They wouldn’t give up on Nadji – This Israeli rehabilitation village treats people, not syndromes
The Jewish Advocate – Oct 20, 2011
By Masada Sekely, Director – Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran
People often think trees and water in connection with the Jewish National Fund. In fact, the organization supports much more, including ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran rehabilitation village in southern Israel. This column is by its director Masada Sekely.
Nadji came to the ALEH Negev- Nahalat Eran rehabilitation village at the age of 5 months. He suffered from a number of medical problems, and his prospects looked bleak.
Nadji was small, underdeveloped and incredibly sweet. We refused to give up hope that he could have a better future.
When a new resident comes to our village, we make a point of setting aside all prior diagnoses and conclusions they have received from other places. Instead, we work to build a program for growth and development that is individualized for each resident’s capabilities. Like all of ALEH’s activities, this program is based on our belief that all children, regardless of the severity of their disabilities, have the right to benefit from the highest standard of professional care and to receive every opportunity to grow and develop to their fullest potential.
We tailored Nadji’s medical and therapeutic program to his specific needs. At the same time, we made sure that he could enjoy typical childhood experiences like games and outdoor trips.
Nadji’s development exceeded expectations, well beyond his initial prognosis. He began smiling and reacting to those around him, crawling and – after intensive work – even walking and running.
Even before his newfound freedom of movement, Nadji was hard to miss. The care and affection showered upon him by the staff crossed boundaries of religion and culture. We all marveled at the close connections forged between this Bedouin boy, who began to understand three languages (Hebrew, Arabic and Russian), and the diverse population of caregivers who treated him as if he were their own child.
Ruti, a volunteer who has been with Nadji from the very beginning, still makes sure to visit him several times a week. She always comes supplied with special home-cooked food, little gifts and, most importantly, unlimited stores of love.
One of Nadji’s development challenges has been his approach to food. For a very long time, he drank only from a bottle, refusing to eat in any other ways. This wasn’t surprising, considering that he was surrounded by other babies and toddlers who were fed through gastro tubes; in this environment, chewing and eating were not the norm.
Our village includes a kindergarten for regular children from neighboring towns. In the morning, Nadji attends class alongside the other children. Nadji’s teacher made sure that he ate with the regular children at mealtimes. This way, he could see them eating in the usual manner and imitate their behavior. In just a few days, Nadji began to eat just like other boys.
Today, despite his initial disheartening diagnosis, Nadji is viewed as having regular cognitive abilities. It turns out that his developmental delays were not caused by the syndrome with which he was diagnosed at birth: cleidocranial dystosis, a disorder involving abnormal development of bones in the skull and clavicle area; in fact, they were a result of the fact that from the day he was born, he was placed within a population defined as ill or sick. We are thankful that we were able to make that distinction, and provide an environment in which Nadji was able to thrive.
Nadji still had to undergo a series of operations and rehabilitative procedures for his physical disabilities. Now, we are helping Nadji with his communication skills and the activities of everyday life. For the first time since he was born – Nadji will soon live at home with his family.
In just a few days, Nadji began to eat just like other boys
Holding Nadji. is Dr. Nachman Ash, surgeon general of the Israel Defense forces
Masada Sekely, director of the Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran rehabilitation village.
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