Israel: Ariel Sharon Near Death

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

UPDATE 17:20: Four hour emergency operation on Prime Minister's Sharon was successful. Fifty centimeters of Sharon's upper intestine was removed. Doctors say that the major problem remains Sharon's lack of consciousness. Sharon, who entered surgery in critical condition, is now in stable but serious condition.

Jerusalem-----February 11.......Israel has been praying for a miracle. For Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to wake up from a stroke induced coma, smile and tell us that we should not be worrying about his health.
But on this sunny and cold day in Jerusalem, the news is not good. And most of Israel will not know that Sharon may be living his last hours until they switch on their TV or check their e-mail tonight.

A hospital spokeswoman in Jerusalem has just stated that the Israel Prime Minister's "life is in danger." In a CT of Sharon's stomach this morning, doctors discovered that his digestive tract had been seriously damaged, said Yael Bossem-Levy, spokeswoman for the Hadassah Ein-Kerem hospital where Sharon is being held. In light of the damage, it was decided to immediately operate on Sharon, Bossem-Levy said in a statement. "Sharon's life is in danger," Bossem-Levy told The Associated Press in a phone call after the statement was issued. His condition is now "very serious, or critical," she said.

Ariel Sharon Ariel (“Arik”) Sharon, who was born at Kfar Malal in 1928, served in the Haganah and later the Israel Defense Forces for more than 25 years. He created Israel's IDF Unit 101 anti-terrorism unit, led Israel troops in the Six Day War and into Egypt during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He has stood up to Jewish religious extremists and realizing that in order for Israel to maintain a democratic Jewish state, implemented the unilateral Israel Disengagement from Gaza last summer. But Sharon's latest battle, one with his own health appears to be a lost victory.

The flow of blood to Sharon's digestive track lead to the deterioration in his condition, Army Radio reported today.

Only weeks ago, Sharon appeared at an economic conference in Tel Aviv, full of confidence, humor and warmth. He appeared strong and solid in every way. A father figure to a nation which has suffered from Islamic terrorism and strife between Jewish religious and secular. On January 4 that all changed. Sharon suffered a massive stroke and was rushed to hospital. The Israel leader has been unconscious ever since.

A CT scan of his brain earlier this week showed that he was in serious but stable condition. Recently Sharon had a feeding tube inserted into his stomach, an indication that his doctors were thinking in terms of long-term care for the 77-year-old Sharon.

The CT scans have been used to assess bleeding and swelling in Sharon's brain. According to past hospital statements, there have been no changes in the results of the scan in recent weeks, but Sharon has failed to regain consciousness. Sharon suffered a stroke with what was described as "significant" bleeding in his brain a day before he was to check into Hadassah Hospital for a procedure to correct a tiny defect in his heart that was said to have contributed to a mild stroke he suffered two weeks earlier.

Doctors in Israel have come under fire from critics who questioned whether Sharon should have been treated with massive doses of anticoagulants after his first stroke, which was caused by a small blood clot in a cranial artery. Doctors admitted that the anticoagulants made it more difficult for them to stop the bleeding from the later hemorrhagic stroke. The extensive bleeding and the lengthy operations Sharon underwent to stop it have led experts to conclude that he must have suffered severe brain damage and was unlikely to regain consciousness. If he does awaken, most say, the chances of his regaining meaningful cognition or activity are slim.

Sharon's stroke was a major shock for Israel, which is now preparing for an election on March 28. The centrist Kadima Party that Sharon created has a strong lead in the polls, which has not changed since his stroke. Sharon left the Likud Party to gain a free hand in negotiations with the Palestinians. Sharon had fought Israel Likud hardliners to carry out the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which was completed in September.

On January 15, the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel announced that Sharon successfully underwent a tracheotomy in the evening to help wean him off a respirator. On January 16, it was reported by his family that Sharon opened his eyes briefly after hearing a sound recording of his grandson's voice. Physicians at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital denied the eye-opening incident, insisting that Sharon's condition remains serious without yet any positive sign of medical significance. By January 25, Sharon had shown response to pain stimulus, but had shown no signs of awaking from his coma despite having been off sedatives for more than a week. The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted experts describing Sharon's condition as a vegetative state, saying he could still wake up, but it might take weeks or months.

The Prime Minsterial duties have been turned over to former Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, who held a cabinet meeting on January 5, 2006, to signal the transfer of power. Olmert will act as Israel Prime Minister until elections, which are scheduled to take place on March 28, 2006.

Ariel Sharon has been present at or involved in nearly every seminal moment in modern Israel's history. From pre-state Israel and Israel's wars of survival, to politics and the disengagement plan, Sharon has played a highly significant role in shaping Israel's future. Although once considered a hardline politician who was the “father of the settlement movement,” and a brilliant leader in the wartime, Sharon devoted his last years in politics to pursuing peace with security for Israel and its neighbors. Sharon is widowed and has two sons, Omri and Gilad.

A hospital source told Reuters that Sharon was likely to die by the end of the day. "We expect him to die today," said the source, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media on behalf of Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital.

Israel keeps its collective chin held high. Still praying for a miracle in this land of miracles. Trusting that this morning's operation will repair Sharon's ailing body. All the while, we expect bad news. And an elaborate state funeral with a river of tears to take place in the days ahead. We live in reality. And so did our brave Prime Minister in helping to shape our reality with guts, wisdom and a grandfather's soft, warm and reassuring smile.

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