Meital and Aharon, married for several years, were thrilled to discover that Meital was pregnant. But within a few hours of their son’s birth, it was painfully apparent that things were far from all right medically.
Checks showed that their baby’s esophagus, the tube leading from the throat carrying food and liquids that should be connected to the stomach for digestion, was in fact not connected to anything.
An emergency operation was done to join it to the stomach, but the baby’s digestive problems didn’t end there. For the next year he needed constant care and attention, living on tubes and wires that kept him alive and growing while his digestive system was healing.
Things appeared to be improving steadily and Meital returned to work for a few days a week, entrusting her mother with her son’s care.
But one day she called in to work very worried, reporting that her baby was coughing violently and that she was at the hospital with him. His condition was far more serious than she had imagined. An x-ray showed that somehow the two tubes leading from his throat, the esophagus that carries food and the trachea intended for breathing, had somehow become joined.
This meant that every time he swallowed some food it could divert to the wrong tube and stop his breathing – thereby choking him to death.
Meital and Aharon were devastated. Just as life was beginning to settle down and their baby’s digestive system appeared to have healed, this new life-threatening complication arose.
The baby was immediately put on intravenous feeding while the doctor had to research how to approach the separation of the two tubes.
Most of the doctors at the Jerusalem hospital had never seen such a phenomenon, let alone operated on one. The hospital’s professors and prominent surgeons called in to discuss the possible procedure and then explain it to Meital and Aharon attested to the rarity of this complication. The operation, they were told, would be long and complicated. It was scheduled for the following Sunday.
As soon as Meital’s friends heard about the new complication, they realized that they couldn’t leave this simply in the hands of human surgeons, however experienced and competent they were. There is a well-known segulah that when 40 women “take” challah on Erev Shabbat and make a special berachah over it, dedicating the merit of the mitzvah to someone’s recovery, the situation can – with Hashem’s help – result in a dramatic turnaround, even for a very sick person with a poor prognosis.
Each friend started making her phone calls. It’s not easy to find 40 women who bake challah on Erev Shabbat and who were prepared to bake enough on that particular Friday to enable them to make the berachah over the taking of the challah. In order to make the berachah, a large quantity of flour must be used. According to some opinions, that would entail a minimum of 3 pounds, 12 ounces/1.6 kilos (others say more must be used, namely up to 5 pounds/2.25 kilos). Even women who bake their own challah regularly don’t frequently use enough flour to make a berachah. But – mi k’amcha Yisrael – when people heard of the sick baby, they delayed other activities. Many agreed to bake a large quantity of challah on that Erev Shabbat.
Tefillot and Tehillim were also said in the baby’s zechut, asking that these doctors and surgeons should be the right shelichim to heal the child.
On Sunday he was wheeled into the operating theatre. His parents davened from their Tehillim for the operation’s success and the health of their baby. The anesthesia was administered and the operating theater quickly filled with doctors from the different spheres of medicine that had heard about this rare case and were interested in watching the lengthy, complicated operation.
The first stage was inserting a minute camera to travel down the trachea, showing where the unwanted joining was. The camera traveled up and down several times but no joining could be seen.
It took some time for the surgeons and professors who had spent much time planning this procedure to realize and accept the fact that the problem had been solved by other means – without their input.