It is more than a year since I have seen Chaim K. The last time was when he was hospitalized here at Shaare Zedek’s Pain Clinic with intractable pain. I had kept in touch with him and his doctor, and had recently noticed that he changed his picture on Facebook. When I asked him if he wanted to meet, he answered in the affirmative, and today he “rolled” in smiling. We both commented on how much we missed each other and then, as he smiled, he asked if my computer and I were ready for him – and he started to speak in Hebrew/English and …
“When I was hit in the accident 12 years ago, I awoke in the hospital and all of sudden realized that I was totally paralyzed, able to move only my face. I was also on a respirator, as I couldn’t breathe on my own. It hit me very hard; I wondered how I would live like this. To be a nebach was so not me. Before, I was the Leader of the Pack, the Alpha Male, I didn’t have to rely on others, I was independent.
“All of a sudden THIS! And I had no coping skills.
“Even today I am not sure how to manage with this awful reality. Every situation that reminds me of my loss of coping and independence hurts me yet again.
“After a while, I started to get used to my new situation, knowing my life is not perfect but trying to make the most of it.
“After a few years I began to have serious neuropathy, pain which emanated from my spinal column. The pains kept getting worse and worse. I couldn’t imagine a life such as mine. Paralyzed, intubated, on a respirator 24/7 and NOW in constant pain!
“This continued until I was prescribed medical cannabis (marijuana), which was an enormous help in surviving with pain.
“A short time later, a whole bunch of other issues began to appear. First it was sweating that had no relationship to outside temperature. My body was reacting to the pain which as a paralyzed person I did not feel. I went from doctor to doctor, Rebbe to Rebbe, mekubal to mekubal – no one could give relief to my pain and suffering.
“I used to lie in my bed and think that I had reached rock-bottom. I couldn’t anymore, I cried and prayed all night that Hashem should give me mitat neshika (the kiss of death) which Moshe Rabbeinu and his siblings Aharon and Miriam warranted. Every time I said Shema before bed, I cried that these might be my last words. Every morning I awoke devastated, that I was still among the living, if you could call my painful existence living!
“I lost so much weight that you could see my pelvic bones and ribcage; one could have learned anatomy from my skeletal body. It sounds funny but it really wasn’t. My physician, told me that if I continued eating so little I would be ‘between life and death’. However, he did not give up hope and got me to be an active (well inactive) participant in a zillion tests of all sorts. From praying for death, I became incredibly curious as to what was causing me this terrible pain and suffering.
“I was so frustrated at the ignorance of doctors who would ask me where is the problem and if it hurts. ‘Idiots,’ I wanted to shout, ‘can’t you see I have a broken neck and sadly though I feel the pain I can’t identify the locations.’
“After a series of almost never ending tests, they found I had a kidney stone that practically blocked 90% of my right kidney. Finally the source of the pain! A ‘feeling person’ would have been writhing in pain from a teeny tiny kidney pebble, and here I was existing with a boulder, about the size of a closed fist!
“All of a sudden there was a ray of light at the end of my darkest tunnel. I thought, here they found the problem and now they will deal with it and I’ll be able to live in a manageable fashion, still paralyzed but not in agonizing pain.
“So a month later I had surgery; they crushed the boulder and removed it. I went home in hope and patiently waited for my situation to improve, vis a vis the pain.
“Two months went by with my still having horrible pain. I went back to the doctors and new tests were done. Now they found a non-malignant tumor in my stomach, resting on my adrenal gland (which explained the perspiration and hormonal imbalance and nervous system issues – beyond the paralysis).”
At this point, reading the anguish on my face, Chaim K. tells me not to worry – the story has a happy ending.
“On the day they told me about the tumor I thought: ‘What a miserable human being I must be to that so much punishment meted on me, is this what I deserve?’
“After I finally recovered from the first surgery I went into the second one.
“When I returned home, Baruch Hashem, my medical/pain situation began to improve. Two years of pain and suffering later, I had almost given up on being my normal again – and then I had my first pain free minute! Well, that feeling was short-lived and I realized that Hashem put a new challenge in front of me. I had to overcome the addictions to all the pain medications and heavy narcotics that had been prescribed (one way or another) and learn to live with the pain.
“As if I needed a new challenge.
“At the beginning I tried to go ‘cold turkey’ reducing the amount of narcotic pills and patches I was using. I very quickly discovered that this was an impossible task on my own. One night I saw a television program about a group of people who were addicted to pain medicine and lo and behold, the medication I had been taking was on the top of the list. They talked about a new procedure that a Dr. Weizman had developed to wean patients off of medications without having to go through the harrowing pain of withdrawal. It was an absolutely brilliant and simple idea. The addict was anaesthetized and injected with a formula that would clean out the opiates. The procedure was reported to cost $20,000 in the United States.
“The next day I did some research and was surprised to learn that Dr. Weizman was an Israeli who works HERE in Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon!
“I was so happy and felt that it was hashgacha pratit, Hashem had answered my prayers.
“To make a very long story shorter, I scheduled a meeting with the doctor. He was, and is, a very good person; actually I call him my angel. He offered to do the procedure completely pro-bono, allowing my insurance to cover all expenses and not taking a penny (agura) for himself! His standard fee is over $15,000 not including hospital fees.
“He set up everything for me in lightning speed. In a few days, (you can imagine how quick that is here), I was checked in at Barzilai as a patient of Dr. Weizman’s.
“Well, really it came after two to three weeks of withdrawal, but I came out of the tunnel seeing the world as if for the first time. No pain and a renewed and revised attitude to life.
You have to thank Hashem for every second of goodness, health and happiness in your life, and remember that it can always be worse. Even in my darkest hours there was a glimmer of that axiom, It Can Always Be Worse.
“So when you are in a bad place, and you feel it can’t get worse, remember my story and me, and know that you should always be thankful for what you do have.”
About the Author: Judith Guedalia is Director, Neuropsychology Unit; Chief Psychologist; Shaare Zedek Medical Center; Licensed Supervisor and Specialist in Medical, Rehabilitation, and Developmental Psychology; EMDR Certified Practitioner: Supervisor; Certified ADOS Diagnostician; Co-Chair Nefesh Israel. Dr. Guedalia can be reached through her website: www.drjudithguedalia.com ALSO her new book: A Neuropsychologist’s Journal: Interventions and Judi-isms is available through Urim Press or on Amazon.
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