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)

Blogging On Percocet

1 Day Post Op

So I’m one day post op from my 2nd hip replacement.


They definitely gave me a little too much Percocet this morning and on an empty stomach too…so I’m still feeling a little nauseous and loopy. 


I had my first physical therapy this morning and there is another planned for this afternoon.


It was really hard to walk and every little step was in pain…I asked the nurse half jokingly whether it was okay to curse as we went down the hall with the walker.


While I realize that I still have quite a way to go, I am glad to be starting the process of getting back on my feet again.


I am grateful to G-d for all his mercy, for my family and friends,(especially Dossy here with me and my very understanding daughters who put up with my kvetching through all this), and the superior surgical and medical care that I realize not everyone in the world has so readily available. 


Thank you to everyone for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. 😉

New Body Parts

Hip Replacement

As I gear up for Hip Replacement #2, my sister sent this funny comic to me. 


I heard that something like a million joint replacements are now done in the U.S. every year. 


And these procedures are expected to increase precipitously with projections by 2030 of:


– 3.48 million knee replacements (a factor of almost 7 times)


– 572,000 hip replacements (an almost 2-fold increase)


This also means that revision surgeries will start to rise rapidly as replacements wear out or are in need of replacement themselves. 


Thank G-d that they have these procedures to help people–I don’t know how people lived with the incessant pain and degenerative mobility even a generation ago. 


What’s it like to have a body part inserted to augment your own?


Just ask this horse! 😉

The Best Cut

Butcher
So I wasn’t sure I wanted to share this, but my wife encouraged me in an effort to help others going through similar things.



Recently, I went to the Surgeon about my other hip to read my MRI…



After having read the report myself before the appointment, I was convinced I was heading under the knife again with the pain I was experiencing, challenges getting around, and the verbiage in the report like: 



“Significant…”



“Advanced.”



Anyway, my daughter came along because I wasn’t sure I was going to easily get parking in this place…always a challenge there. 



Waiting for the doctor, I asked G-d for a miracle, since after all the hospitalizations this last year, I literally thought that another one at this time could very well kill me.



Low and behold, the doctor comes in and as if G-d is directing his speech for the next 40 minutes or so, he does everything to dissuade me from having the surgery this month, even though he was the one at the last appointment that had already booked me on his surgical calendar. 



So today the miracle unfolded…



First, the doctor read my MRI, but then quickly flipped the screen to an MRI of another patient–a 76 year old–and he showed me the unbelievable progression of the osteoarthritis from near onset to ultimately the complete collapse of the joint over about 9 years time for this lady…the last MRI looked like complete and utter bone devastation–I had never seen anything like it!



Next he opened his drawer and took out a horror basket of used replacement joints parts that he had removed from patients that needed revision–he showed me the wear and breakage and described in horrible detail how he often has to dig these out of the bones of his patients and how each revision–which everyone will need after about 10-15 years or sooner if they become symptomatic–becomes more complicated and dangerous in terms of infection, blood clots, and recovery. 



Then he told how in the field so many replacement surgeries do not go well and that he sees 3-5 patients a week who come to him because they are UN-happy with the replacements their doctors did. 



This went on and on, and bottom line…he said, “I love to do the surgeries–I really do–but wait as long as you can before getting it [on the other hip], since while it can provide for short term improvements, each revision is worse, and at your age you could need three–on each side.”



Needless-to-say, from this whole thing, I was in utter shock and some disbelief as I had been told these prosthetics can last 20-25 years with the newer models, and I was not aware of what the revisions really entailed in later years or the challenges they brought. 



As he continued to describe the risks in painful vivid details (note, I was his last appointment of the day and he was talking his time here), my eyes were literally welling up in tears.



I looked over at my daughter and she was sitting mouth agape shaking her head at what he was saying. I was deeply sorry that she had to sit through this (what we had thought was a simple MRI reading and confirmation of the upcoming procedure date). 



I left the doctor’s office, of course, canceling the surgery–still in severe pain and with trouble walking–however, “scared straight” to make the best of this for now, but also afraid of what lies ahead. 



I have to have faith that the L-rd who made the miracle to hold off on the surgery for now will continue to guide and protect me through this illness that today has no cure. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

“The Chief”

Chief Taka Zeis and Andy Blumenthal
So swimming in Florida last week, I couldn’t help but think about my years back at Eagle Day Camp.



First as a camper, then counselor, and finally lifeguard at this fairly large Orthodox Jewish children’s camp in Rockland County, New York. 



As a camper, I hated swimming and the smelly, musty, and overcrowded locker rooms.



When I was only about 6-7 already, I told my parents, I would only go to camp, if I didn’t have to swim–after a lot of fuss, I got them to agree.



But years later, I learned to love swimming–the gorgeous outdoors, calming water, and health and therapeutic effects. 



I worked with “The Chief” (Norman Garfield, pictured at left) for many years…he was a radio talk show host and actor, and in camp played the starring role of Chief Taka Zeis, last of the Gutta Neshamah (Yiddish for Good Soul) Tribe.



He entertained the children like no one else could–with made up chants of “Tzitsamagoo!”, his silly outfits (notice the unmatched socks in addition to the feather hat), and to songs like “Let the Sun Shine In,” he was always someone that could be counted on to safely watch the children swim, teach them, and make them laugh. 



One Summer, The Chief, encouraged us (the other lifeguards) to sign up for the Red Cross Swim and Stay Fit program, and I think I swam 20-30 miles in between lifeguarding over about 6-8 weeks. 



Those were some fun times with The Chief and some of my old friends like Mark Stadtmauer, Elissa Rothman (Brodsky), and many others. 



Today, just a few months post hip surgery, I once again appreciate the swimming, and try to go as often as possible for health reasons. 



I am thankful for those years and for the ones granted now. 😉



(Source Photo: Who The Heck Remembers)

Dexterous Drones


Ok, after the da Vinci System that uses robotics to conduct surgeries this many not seem like such a feat, but think again.



While da Vinci is fully controlled by the surgeon, this Drone from Drexel University that can turn valves, or door knobs and other controls, is on the road to doing this autonomously. 



Think of robots that can manipulate the environment around them not on a stationary assembly line or doing repetitive tasks, but actually interacting real-time to open/close, turn things on/off, adjust control settings, pick things up/move them, eventually even sit at a computer or with other people–like you or I–and interface with them. 



Drones and robots will be doing a lot more than surveillance and assembly line work–with artifical intelligence and machine learning, they will be doing what we do–or close enough. 😉

Saw It Right Off

Saw It Right Off

This was something amazing that really gave me pause.

In the physical therapy center, hanging on the wall, encased in this wooden box.

A saw from the civil war that was used by the doctors of the time to amputate soldiers legs and arms.

The saw was so ominous looking, especially with it’s design of medieval-looking torture, it’s raw industrial quality, and the age and rust.

I could literally envision the utter fright on the faces of the young men upon seeing the doctor approach with this tool.

They would give you a piece of wood to sink your teeth into, so you wouldn’t bite your tongue off when they started sawing away at your limbs.

Not sure how people lived like this…not all that very long ago.

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

Driving Identity Theft

Driving Identity Theft

It’s been only about 4 months since my mom passed, and now my dad becomes very sick from chemotherapy and ends up in the hospital for a week.

His red and white blood count were extremely low, but thank G-d, the doctors were able to save him.

However, he is in a drastically weakened state and now looks like he will need regular assisted living just to get by every day.

This has been horrible to see someone who has always been so strong, smart, and there selflessly for all of us, to be in this condition.

We found a nice place for him, but even the nicest place isn’t his place and doesn’t allow the independence he (and we all) always cherish.

On top of it, I get a letter in the mail with more than half a dozen tickets on his car.

It’s impossible, because he hasn’t been driving due to his illness.

We run down to check his car, and sure enough someone stole his plates (and replaced them with another set).

They did this to his car that has handicapped tags.

In the meantime, they are driving around through tolls and doing G-d knows what.

The police were helpful–they came as soon as they could–took a report, the plates that were switched onto his car, and dusted for fingerprints.

I will never forget standing there just after my joint surgery–when not three hours before, I thought to myself, maybe things are finally calming down.

Hopefully, the police will catch whoever did this.

In the meantime, I take comfort knowing that G-d is the ultimate police force. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Now’s Your Chance To Make Things Right

Beliefs

Day 4…pain gradually subsiding, walking improving.

Still pushing my body…walk, ice, walk, ice.

But more than the physical, I realized that I was going through something far more spiritual in my journey.

People are coming out of the woodwork telling me their travails through these surgeries.

One old time friend, welcomed me to the “Hip Club”–her new hip is 4 years old, but I didn’t even know she had it done (albeit that we only keep in touch through Facebook these days).

Another, my neighbor, had knee replacement in 2011–again, was I too busy or blind to know–I felt like an absolute card. She in particular told me again and again, “I cried, I cried.”

Later in the day, as I am trying to figure it all out–how am I going to get everything done and back on my feet, my wife says to me, “Now’s your chance to make things right!”

Then it hit me, that while I always try to think of myself as trying to do what’s right, I wasn’t doing enough.

Open your eyes Andy.

There are lot’s of people that are in pain, that are crying, that need help.

What are you doing about it?

Do you even see them?

Are you aware they are there?

WAKE UP CALL.

Do Better, Make things right. Try harder. Do More.

It’s not too late.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)