Just a couple of weeks ago, a moment of pure joy graced the lives of Lea Golan and her husband Netanel. Their long-awaited daughter, Anael-Tchelet, was born, and never before had a couple been so radiant with happiness. This precious arrival marked the triumphant culmination of a seven-and-a-half-year journey, a voyage through the realms of fertility treatments, disappointments, pains and, finally, an exquisite victory. "We were resolute in our determination to become parents," Lea shares with fervor. "We knew we could prevail despite all the difficulties."
Lea, 44, was born with cerebral palsy, while her husband, Netanel, also 44, has lived with a spinal condition since birth. This created an unconventional pathway to parenthood, one that demanded relentless commitment.
"We never intended to relinquish this option, and it wasn't easy. Negative results kept coming back, disappointment after disappointment. But we perceived this as a life mission and pressed on, fortified by unwavering support from family, friends, and even the medical team at Sheba Medical Center," according to Lea.
"Background noises and doubts did exist, but honestly, we tuned those voices out. We remained steadfast in our desire to be parents. I have a caregiver available around the clock, which enabled me to navigate and orchestrate everything," Lea explains. "Within the hospital, everything was accessible, all under one roof, sparing me the hustle of moving around. It was a sanctuary of convenience."
The driving force behind this remarkable journey is Professor Raul Orvieto, the director of the Institute for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Fertility at Sheba Medical Center. "Seven and a half years ago, Lea and Netanel came to us," he said. "Every patient who comes to us is important and precious, but Lea's story has truly touched my heart, and I personally took care of her case. We knew that her condition allowed for a successful pregnancy, but it took time. Throughout the journey, I maintained unwavering belief that it would happen. Lea shared that same faith. She underwent more than 10 egg retrievals, an uncommon situation, compounded by her age working against her. This must not be forgotten."
"Women generally do not go through such a high number of retrievals. All of them fight, but Lea is a genuine warrior, supported steadfastly by Netanel, who stood by her side all the way. When the joyful results of the latest fertilization came in, it was crucial for me to personally share the news with them," Orvieto said.
Lea Golan was born with cerebral palsy. Oxygen didn't reach her brain during birth, resulting in damage to her legs, and she has been using a wheelchair her whole life. However, her parents were determined to raise her like any other child.
"I did everything like everyone else," she says. "At a certain point, I transitioned from special education to regular schooling. Later, I studied, invested effort, earned a bachelor's degree in literature with honors, and secured a job in the library at Bar-Ilan University. All of this happened during years when awareness of people with disabilities and special needs wasn't as high."
Netanel Golan, who currently works in electronics distribution and logistics, was born six months after Lea. "I was hospitalized for a few months at Rambam Hospital," he recalls about his early life. "When my biological parents felt they couldn't cope with this challenge, they gave me up."
He moved to Elwyn - Adult Behavioral Health Services in Jerusalem, where a sensitive national service volunteer caught his attention. She noticed that he didn't return to his parents on weekends and asked her parents to host him. When she established her own home, she took him under her wing and raised him alongside her three children. Despite his physical limitations, he pursued regular education and volunteered for the military.
The two met at the age of 30 through the Inbar Association, which facilitates connections between people with special needs and disabilities. "We went on three dates, and then he cut off contact," Lea recalls. "Later, we met again at a relationship preparation course for people with disabilities. At the age of 35, I reached out to him and asked to meet again. Both of us had experienced many dates and personal growth journeys in the meantime."
This time it worked. "It was nine years ago," notes Netanel. "We fell in love, got married, and it was clear to us that we wanted children. We knew we'd have to undergo fertility treatments."
Orvieto accompanied the couple until the birth. "It was clear it would be a cesarean section with partial anesthesia," shares the new mother. "Since I couldn't sit normally or curve my back for anesthesia, they positioned me on my side in a lateral position. I wanted to experience everything, so I insisted on avoiding general anesthesia altogether. The moment the baby was born was amazing, the fulfillment of a dream. We hope to raise her with ease. We'll do everything to give her the best in the world."