Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Living in Milwaukee with my husband and children, we are often “out of the loop.” We therefore really appreciate when our family comes to visit us, especially for Yom Tov. For Rosh Hashana last year, we were blessed to have my mom and my younger brother Ariel join us. Ariel, while he is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, is baruch Hashem very high functioning and takes care of all his basic needs independently. He lives in a wonderful HASC group home in Brooklyn with friends and has a job at a bagel store.

When Ariel comes to our home, he is a really great guest. He is grateful for everything, rarely complains and is also happy to help. He spent time erev Rosh Hashanah washing dishes and chopping vegetables, and cleared off the table at most meals. Additionally, Ariel is highly social and has made many friends here who enjoy schmoozing with him throughout his visits. We enjoyed his company, especially during the last meal of Yom Tov when, since we had no other guests, Ariel was the center of attention. He shared stories about his job and group home and opened up in a way that was rare for him. He returned to his group home after Yom Tov and then went to spend Sukkos at my mother’s home in Queens with my sister and her family.

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The first days of Sukkos passed quickly for us, but toward the end of the second day, the phone began ringing incessantly. As soon as Shabbos was over for us (an hour after New York), I picked it up with some trepidation. My mothers voice was tense, as she told me there had been an emergency. Ariel had collapsed in the bathroom while he was at her home on the first day of Yom Tov. This was shocking as he has always seemed to be in good health and he has been careful to eat healthy and exercise often. My mother’s non-Jewish cleaning help called 911 immediately, and then my mother told her to call Hatzolah. Hatzolah raced over in moments, and began CPR. They transported him quickly to Long Island Jewish Hospital, where they informed the staff that they had diagnosed that he had a stroke.

Due to the Hatzolah team’s amazing diligence, the hospital staff was able to quickly confirm that he had a stroke and begin treatment with tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which dissolves stroke-causing blood clots. TPA has been proven very effective in treatments of strokes; however it can only be given within the first three hours of stroke symptoms or it could cause dangerous bleeding in the brain. The hospital staff had originally thought he had a seizure and might have wasted precious time looking in that direction had Hatzolah not insisted that they assess for a stroke.

The tremendous blessing of Hatzolah became even more clear when the paramedic rescue services showed up at the house forty-five minutes after Hatzolah had already left!

After a few hours of being non-responsive, Ariel woke up and over the next few days we were very grateful to see most of his abilities return. He was soon able to speak and move his arms and legs, though at first he could not recall his name or the date. After much physical, occupational and speech therapy, Ariel has amazingly recovered pretty much all of his functioning. It may take him a few extra seconds to button his shirt than in the past, but he is able to do that and everything else independently, baruch Hashem!

This episode really opened my eyes to appreciate the amazing blessings of health and how it can be taken away in a moment. I am so grateful to be able to call my wonderful brother and have him respond clearly and appropriately and I look forward to many more opportunities to speak to and share special times together.

I shudder to imagine what could have been if this episode happened the week before, here in Milwaukee, where we would have had to rely on the local medical services. Many thanks to the devoted volunteers of Hatzolah for all your dedicated work. You saved my brother’s life and I am forever grateful!

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