Lessons from the pandemic: The importance of the simple act of breathing

As we come to the end of the Jewish year 5780 and approach Rosh Hashana, we recognize how the past year has brought the simple act of breathing to the forefront of global consciousness. The pandemic has compelled us all to realize that this essentialct cannot be taken for granted.

For Dr. Eliezer Be’eri, Director of ALYN’s Respiratory Rehabilitation Department, the ability to help children breath and to empower them to be active, full members of society has been a top priority, one that has taken on additional meaning over the course of the pandemic. Since its establishment in 1998, the Respiratory Rehabilitation Department has been at the forefront of care for ventilated children. Last year, it was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Advancing Patient Rights, presented by the Deputy Minister of Health, in recognition of ALYN’s exceptional care of children who are respirator-dependent and ALYN’s promotion of discharging these children to their homes and to a life in the community. There are currently ~350 respirator-dependent children living at home in Israel, the majority of whom have come through ALYN.

Dr. Be'eri

In responding to the pandemic, Dr. Be’eri explained, “We have had no choice but to adapt to this new normal. The pandemic has taken an emotional and financial toll on the Respiratory Rehabilitation Department.” COVID-19 forced the Department to make some difficult decisions. “Initially, as the pandemic spread across China and Europe, we were determined to get ahead of the crisis and decided to take extreme measures to safeguard our children,” explained Dr. Be’eri. These measures included the relocation of the Respiratory Rehabilitation Department to another area of the hospital, a massive reconstruction and a strict lockdown, limiting movement in and out. These precautions proved successful and have resulted in zero infection rates to date.

Today, although some measures have been eased, the Respiratory Rehabilitation Department is proceeding with extreme caution.  While the coming New Year may hold a great deal of anxiety, Dr. Be’eri is choosing to be positive and focus on the opportunities. “Society has now become more aware of respiratory-related disease, being ventilator-dependent and the importance of universal accessibility. While medicine continues to advance, the community of ventilator-dependent individuals, as well as individuals with disabilities, will continue to grow.  It is my hope that ALYN’s important work of advancing accessibility through policy change, inclusive design and accessible technology, and furthering the rights of all individuals with special physical needs becomes a global priority.”