A year ago the Southeast Asian tsunami sent Ron Bombiger, a Los Angeles-based Israeli, to a Thai hospital bed with a leg injury. One of the doctors who checked in on him was Dorit Nitzan, who flew to the area as part of an Israeli emergency team sent right after the disaster hit.
This week, as Thailand marked the first anniversary of the natural disaster, doctor and patient returned to visit the hospital room on Phuket Island, where they first met.
Then Bombiger popped the question — and Nitzan said yes.
Prior to their engagement, the couple joined the crowd at the main tsunami memorial ceremony in Khao Lak Beach, the most severely hit area in Southern Thailand. They held hands as prayers of many faiths, including Judaism, were recited.
When the tsunami first hit, Bombiger was temporarily separated from the two relatives with whom he was traveling. Eventually they found one another, but the relatives were evacuated to Israel, while Bombiger lay in a hospital bed, unable to stand up. His passport and luggage were gone. He was alone.
But members of the Israeli rescue team, including Nitzan, were based at the same hospital. After a short conversation, the two of them realized that they were born in the same city in Israel, Pardes Katz, and had even met each other’s parents during Israeli army service.
“We kept in touch since the tsunami, but just a few month ago we became romantically involved,” Nitzan told the Forward.
After Monday’s memorial service, Bombiger invited Nitzan to visit his old hospital room. He arranged to have red flowers shaped like two hearts waiting for them on the bed.
“I was completely surprised today,” Nitzan said. “Ron didn’t give me a clue.”
Still, she said yes right away, as the Thai medical staff that had helped take care of Bombiger joined in the celebration.
Nitzan, who is now posted in Belgrade as part of a World Health Organization project, said that her two daughters from a previous marriage had given their blessing to the engagement. The couple still has not settled on a place to live — but they say they will be taking a Thai honeymoon.