On January 31, my family’s world was turned upside down. I received a phone call from my mother early in the morning. “Go to Baltimore, your sister is sick. Daddy and I are flying up today [from Florida]. Her organs are shutting down. It’s bad.”
My mother had no other information. My sister had been sick for a couple of days. She thought she had the flu. My brother-in-law had taken her to the hospital the previous evening and she was receiving IV antibiotics.
I now packed for a trip I was afraid to take. I didn’t know what I would find once I arrived in Baltimore. A place that had always been a joy to visit, to see my sister and her family, now held the unknown and possibly my worst nightmare.
I sent a text to my cell phone contacts: “Please say Tehillim for my sister Chaya Esther bas Faiga Yenta – mother of 4 who was admitted to the hospital with flulike symptoms and now has multi organ failure.” I drove the three hours from New York City to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore saying Tehillim and crying. It was a miracle I arrived safely.
I will never forget sitting in the hospital with my parents and my brother-in-law and his family when the doctors told us my sister had been diagnosed with strep pneumonia, meningitis, DIC, endocarditis and multi-organ failure. They said she might not make it. I went to bed not knowing if I would be attending a levayah the next day.
For two weeks my sister was in the MICU. She was sedated, unaware how Klal Yisrael was davening for her complete refuah. We received dozens of texts on a daily basis from friends, family and people who had heard of my sister’s machlah and were davening for her. I received messages on Facebook from strangers in other countries who were praying for her.
Women baked challahs, shuls held Tehillim groups, children learned Torah – all in the hope my sister would recover.
Much of those two weeks are a blur now. I would sit at my sister’s bedside for roughly eleven hours each day reciting Tehillim, talking to her, rubbing her hands. My parents and brother-in-law would sleep at the hospital during the night while I went to my sister’s home to sleep. I told my sister numerous times while she was sedated, “You’ve gone viral! Thousands are saying Tehillim and davening for you! Please come back to us.”
Our prayers were answered. Two weeks after my sister was admitted to the hospital, she emerged from her sedation. At first we didn’t know if her illness would affect her brain; Baruch Hashem, it hadn’t. Days after the infectious disease doctor informed us my sister had a growth on her heart (the endocarditis), she came back and told my family, “I can’t find it. I just don’t know where the growth went.”
Slowly my sister’s kidneys and liver began to function again. When the top pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins came to drain fluid from my sister’s lungs, he told the family the fluid had basically drained itself. Nissim – miracles – were happening.
One morning I quietly stood behind the doctors in the MICU as they spoke of my sister. The wonderful resident who had been treating her from the moment she’d been admitted said, “The family is what’s pulling her through. They are here 24/7 and encourage her so much.” She had no idea I was standing close by but in my mind I said to her, “The family is Klal Yisrael. We are storming the gates of Shamayim.”
Storm the gates we did. My family and I continue to receive calls, texts and e-mails from people telling us they are davening so that my sister recovers b’karov. The frum community of Baltimore came together with offers to cook dinners, watch my nieces and nephews, clean for Pesach, drive carpool, and more. Friends of the family sought out gedolai hador to ask for berachos for my sister’s refuah.
Baruch Hashem, my sister is doing well, recuperating at home with her family. Every time I look at her I see a miracle. The doctors gave her hours to live and here she is speaking, eating, visiting with friends and family. All because of Klal Yisrael’s tefillahs and Hashem’s chesed.