A Doctor's Duty in a Palestinian Prison Camp in Israel

Ishay Lev, MD

In This Article


Lunch was cooked in the kitchen but served in an open tent. As I was picking up some seemingly fresh salad, the wind brought in some horrific smells with a cloud of dust and laid it peacefully on my salad. I looked at it ambiguously and sat down to eat with some of the other medics. The temperature in the tent was above 95°F; I could actually feel the gastroenteritis coming tonight.

A young soldier sat down next to us and asked for my advice about a swelling in his leg. Before I had time to postpone this consultation, he began to drop his pants. I stopped him and we set to meet in 10 minutes at the clinic tent. Still chewing some sort of canned meat, I walked up to the clinic thinking, "What do I know about muscle/bone masses?"

In the tent we continued where we had left off. While exposing his right thigh, he told me about a lump that he'd been feeling for at least 2 months. He wanted a quick review of his leg before he embarked on a few weeks' mission, so that he could decide whether it was serious enough to notify his parents, who where abroad. I questioned him about the mass (history of trauma, sting or bite, infection or any tumors in his past, etc), but no other important information came up.

While examining his thigh, I found a 15-cm-long mass along his anterolateral right thigh. There was no local heat, redness, or tenderness over the area. The mass felt like rubber with no palpable pulsation.

A week later, an orthopaedic resident, after performing an x-ray, diagnosed the lesion as a midshaft osteochondroma. I was not sure about it, especially because the location was a bit unlikely, and booked a consultation for him with a specialist to consider magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The young soldier accepted the findings and explanation like some young Israelis do -- with the full belief that it was "nothing he couldn't handle." By the look on his face, I knew that he was not going to tell his parents or complete the extra tests. I felt powerless.

At midnight, after visiting the prisoners' cell blocks myself and paying about 10 visits to the toilet, I asked one of the medics to brew a fresh, sweet pot of Turkish coffee, go through the guard towers, and give the soldiers on duty a hot cup. Finally, I believed that I was doing some good, and my heart got warmer and softer -- I could sleep.