asked doctors at Ikhilov, and they said, This girl won’t make it.
The doctors were surprised that she did make it. The Palestinians are barbarians. They stuffed the bomb with copper balls — so you couldn’t pull it out with a magnet. Inside, the body is moist, and copper oxidizes. The ball keeps moving and tearing everything on the way. Her left brain-hemisphere is destroyed, and her jaw is shattered.
Maybe she survived because she had been left undisturbed after the explosion. Little by little, with God’s help, our daughter began recovering. The doctors said she would have to relearn how to walk, talk, write . . .
At first, we were hoping she would just survive. When the doctors said she was out of the critical condition, that she was no longer hopeless but in a grave condition, we wanted more. That’s a natural thing for parents. We rejoice in everything: she moved her finger — we’re happy; she blinked — we’re happy; she said her first word, ma-ma — we’re happy again.
Now she is in rehabilitation, and the doctors are doing a lot for her. We hope she will be walking again, but we need patience and time. She will need to grow her bones again. We want her to have her face back.
When I was brought to the hospital, I wasn’t going to say anything to my parents. I thought they’d put antiseptic on my scratches, and I’d come home as if nothing had happened. I’d tell them later, so that they don’t worry. But then the doctor told me to move my leg, and I couldn’t — then I got really scared. When I saw my legs not moving, I asked the doctors right away: If they want to amputate, they should kill me first. They promised they wouldn’t amputate. I closed my eyes and said to myself, I’ll dance yet.
Then I was asked for my info again — my name, my address, my phone number — but I had already told them. Then the doctor saw I was about to pass out, he quickly gave me his cell phone, “Call someone, anyone.” And I called my dad at home, and my mom was already at the hospital.
They wouldn’t let me see Diaz’s body, and I sat with Jan, who gave me his phone. He was trying to support me. Then I went to meet my cousin. I was in a state of shock: I was crying, I was pissed off. I was prepared to kill anyone. I wanted to go home, pick up Diaz’s Army gun, and go to Jaffa to shoot Arabs. I didn’t pay attention to my own wound.
I saw my cousin and told her we should go to the Dolphinarium together. She told me she couldn’t; she would faint if she saw that. She told me to go to the hospital. I’m fine, I said.
But my pants and my top were all covered with blood and tiny bone splinters and dangling pieces of flesh. I didn’t even notice but people were staring at me. We stopped one of the ambulances to ask where everybody was being taken, and they said, Ikhilov. I thought maybe I had made a mistake, maybe Diaz was still alive. Jan and I caught a cab to the hospital.
I walked into a room filled with people — parents, relatives, all crying . . . Some guy came up: “Listen, there’s kids’ mothers here, you should at least take off your top to spare them.” I forgot my clothes were all covered with blood.
I asked them to look up Diaz’s name.
Not in Ikhilov, not in Wolfson, not in Tel ha-Shomer — his name wasn’t anywhere.
“Where is he?” I asked. “I saw him there!”
“If we know something, we’ll let you know.” And they added, “You need some emergency care.”
“I’m fine,” I said. “I’m going home.”
“Okay, just let us wipe you off.”
The moment I sat on the cot, they took off my clothes — they stopped short of tying me down — they hooked me to an IV, did an X-ray, and wheeled me off to a ward.
I got discharged only four days later. They wanted me to stay longer, but I signed myself out on my personal responsibility. I hate hospitals.
When I came to work Sunday morning, Diaz’s friends came by. They just stood there silently. “What happened?” I asked. They said Victor was in the hospital, and someone had to get him out, that he was feeling very poorly. We rushed to Ikhilov and found out that Diaz had been killed. Victor was in a state of shock and couldn’t see the bloodied kids around him, so we brought him home.
Polina’s mother called us and said that her daughter called her from the ambulance en route to Ikhilov. Then Tamara Fabrikant’s father called to say he had seen my daughter Emma’s name in the Wounded list. I thought it was a light wound, and took a pair of pants with me, for her to change into . . .
At five in the morning, I was told that my daughter had a severe head wound. The surgery lasted about six hours, and only after it was over, the anesthesiologist told us about the condition Emma was in. The tragedy hit my father hard: he had a heart attack and had to have a surgery. He didn’t cry or panic, but he took what had happened to Emma the hardest of all of us . . .
We found out Larisa had been wounded after she called from the hospital. My husband and I rushed to Ikhilov. I can’t describe to you what was going on. The hallways were filled with relatives, crazed with anxiety and screaming — you couldn’t understand where the children were, who was alive and who was not. My memory is spotty; I don’t think I regained my senses until I saw my daughter with my own eyes.
Marta, my daughter’s friend, called me up that night: “There was an explosion at the Dolphinarium. We found everybody except Oksana.” I froze.
We’ve been in the country for three years only, I barely speak Hebrew, so I had to call my sister. She woke up the rest of the family and called the hotline. They told us that Oksana was in Ikhilov. I ran out into the street and stopped the first car in sight. There were some guys and a girl. “Where are you going?” the driver asked.
“Ikhilov,” I said.
From the way I looked, they realized I was in trouble, and, though they needed to go in the opposite direction, they drove me to the hospital, and the guy walked me to the Emergency.
There, we were set upon by reporters with cameras. But what could I say — I didn’t know what was going on with my child.
Her friend Liana was dead. Oksana had long beautiful hair, which was singed and had to be cut. At first, Oksana kept repeating that Liana had died because she covered Oksana with her own body — she’s upset by this terribly . . .
Oksana’s whole right side was damaged: a double fracture of both the leg and the arm. Her both eardrums are shattered and an otic nerve is damaged. On July 31, she was to have a reconstructive surgery on her right-arm nerve. Her muscles were atrophying, so they had to speed up the surgery . . .
A friend of mine called my house and asked my father where I was. He knew that my girlfriends and I went to Dolphi. My father was upset that he had called so late and hung up on him. He didn’t know what had happened. Then my friend called up again to say there had been an attack and I was in the hospital. I have a baby sister, now she’s eleven months old, so Mom stayed at home, and my father went to the hospital.
When he got there, he was told that my condition was so-so, and he thought I would be operated on the same evening and we would go home. Then they told him my condition was grave, and my mother came, too. My leg was broken, two vertebrae damaged, a nerve torn on my arm, and lots of other stuff . . .
I was conscious, but they put me to sleep for a whole week, and it took me a whole week to regain my senses afterwards. I had no idea why I was in the hospital. I forgot what had happened; I thought I was in the hospital to give birth. When I have a baby, I told my mother, I’ll breast-feed it. I asked her to show me the pictures of my baby. She heard the word baby, and showed me my sister’s pictures. No, I said, this is Karina, this is your baby, not mine, why are you showing me this?
I found out what had happened to me only on Saturday morning. They were shooting me with something, gave me stuff — I had no idea what was going on. They were taking me from room to room; in some of the places a radio or a TV was on, and this is how I found out there had been an attack. I only felt I was conscious when a social worker came and asked me if I knew anyone who had been there. I told her I had a friend named Emma, and she said she knew her. I asked her if Emma was all right, and she said she couldn’t tell me.
I felt very sick then. I was prepared to believe anything, even that she was dead. Now I know she is alive, though she is not quite well. But she’s alive, that’s the main thing.
Natasha was taken to the hospital, and I was told to go home. I was about to, until I saw my leg. Although the wound was minor, the blood kept flowing, and my entire foot was covered with blood. I asked a medic to help me. They sent me to Beilenson Hospital, where they washed my wound, X-rayed my spine and my leg, and checked my leg. Then they put me in a cab and sent home.
I called my other friends from the house, but I only reached one, her name is also Natasha, and she was not hurt.
I called home on my way to the hospital, to tell them I was all right, so that they wouldn’t worry. I also told them I’d seen Anya Kazachkova, but I didn’t know her condition.
At home I watched TV; they were showing the place where my friends had been just standing. We had been so anxious to go to the disco that night. It was our day, the International Children’s Day.
By morning, I remembered that the bomb had gone off very close to Anya Kazachkova. We kept calling the Kazachkovs, but no one was picking up. We reached them only in the afternoon. An unfamiliar woman’s voice said, “Anechka is no more, she is dead.” Later we found out that three of her friends had died, too: Yulia and Lena Nalimovas and Mariana Medvedenko.
We were watching TV that night. The phone rang, and an Israeli woman said, “There has been a terrorist attack at the Dolphinarium, your son has been wounded, you can talk to him.” Everything just collapsed inside me . . .
I heard Faik’s voice: “Mom, I’m all right, they just want to take me in for tests, I don’t know where.”
The whole house went crazy. My husband has a heart condition, so I was afraid for him. Then the TV had a live feed from the scene and the hospitals. And I saw Faik wheeled into Ikhilov, covered with blood from head to toe. My husband didn’t recognize him, but I did — he was wearing bright undershorts and high boots. I didn’t say anything, but then they ran the film again, and my cousin said, That’s Faik!
We rushed off to Ikhilov, we looked everywhere, but we couldn’t find him. Finally, at the door to the operating room we saw him being taken to the X-ray room. He was covered from head to foot.
My stomach was slashed, and my internal organs were out. I thought, if my parents see me like this, they’ll die. So I asked the nurse to cover me up . . .
They brought me into the Emergency in about thirty to forty minutes. I remember I was very cold; I kept shivering so badly, I was practically leaping all over the bed. Then my mom came. Her eyes were wide with fear. I remember being given injections, asked my passport number, taken to the X-ray room . . . Then they operated on me.
I woke up the next morning. I had tubes sticking out of me every which way, and I was sick all the time, because I was being given huge doses of painkillers. I spent two days in Critical, and then I was transferred to Thorax Surgery, because the metal ball pierced my lung and descended into my diaphragm, and I couldn’t breathe, and there were two more tubes pumping blood and excess liquid from the lung. They left the ball in. The doctors said it was better to leave it in, because it would take a serious surgery to take it out, and there was a risk that something would get damaged in the process. It’s still there, and it doesn’t bother me so far. If it does, I’ll have a surgery.
My arm was fractured in three places. They installed this gadget, I think it’s called Yelizarov. I have another steel rod like this in my leg, from the hip to the knee. I haven’t tried walking yet, but yesterday they set me straight for the first time. I was holding on to a support on wheels. I found out it is very painful to step on this foot. I couldn’t bear it for more than two or three minutes.
When we arrived at the Emergency, I gave them Nadezhda’s and my passports. Then I gave them Ilya’s and Roman’s names — people I knew. They came back and told me that Ilya was not in Critical; then he must be okay, I thought. As I was being wheeled in, I kept looking for him. He always had a lock of hair on his forehead. I saw a lock like his and leaped up from the gurney. But it wasn’t him.
They brought me to the operating room, and the surgeon sewed up my wound.
On my way out, I saw Ilya’s mother. “Ilya is dead,” she said.
“No,” I said, “he was with me, he is fine.”
“No,” she said, “I feel he’s dead” — and she fainted. Then Ilya’s father picked her up and shook her up: “Why are you saying things like this? We don’t know yet!”
“I know,” she said. “I can feel it.”
When I was running away after the explosion, I called up my mom: “Did you hear about the explosion in Tel Aviv? Well, we weren’t there. We’re in Bat Yam.”
“Come home right now,” Mom said.
“We’ll just stay here a little longer, and then I’ll go,” I said.
“Okay,” she said.
I figured I’d tell her I had had a bad fall.
I didn’t know I would be staying at the hospital that long. While I was at the Emergency, my sister finally reached me on the phone. Where are you? she asked. At Wolfson, I said. What are you doing there? she asked. I was in Tel Aviv, I said. Well, she said, if you can talk, you must be okay. I hurt my leg a little bit, I said. Don’t tell Mom yet. Not on the phone.
My father died three years ago. If my mother finds out I was in an explosion, I thought, she’ll think the worst. My sister is in the Army, in Gaza. An hour and a half later, they came from the base, and picked up Mom on the way.
Our friend Yasha arrived after I was taken to the trauma ward. He spoke to someone on the phone and smiled.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Ilya and Roman are going home,” he said.
It was like I sprouted wings! I’m alive — they’re alive! And so I and Daniel, another guy who was there, started cracking jokes about how Ilya and Roman would come tomorrow and bring us oranges . . . And then at two-thirty at night, I began to weep for no reason. They gave me a painkiller shot, then another one, then another one — nothing worked. I kept screaming: Where’s my Ilya?
At four-thirty my cousin Dima called me, weeping into the phone. “Why are you weeping?” I asked. “I’m in the hospital, Ilya and Roman are at home — everything’s fine.”
“You don’t know?” he said. “They are dead, both of them.”
I felt lost. As if I wasn’t there any more. I put down the phone and pulled out the IV. I walked for a few feet and fell down — my leg was really hurting. The doctors picked me up.
When I came to, they were pouring blood into my one arm, and antibiotics in the other. I tried to get up again, and they put me back to bed. Don’t move, they said. I lay there. I stared into space and cried.
Later I was told that a lot of people had come and I talked to all of them, but I don’t remember any of it.
They didn’t show me the paper at first. Then Daniel showed it to me, because no one had warned him. I saw the pictures of Ilya and Roman on the front page, among the dead, then Irina’s picture — a lot of people I knew. I saw Nadezhda’s picture, where Amitai is carrying her. And I saw my picture, too, me sitting next to the ambulance. I hate those photographers!
I left the hospital two days later because they wouldn’t let me off for the funerals. They didn’t want the responsibility, they said, because I still couldn’t walk. Either we discharge you, or you stay here. And so I left.
I was brought to the hospital . . . It was around two a.m., after they took the X-rays and prepped me for the surgery, then the doctor persuaded me to call my parents.
I spent twenty days in the hospital. Then I was transferred to rehab at Ikhilov, and I spent there another month, till July 24. After that, they sent me for rehab at Sun Hotel in Bat Yam. There’s another surgery coming up; they’ll decide whether they want to transplant the nerve or release it. Nerves often get pinched in gunshot wounds. Another problem I have is I can’t move my toes. We’ll see what the future brings.
July 17 was my birthday. I celebrated it at the hospital. They brought cakes — it was really great, the whole hospital celebrated. Children, staff, parents — everybody had a slice. So many people wished me a happy birthday . . .
Nadezhda Malchenko, mother:
That day I went to bed as usual. But I couldn’t fall asleep. I stepped outside. There were lights and ambulance sirens in the distance. What was it? I had this feeling of anxiety . .
And then Lyubov called, Aleksei Lupalo’s mother: “Did you hear there has been a terrorist attack at the Dolphi Disco? That’s where our boys went!”
We turned on TV and called Sergei’s mother. We kept calling each other back and forth. We were scared and confused — where do we run? Where do we look? And suddenly we saw Maksim on CNN — trying to rise from the stretcher, his shoulder and his legs bandaged. But the main thing was, we saw he was alive.
We still didn’t know where to look for him. We don’t speak Hebrew. We kept calling his cell phone every five minutes, but he was not answering.
Then finally he called. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m alive, I got a scratch on my leg, I’m being prepped for a surgery, I’m at the Beilenson Hospital” — we calmed down a little and went to Beilenson. There, the doctor told us about the surgery, showed us the bolts, told us not to worry, your boy will be fine. He’s out of the surgery, just waking up from anesthesia. It was a tough surgery and he lost a lot of blood.
We had been there since six, and he was wheeled in only at one p.m. I thought my husband would have a heart attack right there. I kept offering him sedatives, but he wouldn’t take anything, he just went on raging around the reception, like a caged animal. We didn’t know how to calm him down. When I saw Maksim being wheeled in, I ran up to him — he had tears in his eyes, and so did I, and I reached for his legs, and they were intact.
We were taken to the Kaplan Hospital. We stayed there for five days.
We all have a lot of splinters and burns. Some of the splinters are still in our bodies. The doctors say they’ll come out by themselves, but there’s one in a dangerous spot, next to vital organs . . .
We were brought to the Emergency. They saw my leg, but they didn’t notice that my lung had been punctured and they said, Medium Condition. I was happy I was not Critical — that’s great! Everything’ll be fine!
Then they examined me, cut off my clothing. I remember it vaguely. I remember I was cold. Then they took me in for X-rays. They told me to raise my arm. I said, It hurts. I remember them wheel me around, and I kept looking for my mother.
Then they took down my personal info. I kept begging them: “Please find my friend Anya Sinichkina! I don’t know where she is and how she is.” I kept giving them her phone number, both in Russian and in Hebrew.
Then they took me away, and I don’t remember anything else. Mom says that I kept talking and asking for meat, but I don’t remember it. I do remember opening my eyes — and I saw Mom in front of me, all teary-eyed. She says I smiled then.
Then I remember — vaguely — how I opened my eyes and saw an ex-boyfriend whom I actually didn’t want to see very much. These were my first words, What are you doing here? He left.
After that, I remember things, more or less. I remember how I regained my senses, how Anya and Misha came to see me after the kids’ funeral. We all cried our eyes out . . .
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