As the Hizbullah rockets started falling in Wadi Nisnas the evening of August 6th 2006 during the Second Lebanon War, Hamoudi (Don) Salum was first hit by a spray of shrapnel across his entire body. A lifeguard by vocation, he ignored his wounds and ran into the nearby burning house to save his mother and sister.
The fire caused a gas tank to explode as Salum entered the house, burning him severely and amputating his leg. Three other people were killed in the rocket barrage and dozens more were wounded.
Salum was evacuated to the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, and doctors spent the next year fighting for his life. Several months ago his situation seemed to improve and he even partially regained consciousness. The medical staff even permitted family members to wheel him to the opposite side of the hospital so he could see the Mediterranean Sea he so loved.
Evacuating wounded from Wadi Nisnas (Archive photo: AP)
"He was a charming person who only knew how to help and give to others," said his sister Munira, who spent the past year at her brother's side.
The sister described the pain of dealing with her injured brother's condition, losing the family home and her mother's health deteriorating, and said, "During this whole year, not one government body bothered to come and help. Everyone knew the situation, but no one did a thing. Haifa municipality was the only body to help us during this dark year."
Dr. Yaron Bar-Lavi, head of the hospital's intensive care unit, told Ynet that Salum had been brought in with serious burns covering 85% of his body, his left leg amputated above the knee and numerous Katyusha shrapnel wounds.
"During the year he was hospitalized here we worked day and night to save his life. He developed almost every possible complication and overcame infection after infection but his body kept being assaulted over and over again," said Bar-Lavi.
"He was an extraordinary fighter. Extraordinary. We followed his lead and didn't give up, even though many said it was a lost cause. Hundreds of doctors, nurses and plastic surgeons worked around the clock to save him.
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav also expressed deep sorrow at Salum's death.
"His image is actually a symbol of the whole war. For a whole year he was hanging between life and death. His injury was particularity difficult. I remember when I would go visit him, I would see a burnt man in bed," the mayor said.
Salum is the 156th Israeli fatality of the war.