Sunday, 18 December 2005 – Prime Minister Ariel Sharon begins a regular day at his office. He meets his staff and then holds a cabinet meeting. At noon he meets Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and at 18:00, before leaving to his ranch home at Havat Hashikmim, he sees then-Knesset-Member Shimon Peres.
During this meeting he says very little. At 18:30 Peres leaves and Sharon’s secretary goes into his office to have him sign some documents. When she comes out she worriedly tells Lior Shilat, Sharon’s personal assistant, that she thinks something is wrong with the prime minister because he seems a bit confused. Lior goes into Sharon’s office and he too is under the impression that Sharon’s speech is somewhat impaired. He suggests contacting Gilad, Sharon’s son, so he would talk to his father and judge for himself.
At 19:30 Sharon leaves the office and goes his car. Sharon’s convoy, which includes security officers and a paramedic, is on its way to Havat Hashikmin in the Negev, some 90 kilometers south of Jerusalem. On route, Sharon talks over the phone, and his escorts don’t see anything out of the ordinary in his behavior.
Lior Shilat, Sharon’s personal assistant, contacts the Shin Bet (General Security Services) headquarters to tell them about the incoherent speech of the prime minister, and asks them to contact the convoy and have them pay attention to Sharon’s behavior. Fifteen minutes later Sharon’s escorts notice that something is wrong. The prime minister is confused and not focused.
In the meantime, Gilad Sharon contacts his father’s personal physician, Professor Goldman. Goldman knows Sharon for thirty years and immediately understands that the prime minister is having a stroke. He tells Gilad that Sharon needs to be immediately taken to the nearest hospital. Gilad suggests Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, but Goldman insists that the convoy should make a U-turn and rush Sharon to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem because it’s closer. Gilad concedes.
When Sharon’s convoy arrives in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital he is carried in on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on his face straight to the Trauma Unit. He is entered to a secluded room reserved for VIPs. Israeli television reports that Sharon suffered a minor stroke and momentarily lost his conscience, apparently as a result of a blood clot traveling to his brain.
Sharon undergoes a series of tests, including MRI. During the MRI test he is confused. He can’t say what day it is or what time it is. He can’t count and having troubles speaking. He himself would later say that he did not know where he was.
A short while later, Dr. Yuval Weiss, deputy director of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, tells to the media: “The prime minister now speaks to his family and staff. The prime minister will be hospitalized for further tests and care. We believe that the prime minister will be released from hospital shortly.”
At this point, every announcement made by the hospital is first reviewed by Sharon’s advisors.
Four hours after Sharon’s arrival to the hospital, his staff suggests that he should talk to journalists in order to assure the public that he is well. Sharon calls seven senior political journalists and jokes about desperately needing a vacation. This is done against the advice of Professor Tamir Ben Hur’s, director of the neurology ward. He recommends that Sharon should rest.
During the night, Professor Moshe Gomori, Hadassah’s expert in this field, completes the analysis of the MRI test, and finds out that Ariel Sharon suffers from cerebral amyloid angiopathy, known as CAA, a disease common in the elderly that weakens the blood vessels in the brain and increases the risk of hemorrhage. This critical finding is not published, and only exposed a month later by Haaretz daily newspaper. That night, Professor Gomori tells about the CAA condition to his fellow doctors, which are not well familiar with the disease. They spend the night collecting data so they can decide whether it’s safe to treat Sharon with Clexan, a blood-thinning medication. The purpose of the blood-thinning medication is to prevent a forming of a blood clot which might cause a second stroke. But a blood-thinning medication is a disaster in case of a hemorrhage.
Monday morning, 19 December 2005 – Ilan Cohen, PMO Director General, goes out to the media outside the emergency room at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and makes the following statement: “Sharon walked around this morning. He was briefed by his Military Secretary, by me, and by the Government Secretary. He was joking with us.”
Hadassah’s medical team still tries to figure out how the blood clot got to the brain. Sharon undergoes echo heart-test and then his doctors discover a small hole in his heart, and assume it is probably a birth defect. From this hole another blood clot might travel to the brain. In order to prevent it, treatment with blood-thinning medication, such as Clexan, is warranted. The problem is, again, that what’s good for one problem, might prove lethal to the other, i.e. if the CAA disease will cause a cerebral hemorrhage.
At 12:30 Hadassah’s most senior doctors convene in order to decide how to treat Sharon. After a long meeting, the decide to wait two weeks before they operate Sharon in order to close the hole in his heart, and in the meantime to treat him with the blood-thinning medication, Clexan.
Hadassah’s doctors first meet Sharon’s staff and then go to the media. They announce that Sharon does not suffer from any significant health problems, and that the stroke he had would leave no trace whatsoever.
Tuesday, 20 December 2005 – Sharon is released from hospital. His doctors recommend that he should stay nearby in Jerusalem, but Sharon adamantly opposes. He wishes to return to his home in Havat Shikmim in the Negev. When Sharon leaves the hospital he tells the press: “I have to hurry and go back to work and move forward.” Forward in Hebrew is Kadima, which is also the name of Sharon’s new party, the one he established after quitting the Likud.
Sharon’s assistants design a thin schedule of only four hours work a day, for the two weeks until the heart operation. The next day Sharon goes back to work. His team of advisors creates a made-up mini-scandal between Olmert and Livni, number two and three in Kadima, so it would seem as though Sharon is back in the boss seat and he’s the one who restores order to the party.
Sharon decides to reveal his medical records in order to prove that he is a healthy man. The published records show nothing of his CAA disease, and in general it seems as though Sharon is in a real good shape.
A week after the mild stroke episode, Sharon’s personal physicians hold a press conference and announce that the prime minister is a healthy man, save a small hole in his heart that would be easily closed in the operation scheduled for the following week.
In the meantime, Ariel Sharon goes to work every day in Jerusalem and in the evening comes back to his home in Havat Hashikmim. The secluded southern ranch has no doctor and is some 90 kilometers away from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. Every day Sharon gets two shots of Clexan, the blood-thinning medication, which pose a grave risk in case of a hemorrhage.
Wednesday, 4 January 2006 – Election poles show that Sharon’s new party Kadima is still on the rise and predict that it would win 42 seats in the Knesset, leaving far behind the Labor and Likud parties. The heart operation is scheduled for tomorrow morning. In the afternoon, Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Government Secretary Israel Maimon enter Sharon’s office. Maimon explains the formalities of transferring authorities from Sharon to Olmert for the short period of time in which the prime minister would be anesthetized.
At 16:30 Sharon leaves his office in Jerusalem and goes home to Havat Hashikmim. At 20:45, Sharon’s Military Secretary, Gadi Shamni, calls to the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. When Sharon’s secretary tries to transfer the call, she hears the prime minister talk in a very weak voice which worries her. When the Military Secretary is off the phone with Sharon, he asks to speak to Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz. Shamni tells Halutz that he thinks something is wrong with Sharon’s voice. Halutz is at that time with Dov Weisglass, Sharon’s special advisor, who tells him that he spoke to Sharon two hours earlier and Sharon was fine.
A short while later, Government Secretary, Israel Maimon, calls to Sharon’s secretary and asks her to speak to the prime minister. She tells him that Sharon doesn’t sound so good. Maimon speaks to Sharon and he too is under the impression that something is wrong. He then speaks to Sharon’s daughter-in-law, who’s in Havat Hashimkim, and she tells him that they have just noticed that Sharon is not well and have asked the paramedic to see him.
Five minutes later Sharon’s Press Secretary, Assi Shariv, calls and asks the secretary to speak to Sharon. When she tries to connect him, Gilad, Sharon’s son, answers and tells her that his father cannot speak no more.
At 21:00 the paramedic goes into Sharon’s room to check him. Three hours earlier the same paramedic gave him the last Clexan shot. But now Sharon’s blood pressure is high, his speech is impaired, and he feels weakness on the left side of his body. The paramedic realizes that Sharon is having a stroke, and asks Gilad to immediately rush him to the nearest hospital, which is Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beer Sheba. Gilad does want his father to be taken to Soroka. He calls Sharon’s personal physician, Dr. Shlomo Segev, who’s at that time in his home in Tel Aviv. Segev speaks to the paramedic and tells him, “I’m on my way, don’t do anything.” Segev immediately leaves for Havat Hashikmim.
Half an hour later, Sharon goes into the bathroom and collapses. The paramedic decides not to wait any longer. He asks Sharon’s security staff to bring the stretcher and they start moving Sharon to the ambulance. But then, there’s a setback. The stretcher does not fit the ambulance and only twenty minutes later they manage to get Sharon in. Moments before the ambulance takes off, Dr. Segev arrives. He immediately gets into the ambulance and joins Gilad, Sharon’s son, who already sits by his father.
At 21:52 the ambulance leaves Havat Hashikmim on its way to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, despite earlier instructions that in case of emergency Sharon should be rushed in to Soroka Medical Center which is much closer to Havat Hashkimim.
Ten minutes later, Shib Bet officer contacts the ambulance and suggests getting Sharon to the hospital by helicopter. Dr. Segev and Gilad say it is unnecessary. Sharon complains about headaches. He is still responding but by now it’s clear that his left side of the body is paralyzed. When he speaks, only his right hand moves.
When the ambulance is close to Beth Shemesh, Government Secretary Israel Maimon contacts Dr. Segev to find out about Shraon’s. Segev says he’s OK. On Harel Interchange, only ten minutes from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Sharon’s state suddenly begins to deteriorate. Dr. Segev calls from the ambulance to Chaim Lotan, the chief of cardiology at Hadassah, and reports that Shraon has vomited and seems more withdrawn. And then Sharon becomes apathetic and it seems as though he gave up.
When the ambulance arrives in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Shraon is taken in on a stretcher. Professor Lotan approaches him while he still mumbles. Lotan asks him to shake his hand, and Sharon gives him a very uncharacteristic weak handshake.
When Government Secretary Israel Maimon sees Sharon’s state, he calls Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and formally tells him, “The prime minister has lost consciousness. His authorities are transferred to you.”
A short while later, Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, Director General of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, goes out to the press with a short announcement: “Prime Minister Sharon has been tested. Our diagnosis is cerebral hemorrhage. He is suffering massive bleeding and is being transferred to an operating theater.”
After a very long operation Sharon is transferred to be hospitalized in the 7th floor, in a room which is dedicated to the memory of Shlomo Argov, Israel’s former ambassador to Britain, whose attempted-assassination was the immediate cause for Israel to start the Lebanon War. Sharon has not regained his consciousness since.