Heart of a Champion

(L-R) Dr. Gidi Sahar and Benny Savitch

If seventeen years ago, anyone told Benny Savitch that he would win a gold medal in swimming at the age of 60, he would not have believed it. If someone had told him that the medal would be won at the European Olympics for Heart and Lung transplant patients, Benny really would have had a good laugh.

That is because eight years ago Savitch had a lifesaving heart transplant at Rabin Medical Center. And now, fresh from his European victory, Benny joined other Olympians and Rabin Medical Center staff for the much publicized and highly successful bike-a-thon to Eilat. At this event he stood with the doctor that saved his life, Dr. Gidi Sahar, director of the Heart and Lung Unit at Rabin Medical Center. The affection, warmth, and friendship between the two have gone beyond a patient-doctor relationship. Benny said, "in my wildest dreams I never thought I would ride bicycles alongside the physician who had given me a new heart and the opportunity to live again."

As a truck driver, working eighteen hours a day, Benny ate unhealthy foods, mainly steak and chips, and smoked heavily – four packs a day. His heart attack happened while driving his truck. At first he thought it was just a muscle spasm. By the time he arrived for treatment, his condition was critical. His only hope for survival was to undergo a heart transplant.

Today, Benny is no longer that truck driver of seventeen years ago. He lives a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly and enjoying every moment of it. Benny hopes that the bike-a-thon for Rabin Medical Center will become an annual event and that each year he will be able to peddle a little further.

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