December 10, 2018

Plucky Young Woman’s Road to Recovery

Adina Elbaz sits behind her ride partner, Rocky Brody.
Photo courtesy of Wheels of Love, ALYN Hospital

Adina Elbaz had just celebrated her 16th birthday when she was hit by a minibus on her way to school. Sustaining major head trauma, Elbaz lost the ability to walk, talk and breathe unassisted. Doctors weren’t sure she would survive. 

Elbaz, now 22, said she is grateful she has no recollection of the accident. “Thank God I have no [psychological] trauma,” she said, “so I have no problem going [back] to the place [where] I was hit.”

She is also grateful for the friends and family who sat vigil by her bedside for several months on end, and the people who took care of her five siblings while her parents took care of her.

Elbaz is especially grateful to ALYN, a pediatric rehabilitation hospital in Jerusalem. She spent a month in the intensive care unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem before being transferred to the neurosurgery department where most of the patients were octogenarians. 

Moving to ALYN was a great blessing, Elbaz said, and leaving it many months later was a bittersweet experience. “I had a hard time accepting that I had to leave my home, to go into the real world,” she said.

“I feel like this must have been God’s plan for me.”

The nurses at ALYN were “cute and warm and fun” and did not wear uniforms, she said. They would gently reprimand visitors who said anything mildly negative while in the room with Elbaz, even when she was still in a coma. She had been at ALYN several months when, no longer requiring a feeding tube, she could eat the dinner cooked by the wife of her father’s study partner while he and her father learned Torah at her bedside.

She recalled one occasion when she rolled the meal’s tinfoil wrapping into a ball and played catch with her father and his study partner. A doctor spotted them and retrieved a tennis ball from her office. Before long, nurses, doctor, patient and visitors were playing catch. “At some point, the ball got stuck in the ceiling. It might still be there,” Elbaz said, laughing.

Perhaps most startling of all is Elbaz’s attitude toward the man who was driving the car that struck her. She has not met him but wants to. “I feel really bad for him,” she said, noting that he is an older man who lost his 16-year-old son in a car accident.

“Maybe he feels guilty,” she said. “I want to show him that, yes, I do have my issues today but I’m doing well. I want to calm his conscience. I don’t feel it was his fault in any way. I know it was meant to happen. I don’t know why, but if it wouldn’t have been him it would have been someone else.”

The experience has prompted Elbaz to pursue neuroscience. In November, she will begin undergraduate studies in biotechnology. But before starting classes, she’ll take part with her tandem bicycling buddy Rocky in ALYN’s “Wheels of Love” fundraising drive — an annual 5-day cycling tour that draws some 600 cyclists from all over the world. 

The first year of the tour she rode a tricycle for a few minutes at the finishing line. She recalled her physical therapist telling her that one day she would be riding a bicycle, to which Elbaz responded, “Yeah, right.” 

Now, six years later, Elbaz can ride a bicycle.

In the year and a half she spent at ALYN relearning how to talk and walk and eventually how to ride a bike, Elbaz never once asked the universe, “Why me?”

“I feel like this must have been God’s plan for me,” she said. “For what I need to achieve in this world and to be a better person.”