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March 27, 2003

After two weeks in coma, terror victim takes first steps

From: Israel Insider, Israel - Mar 27, 2003

By Ellis Shuman March 27, 2003

Alex Haimov, 18, clearly remembers the suicide bomber who boarded Egged bus no. 37 in Haifa on March 5. "When he came to the back of the bus, I saw something strange in his eyes," Alex recalls. The bomber moved to the middle of the bus and Alex kept an eye on him. "I thought of jumping him, but then my cellular phone rang." Moments later, the terrorist detonated his explosives, killing 17 and seriously wounding Alex.

"His eyes were darting back and forth," Alex said. ""He was carrying a large bag. As the bus filled with passengers, he went to sit in the middle... As I was talking on the phone, the blast occurred. From that minute, I don't remember anything. I saw black, my ears were ringing, and I shouted out for someone to save me, because I couldn't breathe."

Alex doesn't remember how he was rescued. "I remember that I wasn't thrown from the bus. I was stuck in the burning bus, and I really want to know who managed to pull me out and get me to the hospital."

Alex, a Haifa high school student, was seriously injured in the blast; his lungs were badly damaged and he suffered additional internal injuries. His asthma condition only complicated the situation. Alex was hospitalized in the intensive care ward in Haifa's Carmel Hospital, where he lay in a coma for two weeks with his mother, Irena, constantly by his side.

"He was in a coma and the doctors fought for his life," Irena said. "We sat by his bedside and prayed that he would survive. One night, one of the nurses called me and said, 'He opened his eyes.' We were very excited. He is a computer genius and signaled with his hand that I should bring him his computer."

Because of Alex's lung injuries, he wasn't able to talk. "I told him, remember how you used to communicate with your grandfather and grandmother, who are both deaf and dumb. Alex remembered and started talking - in sign language."

Alex learned sign language by himself when he was a boy, Yediot Aharonot reported. In order to help the hospital medical staff understand him, he began teaching them sign language as well. After two weeks, he regained the ability to talk.

"[Using sign language] saved me," Alex said. "I was very seriously injured, and I couldn't talk with anyone. Sign language gave me the strength. I could signal where I was in pain, or sign that I was cold."

Interviewed by Channel Two television, Alex's voice was still shaky and weak. But Alex was shown taking his first steps, helped by his mother and the medical staff. When asked what he wanted more than anything else, Alex replied, "I want to go home."

Alex, who has been transferred to a different ward of the hospital, is now undergoing physical therapy and doctors hope to release him shortly.

"We had a miracle, no doubt about it," Irena summed up. "We were given Alex's life back as a present."

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