The inspiring story of the first Israeli physician with cerebral palsy

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

At a unique graduation ceremony last night at the Technion's medical school, Dr. Hodaya Oliel officially received her medical degree. She was born with cerebral palsy and is the first Israeli physician with this condition. I was privileged to interview her throughout her years of study, and also when she lit a torch on Independence Day. Some of her personal struggles, experiences, and thoughts follow below:

• "From an early age, my parents invested everything in me and went above and beyond, but without allowing me any self-pity or special treatment. I learned in a regular school and ulpana (religious high school) and studied tirelessly. In primary school I would stay in class during recess and copy from the board because otherwise I could not manage to keep up. And in the afternoon, at home, I would take an excerpt from the encyclopedia and copy it in order to get used to writing at the same pace as everyone else."‏

• "I did not want my disability to prevent me from achieving my dream of becoming a doctor. I was born with a certain disability, but why should I be punished twice? Why should I not be happy?"

• "Faith helps me greatly. Hashem is with me and was with me throughout all the surgeries I underwent in childhood, as well as when I encountered difficulties and had to endure insults. But He has also been with me in my successes and is with me now during tonight's exicintg ceremony."

• "I meet many children with cerebral palsy and I am glad they see me as a role model. I would like to say to all those who think their lives began with a deficit and at a disadvantage: your condition should not determine how far you can go. That will be determined by the strength of your desire, your perseverance, and your faith."

• "I am presently specializing in children's medicine at the Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh). Recently, during one of my shifts, I was in the children's orthopedic ward. I had checked a child there and given instructions for his care. The nurse responsible for his treatment told me that she was the nurse who treated me in my childhood. She broke down and cried, not believing how far I had come."

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