An Israel Defense Forces combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder has been responding to his family on Sunday as he began waking up from a coma five months after setting himself ablaze in protest of the state's care of his condition.
Itzik Saidyan, 26, attempted to take his own life last April when he entered a Defense Ministry rehabilitation facility in Petah Tikva with a canister of flammable fluid that security at the premises thought was a bottle of water and waited in the lobby after his requests to adjust the specification of his disability were declined several times.
At some point, he doused himself with the fluid, and then set himself on fire in the entryway.
He was taken by ambulance to Sheba Medical Center, having sustained 100 percent burns.
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the 2014 Gaza War. Entering the Palestinian enclave with the Golani brigade, he took part in the heavy Battle of Shuja’iyya in which 13 Israeli soldiers were killed.
After doctors began weaning him off anesthesia, Saidyan responded to family members who have been by his bedside since the incident.
"Itzik is a fighter and has surprised us in his ability to hang on," Professor Josef Haik who heads the Burn Intensive Care Unit at the Sheba Medical Center told Ynet in an interview.
Saidyan's brother Avi said that the family is overjoyed. "We've been crying from excitement, we've been waiting for this for such a long time," he said.
Professor Haik said that the hospital has been treating Saidyan with cutting-edge technologies, including lab-grown skin grafts made from samples of Saidya's own skin and a special bed that would allow him to regain lost muscle tissue.
"He will stay with us for a long while still," Haik said. "He had undergone dozens of operations and will complete at least a year with us before we consider beginning rehabilitation."
Saidyan's suicide attempt sent shock waves through Israeli society and thousands took to the streets in protest, demanding the Defense Ministry revise its policies regarding veterans with disabilities.
"What Itzik did for the country and for veterans is unbelievable," his brother said.