It’s Like Saving The Whole World

Save A Life.jpeg

I saw this sign hanging prominently in a large local Baltimore hospital here (and it comes from the Talmud): 

“He who saves one life…It is as if he saves a whole world.”


For doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners, what greater purpose or joy in life than to save other human lives!


Each person is truly a whole world unto themselves…their thoughts, feelings, and their contributions!


Who knows what one single act of kindness or generosity from someone can have–what impacts down the line to one or even billions of others. 


Today, I have a friend that is undergoing a major operation in this hospital. 


My thoughts and prayers are with him. 


This is his third hospitalization in the last few weeks and it’s time for the doctors–with G-d’s help–to save his life.


I actually had something similar to this friend many years ago, but the technology wasn’t there yet to diagnose it, and I had to have emergency surgery where they went in “exploratory” to find out what the heck was going on.


And thank G-d that they did–they literally saved my life at the time or I wouldn’t be writing to you all today. 


I feel so grateful to G-d for his mercy to us and for giving us modern medicine and technology and all the wonderful people who work tirelessly to help all the sick people and to help save their very lives.


I am wishing the best of luck to my friend to come through this with a full and merciful healing.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Rhymes With Venus

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So these were some funny stories recently…


First, I came across an information system with a comical name. 


Let just say that it rhymes with venus and starts with the letter P. 


Well not exactly that word, but it very, very close. 


When I heard it, I could not help but say, “That’s an unfortunate [system] name.”


That’s the thing about names and acronyms…you really have to think about what they stand for and what they sound like or you can get yourself into some pretty ridiculous situations and problems. 


Second story is when I was talking to this lady and I asked how she was feeling after going through some surgery and then having various complications from it. 


She told me the pain and problems she was having, and the tests and doctors she is continuing to have to see ,and that physical therapy didn’t help much. 


I’m nodding and empathizing and then after this went on for a while, all I could say in dismay for all what she had been through was “Ay, yai, yai.” 


Then she asked me about how I was doing after my hip surgeries and I told her how grateful I was for the modern medical procedures and G-d’s blessing that enabled me to walk again. 


But what was really funny is that she then starts going, “Ay, yai, yai.”


And as the conversation wore down, we were both looking at each other and practically saying in harmony, “Ay, yai, yai.”


Anyway…sometimes there’s nothing left to say but just that. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Thank You Chaplain Berning

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I read about this amazing “Spiritual Communications Board” that Chaplain Joel Nightingale Berning invented for New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. 


The board allows hospital patients who are intubated or otherwise can’t talk to communicate their spiritual health and needs. 


The top part allows the person to say what religion they are. 


The bottom left, are choices for how they feel from afraid and lonely, to nervous, helpless, and hopeless, and even to identify on a scale of 0 to 10, the level of their spiritual pain. 


And on the bottom right, they can point to ask for spiritual help… from a prayer, song, or blessing to talk with me, sit with me, get my family or hold my hand. 


While hospitals have traditionally been focused on getting a person, with G-d’s help, physically healthy again, it is wonderful to see people, like Chaplain Berning looking after the spiritual side of patients wellness and health as well. 


To heal, people don’t just need surgeries and medicines, but they need to deal with all the emotions and pain surrounding their condition and their challenging life situations, and this is something that spiritual caregivers can make a huge difference with. 


The health of the soul and the body are linked in more ways than one. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chaplain Berning)

Taking Back Control

Superman

Ok, I’ve had mobility issues for over 2 years now that started with a broken foot and ended in 3 surgeries and 2 hip replacements.


Over this time, I have had enormous pain walking and doing other activities. 


And unfortunately, I have put on some extra weight, which I am unhappy about. 


Today though this changes, please G-d.  


I am taking back my life!


I want to lose the weight and be what I know I can be. 


Time to stop the excuses.


It’s Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) next week, and this is a good time to reflect, be introspective, self-critical, and aim high. 


G-d, please help me to be strong, to resist temptation, and shut my mouth from eating the wrong foods. 


I am determined, but G-d I need your help to be successful. 


We’ve accomplished so much together–let’s do this! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

L@@king The Other Way

Metro Crowds

So recovering from surgery and with my cane in hand the last number of weeks, I’ve had a chance to see the worst and best of people. 


Especially on the Metro, I’ve had people who quite simply refused to let me sit down–can you say look the other way or ignorance is bliss?


One guy the other day saw me holding on to the overhead rail with one hand and the cane in the other, he looked me in the eye, and then looked back down again to work on whatever notes he was writing…certainly more important. 


And even early on a couple of times (this was when it was still hard to really stand up for long) when I asked for one of the special access seats from completely healthy people sitting there, I usually got the stone cold kvetchy faces like “You talking to me?”


At other times, waiting to get on the Metro, I’ve had people rush in front of me, try to push me aside, or even nearly trample me when they felt I just wasn’t moving my limp leg fast enough. 


I think this has been particularly disheartening especially when I see this behavior coming from people of different faiths who were clearly observant at least in other ways…uh, don’t we answer to an even higher authority?


When some empathic folks at work recently asked me, how people were treating me on the Metro (yes, they know how it is!), I said feeling frustrated one day that the only difference between DC and NY is that in NY there was probably a greater chance of someone trying to actually push me (G-d forbid) in front of an oncoming train–yeah, at times it seriously felt that way. 


I will say that thank G-d not everyone is such a you know what!


Although truly it’s been the exception and not the rule, there have been some very nice people that did offer me a seat, let me go first, or didn’t rush me on/off the moving escalator. 


One lady in particular was extraordinarily wonderful, and when I was crossing a very wide two-way street with lots of cars and the light was getting ready to change, she walked by my side–literally shielding me from the oncoming traffic, and she said “Don’t worry, they won’t hit both of us!”


I remember learning in yeshiva some very basics of human decency…get up before the aged, remove an obstacle from before a blind person, and to take off a heavy burden from even your enemy’s stumbling animal.


I think these and other lessons in school and at home sensitized me to people’s pain and suffering and where possible to try and help–not that I am a saint, I’m not, but at least I feel my conscience talks to me.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Flashback Holocaust

Holocaust -Prints
So I wanted to share this amazing and scary story (true) that happened to me a number of years ago. 


I went with my daughter to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. 


One of their exhibits is of a cattle car train used to transport Jews in the Holocaust to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. 


I remember how frightening it was to see this actual train car (the likes of which I had previously only seen in the movies) where hundreds of thousands of people were herded aboard like animals for the torturous trip to their ultimate murderous and inhuman deaths. 


At the exhibit, I’m not sure that I was supposed to do this, but being a very tactile person, I reached out to touch the train car, maybe partly because I could not believe this was the real thing where such human horrors had occurred. 


Immediately upon touching it, something happened to me–for a moment, everything went black and then I experienced an intense flashback (like being transported back in time and place) to literally being there with the actual people stuffed into these cattle cars–without food, water, sanitation, or enough air to breath–and I could see up close their anguished faces, and actually hear them screaming.


First, I thought I have a vivid imagination and that all the studies on the holocaust and my family being survivors had really had an impact on me. 


But then something else happened to me. 


When I left the Holocaust Museum, I started to get a crazy sharp pain in the side of my neck. Not a soar throat, but like my throat just wasn’t working right. 


I tried to sort of ignore it, but over the course of the day, it got worse and worse, as my breathing was becoming ever more difficult, and it felt like I was actually choking to death–my life was in danger. 


I was rushed to the hospital emergency room, and at first they weren’t sure what was happening to me, and so they started a whole series of tests. 


Crazy enough the tests revealed a deep tissue infection right in the side of my neck, and based on the danger to my breathing and swallowing, the doctors came in to talk with me about doing emergency throat emergency. 


I couldn’t believe what was happening–out of the blue, I touched that death car to Auschwitz and next thing I know, I had a severe tissue infection and my life was hanging by a thread. 


Again unexplainably, but thank G-d miraculously, overnight the dangerous infection literally just disappeared as mysteriously as it was born into my neck tissue–the doctors could not explain it!


The Holocaust which claimed six million Jewish lives–men, women, children–in perhaps the most evil and hideous human event in history, and felt like I had just been transported back in time and touched not just the car, but the actual history and event itself. 


I am left with this mysterious event in my life, it was scary and dangerous, and when they say don’t touch the exhibits, I think I will listen next time. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Pain Pain Go Away

Ripped Face
So I am more the emotional type who cries at sad songs or heroic endeavors. 



But with the hip surgery, I have to admit that I have had some moments of literally screaming pain. 



The surgeon said he did about a full half hour of cauterization to prevent another bleed (hematoma) and infection that happened last time…so not sure if this is causing the extra-extra sting. 



Usually when they ask my level of pain, I say like 2-3, because I imagine a 10 being some horrible torture like being sawed in half (while hung upside down–actually saw this in a movie) or flayed of your flesh, burnt alive at the stake, or quartered by horses–or countless variations on these.



Let’s just say, the medieval tormentors had this torture stuff down.



In a way, I almost feel guilty expressing my post surgical pain (sort of child’s play) relative to these made-to-order cruelties.



Of course for pain, the doctors give you medicine, but honestly I don’t like to take these because of side-effects and even addictive properties. 



But the nurse and physical therapist told me not to let the pain get ahead of me, because then it is harder to control it (and also harder to do the full PT and get the benefits from it).



In the hospital, I was amazed that some people had so much pain (i.e. me) and others just sat there in PT seemingly shrugging off the whole experience. 



Still I made it the full loop with the walker the first day (which the therapists told me is maybe 3x what most others do at that point).



Another thing that I am thinking about with pain, is how do you compare emotional and physical pain–which is worse?



The loss of loved ones, deep disappointments, suffering with sickness or disability, anxiety and depression can certainly cause a lot of pain inside–those are the screams that often no one hears.



Also, that hurt can often lead to physical sickness and bodily pain and vice versa–so they are not mutually exclusive.



My father used to tell me that “When you have your health you have everything.”



I think this is partly because if you don’t have your health, you can’t really do or enjoy much else anyway–so good health is sort of a precursor to all other activities and pursuits.



Probably the worst pains are the ones where their is simply no hope of getting better…and you just have to accept the loss or the end. 



The corollary that my father taught me was “Where there is life, there is hope!”



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)