Since suffering from colitis as a teen, I finally adopted a strict diet in my 30s that ended my torment. It wasn’t easy to forgo white flour, white sugar and all chemical additives, but it meant that I spend the last 40 years pretty much free of doctors, medications and illness, thank God. Thus, I was surprised when two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, I began to experience increasingly severe stomach discomfort – until I was barely able to move. Despite what I was soon to endure, it helped greatly to focus on the moment-to-moment miracles. For example:
Miracle #1: My son Moshe, who is one of the busiest people on the planet, called on a Wednesday night to say, “I have a free morning, so let’s finish your new set of Sanity Cards,” a project to help children deal with stressful events in a positive manner. Miraculously I had no clients that morning, which is usually a busy time, and miraculously he has never before called with such an offer. So I immediately agreed. He came promptly at 10 a.m., as promised. His presence helped distract me from the pain, which I was sure would soon fade.
Miracle #2: We finished around 10:30 a.m., when he said, “Mom, this is ridiculous. You’re in too much pain! Get a doctor.” I promptly called the service that sends doctors to one’s home. The clerk at the health fund said that the doctor could not come until 3 p.m., but less than half an hour later, he showed up unexpectedly. After a brief examination, he promptly sent me to the emergency room.
Miracle #3: Since my son was with me, he was able to drive me to the hospital. He also stayed with me most of the time – returning home at 2.am.
Miracle #4: After sitting in terrible pain in the emergency room, a bed finally became available at around 3:30. I was able to lie down, which I hadn’t been able to do before, and was given an IV, which included a pain reliever. At 5:30, the results of the CT finally came back. A group of doctors determined that I had a massive infection, as well as three large blood clots near my pancreas. The nurse told me to not move around, as things looked grim. But I was relieved that there was no obstruction, as my greatest fear was that I would need to undergo intestinal surgery.
Miracle #5: I was given antibiotics and heparin intravenously to dissolve the clots. I was told not to move, lest the dangerous blood clots travel to my lungs or brain, God forbid. As I looked at the bags hanging from the poles, I thought to myself, “This is how I need to feel Hashem’s love, as if it is flowing into my veins 24/7.”
Miracle #6: At 2 a.m., I was transferred to the hospital ward. Although my roommate was having a hard night, her husband was the sweetest person imaginable, constantly soothing her with words of reassurance and helping her with all the little things a person needs right after surgery. Thus, the energy was very positive and loving. I was grateful that there were only the two of us and grateful for buttons that allowed me to adjust the bed myself.
Miracle #7: The next day my son brought me lots of reading material, including all the Mishpacha magazines that I hadn’t gotten to and a book I had been wanting to read for months – that he just “happened” to find. I was soothed and inspired during the long nights.
Miracle #8: On Friday afternoon, at around 3 p.m., a group of ten young men with guitars, flutes and drums entered my room singing Shabbos songs. They even asked for my favorites. Pure Gan Eden! After they left, a chassid walked in with a sweet two-year-old who was holding a basket of taffy candies. Her father motioned to her to give two candies to each patient. What a lesson in chesed! I disposed of the candies, as I do not eat sugar. But her smile will stay with me forever.
Miracle #9: At around 5 p.m., my brother walked in with a box of grapes, which I had asked him to bring – just in case I could eat something. Since my daughter, who insisted on coming to visit, had gotten mixed up and had gone to Ein Kerem hospital instead of Shaare Zedek, we had time to talk, which was important to us.
Miracle #10: Just before Shabbos my daughter-in-law’s mother, Malka, appeared with a jar of cooked vegetables and another with cooked fruits. I insisted that she take them home, since I wasn’t allowed to eat and didn’t want the food to spoil. My nine-year-old granddaughter, who had just arrived with my daughter, told Malka not to listen to me. She quickly found a piece of paper and wrote my name on the bag and placed it in the refrigerator near the nurse’s station. Little did I realize how important this would be.
Miracle #11: I asked my son to leave a message on my home answering machine to call me in the hospital – but he left the message on my American line instead of my Israel line. So I had no phone calls and was able to rest (until I arrived home on Saturday night and found 30 messages).
Miracle #12: On Shabbos morning, a doctor told me that I did not have blood clots, just a bout of gastroenteritis. So I was disconnected from all the infusions, given antibiotics by mouth and told that I could eat. I was starving after three days without food and eagerly awaited the food tray. I had told the dietician that I am gluten-sensitive and do not eat white flour or white sugar. Thus, I was shocked to see the tray, which consisted of jello, chocolate milk, white cheese and white bread! Later on, I was served chicken soup made from more chemicals. When I protested to the head nurse, she said, “This is what people with sensitive stomachs need to eat.” Baruch Hashem, I was able to eat Malka’s healthy food.
Miracle #13: Since I was freed from all the tubes, I was able to take long walks around the hospital grounds and revel in the freedom to move without worrying that I might die. As I was going back up the stairs to my room, I overheard two men talking. A man named Straus said he was looking for a plot in the Beit Shemesh cemetery. I told him I had just such a plot that I didn’t need (I bought it before I knew that Israeli citizens get free plots). Not wanting to talk business on Shabbos I didn’t go into details, but said that I have such a plot and asked for his e-mail address. Even though the e-mail I sent him was returned when I wrote to him, I still count it as a miracle that I heard those words just at the moment I was walking up the stairs.
Miracle #14: Most of the nurses were very nice, especially one Arab nurse named Madi, who permitted me to go home on Motzaei Shabbos even though I was supposed to stay until Sunday morning. I got a different view of Arabs from that hospital stay.
Miracle #15: As I didn’t want to bother my son, although he had offered to pick me up, I got into a cab. Most Israeli cab drivers are quite pleasant, but this one was not typical. When I asked to see the meter, he angrily replied, “You Americans! All you care about is money. What does it matter if it’s one shekel more or less?” When I calmly stated that I had the right to see the meter, he retorted, “You’re an old lady! What do you care?” I calmly insisted that I wanted to see the meter, which got him even more incensed. “What a nudnik, such a kartzia [a blood-sucking flea]! If your husband hasn’t already thrown you out of the house, he should!”
Now, here’s the miracle. In the midst of all this, I was aware that Hashem sent this man as a gift. After all, it’s written in Rosh Hashanah 17a that one who is insulted and doesn’t insult back has his sins wiped away. So here is Hashem, wiping my slate clean just days before Rosh Hashanah. I could only feel gratitude and love!
Miracle #16: The next day my son, who lives in New York, called to see how I was feeling. He’s 30 years old and I’ve been praying since he was a teen that he stop smoking. So I was thrilled when he said, “Mom, I was so worried that you might die, chas v’shalom, and I was thinking that I’m not taking my own life seriously if I still smoke. So I asked myself, ‘What can I take on for my mother’s recovery?’ And I decided to stop smoking.” Nothing could have made me happier! If I had not been misdiagnosed with blood clots and had not told him that my life was in danger, he might not have taken that step. It was the misdiagnosis that got him to make the decision to stop smoking. If I had to go through all that pain just for this, it was well worth it!
By the way, the doctors have no idea what caused this episode. It vanished as mysteriously as it came. Within a few days there was no trace of the fact that I’d been sick. I will continue to be careful as to what I eat and hope there will be no hospitals in my future. But if there are, I will focus on the miracles.
May we be able to see all of our experiences as bringing us closer to Hashem!
Note to readers: If anyone knows of a man named Straus who is looking for a double plot in the Beit Shemesh cemetery, please tell him to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. That would complete the miracle list quite nicely!
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