A Jerusalem nurse who cared for 88-year-old Aryeh Even — Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic — has described the gut-wrenching moments of watching the Holocaust survivor die through closed-circuit video, according to a report.
Rachel Gemara, 32, told the UK’s Sun that it broke her heart to see Even alone at Shaare Zedek hospital because she feared he was reliving his harrowing experience during Nazi captivity.
She said two doctors scrambled to don protective gear as the man’s condition quickly deteriorated, but that he died before they arrived.
“If it was a regular department they could have been there in five seconds,” Gemara said.
“I imagined that being by himself, scared and not knowing what will happen would be bringing back memories for him,” she added. “It’s claustrophobic when you’re confined to a bed and constricted.”
The Hungarian-born Even fled the Nazis with his mother and brother, taking refuge in a warehouse in Budapest with the help of Swedish diplomat and humanitarian Raul Wallenberg, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews.
In 1949, Even moved to the Jewish state, where he became an aircraft engineer and also worked in finance, The Sun reported. He had four children and 18 grandchildren.
“From the very beginning the difficult part that was that his family couldn’t be there, and that most of the time he had to be alone,” Gemara told the outlet.
Nurse Rachel GemaraFacebook
In a statement, his family said they regretted not being able to be by his side in his final moments.
“He was a dear and beloved man, living a full life, devoted to his family, a strong man until the end. We are sorry to have passed his last days and moments at a time when his family members were prevented from being by his side,” the family said, according to The Times of Israel.
In a lengthy post on Facebook from March 22, Gemara shared her thoughts on losing her beloved patient.
“My heart is broken. On Friday night my worst fears were realised as I watch my beloved patient, Aryeh Even take his last breaths on earth,” she wrote.
“By the grace of God, two patients *angels* rush to his side. With tears in my eyes, I watch them instinctively place their hands on his eyes and recite the ‘Shema’ prayer. They comfort him and say goodbye as his holy soul enters the gates of Heaven,” Gemara continued.
“My dear Aryeh, you survived the horrors of the Holocaust, immigrated to Israel, established a magnificent family and your extraordinary journey ends here, in this new ward we hoped we would never have to open,” she wrote.
“Go in peace, go to your resting place in peace. Look out for us from above. “