Posts Tagged ‘volunteer’

Compassion Makes the Wheels Go ‘Round

May 10, 2017

When staff really cares. When it’s not just a job…punch in/punch out. When the CEO gives out his cell number to recently orphaned children telling them to call anytime (and they do). When volunteers are inspired to drop what thepr general hel;ioong hand in darky are doing, time and time again, to help out a someone in need… this is compassion at its best.

Sometimes it requires the utmost sensitivity. Like the kallah (bride) whose chassan (groom) was discovered shortly before the wedding to have leukemia. The wedding was rescheduled and the newlywed couple tried to build a home, albeit in a different way than planned, together. Ezer Mizion supported them in every way. The nightmare is over now. Please look over our shoulder, dear reader and supporter, as we read together the letter sent to the Ezer Mizion office. It is your gifts that enable Ezer Mizion to continue being the strong, dependable pillar for so many to lean on.

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An grateful thank you letter from our files

To the Fantastic, Special Organization: Ezer Mizion!

First of all, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your boundless giving and support, which helped us and gave us the tools we needed to get through a most difficult period, physically strong and emotionally healthy.

About two years ago, we got engaged, b’sha’ah tovah u’mutzlachat. The engagement period passed by pleasantly, filled with many hopes and dreams about the home that we would build together and the happy life we would share.

We do not know Hashem’s (G-d’s) calculations, but we do know that everything He does is for the best. And so, a month before our wedding, my husband was diagnosed with leukemia.

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Ezer Mizion, Israel

Suddenly, everything looked different… The wedding was pushed up to take place a few days later, and immediately afterwards, we began treatment. The physical and emotional pain and the challenges involved in these treatments are too complex to describe…

Amid all the agony and frustration, the Ezer Mizion team – a marvelous organization unmatched in its unfaltering assistance and support – appeared on the scene, truly loyal messengers. They helped us in countless ways, both practical and emotional. They were always there, even before we realized we needed something.

Ezer Mizion wisely and gently set us up with an expert therapist, which, in our sensitive situation, was truly a lifesaver!! She listened, supported, encouraged, and counseled us. She baruch Hashem (thank G-d) helped us in this very delicate situation, not to break down, but to remain happy, strong, optimistic, and full of emunah (faith), using our challenge to grow and form an even closer bond.

Again, we feel eternally grateful to those who were behind all this outpouring of chessed- those who helped, those whose financial support enabled this help…

We give you our heartfelt blessings that you should always be on the giving end, in good health, joy and happiness, and may Divine assistance accompany you in all your endeavors.

With our greatest appreciation,

Moshe and Chedvah

 

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Cancer Support via What’s App

 Compassion…Sometimes it requires the flexibility of changing plans at the drop of a hat. A family with three small children recently emigrated to Israel from France. Resettling was hard enough but became overwhelming when the wife was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Rides to the clinic, professional emotional support, regular meals, child care assistance, medical advocacy would all be theirs in a short time.  But right now, this morning when Ezer Mizion became aware of their plight, they needed lunch. Food strengthens the body. Food invigorates the soul. Food enables the family to handle the crisis suddenly thrust upon them. And no lunch was yet on schedule.  A call went out to volunteers: I know it’s very short notice but can anyone provide a hot lunch for five people today and for the next two days? In 1.5 minutes, that’s ninety seconds (!), one of our angels responded. A delicious, attractively served lunch was prepared by one volunteer, delivered by another to the family on time as if it were weeks in the preparation.

Ezer Mizion: where caring and compassion provides the electricity that makes the wheels go ‘round.

Would you like to join the ‘wheel of compassion’?

 

The Kakoon Family- A Valued Ezer Mizion Partner

May 3, 2017

Kakoon Family ok to use - Dassy- fGiving. It’s the wheel that makes the world go around. Some people have discovered its joys and thrive on ‘being there’ for a friend or neighbor with a problem. The Kakoons are such a family.  Avrohom Kakoon acts as a chazzan (cantor) and spiritual leader at his shul (synagogue). In his spare time, he also volunteers as an emergency respondent for Hatzalah. His wife, Rina, volunteers as a doula, coaches new mothers and young families in managing their home and in parenting, and also cooks and bakes for families of women after birth. As infants, their seven children imbibed the satisfaction that accompanies giving and the sense of responsibility for those less fortunate.  Helping families after birth, running a used clothing center, mentoring youngsters in the community. Driving an ambulance, heading a branch of United Hatzalah, helping out families in the community who are undergoing crises, activity clubs for young people in the community.  The Kakoon siblings are involved in all of these. How can they not be? It was the ambience in the home they grew up in.

When the family discovered Ezer Mizion, they clicked with the organization like a magnet to a paper clip. An entity that does not recognize 9-5 hours, whose founder routinely gives out his private cell phone number to recently orphaned children and tells them to call anytime, whose teenage volunteers vie with their friends to obtain an unpaid position in Ezer Mizion’s summer camp for special kids… Ezer Mizion was the perfect partner for the Kakoons.

They helped out in any way they could. One has even undertaken to head the Ezer Mizion’s Modi’in Linked to Life   group and another its counterpart in the Migdal HaEmek area. Linked to Life is a What’s App Center which connects Jews throughout Israel and even Europe, the US and Canada in order to provide for the needs of people around the globe. A surgical device is needed and can’t wait for regular mail. A man from Eretz Yisroel forgot his vital medication and realizes it only when he a several thousand feet in the air, on his way to California. A wheelchair-bound young man living in the North would like to spend Pesach with his family in Jerusalem and needs a ride in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Hundreds of people like this are constantly being helped by heads of groups like the Kakoons and the volunteers who drop what they are doing at a buzz of their phone and race out to help a fellow Jew.

Avrohom and Rina planted strong seeds which continue to flourish into the next generation. Last summer vacation, while her peers were having fun in the pool and park, Avivah, a granddaughter, discovered another kind of fun. She gathered a group of friends and set up a refreshment stand. The girls popped popcorn and prepared gallons of drinks to sell to passersby. The money? It was donated to Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division to help sick children, of course. Ezer Mizion welcomes Avivah as its newest volunteer and awaits her latest ideas to help those less fortunate than herself. Congratulations, Avivah! You have discovered the much sought after key to happiness.

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

 

 

For further info: www.ezermizion.org              5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219             718 853 8400

Lottie’s Kitchen

June 22, 2016

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Nine hours! Can you imagine spending nine hours with five small, rambunctious children in a hospital setting with no supplies?! It’s the stuff of nightmares but it actually happened to a young mother who became worried about a medical issue in one of her kids and, having no place to leave them, ran out with the whole family to the hospital emergency room. The last thing on her mind was to pack food for herself and her brood and so there she was. Endless waiting with children who needed the comforts of their home. This test. That test. More waiting. Children climbing the walls. Literally.

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Lunchtime passed. As did suppertime. Hungry children do not make for good behavior. It became embarrassing. She understood the looks of her fellow ‘waiters’. “That mother doesn’t know how to discipline her kids!” Mommy also had had nothing to eat since breakfast eons ago. She was worn out, frazzled and worried about her sick child who still had no diagnosis. And then she appeared. A Lottie’s Kitchen volunteer with an attractively packaged meal for Mommy and each of her children. The food was spiced with an encouraging pat on the shoulder, an understanding hug and a promise of snacks later on if they are still there. And there in the hospital emergency room, the sun shone once again. The children became calm and Mommy was strengthened. She felt that she could handle things once again. “Those Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers are angels,” smiled the elderly woman in the seat next to her who, only minutes before, had been glaring at the children and muttering under her breath.

Yes, they are angels. Each one exudes a warmth, an enveloping comfort. They’ll listen, really listen, as the caretaker unloads her concerns. Often, they’ll have a bit of advice. Perhaps a suggestion to connect the family to another segment of Ezer Mizion’s services that will ease the burden: rides to the hospital, a volunteer to do homework with the children while Mommy is busy attending Grandma at the hospital, volunteers to create a Bar Mitzvah celebration which Mommy does not have the emotional stamina or the time to handle… Each Lottie’ s Kitchen volunteer tries her best but rarely fully understands the impact she makes on a family undergoing a crisis. Unless…lkl ok to use IMG-20160616-WA0087

Lets call her Mindy. She volunteers for Lottie’s Kitchen once a week. One day she found herself on the other side of the tray cart. “I’m sorry. I have to cancel,” she told the coordinator. “My husband is sick. He’s hospitalized.” The coordinator heard the tension, the tears in her voice and noted the necessary information onto her daily roster. That afternoon, Mindy was visited by a fellow volunteer bearing a hot, nourishing meal and some encouraging words. And Mindy burst into tears. You don’t understand- I never understood- what it means to sit here hour after hour, so worried, so worn out and exhausted. The doctor had asked me to make a decision regarding a procedure and I felt so dizzy, I could hardly think. I haven’t had a normal meal in days. I just run home at night to spend a quick hour with my kids. Then it’s back again at the hospital. Breakfast was a coke from the machine down the hall. Lunch I skipped. For supper last night I grabbed a yogurt as I was rushing out of the house plus a bag of chips to eat at the hospital. You can’t understand what this means. I want so much to take care of my husband but no one is taking care of me. The volunteer held her as she cried, emotionally spent. The next day, the scene repeated itself. Mindy was, once again, overcome with emotion at the sight of someone arriving to take care of her. For one month, Mindy spent almost all day with her husband and each day, as her strength would ebb and her spirits would fall, she would anticipate the daily visit with someone who really cares. Drained, beyond exhaustion, she cried each day using almost the same words: You don’t understand what this means! She could hardly wait to rejoin the volunteer force with a heightened concept of what she is giving to others.lk ok to use IMG-20160616-WA0090

Giving is the name of the game. Volunteers search out ways to give. During one visit, a patient asked the hospital staff for a specific juice. Apologetically, they answered that it was unavailable. The adult in her understood that she would have to forego her favorite juice. But the child in her, so vociferous lately as she faced serious illness, felt saddened. She was fortunate that a Lottie’s Kitchen volunteer was in the room at the time. The volunteer leaped at the opportunity and drove to the nearest supermarket, braved the long lines and, juice in hand, triumphantly made her way back to the patient’s room.

Lottie’s Kitchen volunteers. They are everywhere. In each hospital. In the emergency rooms, in all the wards. How? It’s because of all of you. This year Lottie’s Kitchen Event will be held on July 7 at the home of Frieda & Joey Franco in Deal NJ in loving memory of Manny Hamowy & Robin Ashkenazie. lk ok to use IMG-20160616-WA0069

See you there!

For further info: 718 853 8400     www.ezermizion.org     5225 New Utrecht Ave, Bk NY 11219

 

 

 

No Salary Is the Best Salary

March 23, 2016

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You may have sat next to her on the bus to Yerushalayim. Her name is Esther and she looks like any other typical frum woman. She doesn’t wear a sign but she is one of those special Ezer Mizion women who glow with the satisfaction that comes with giving. She already changed busses and has been traveling for almost two hours with another arduous trip to look forward to at the end of the day. Maybe she’ll sleep a bit on the way home. She’s going to be tired. Very tired. She will be spending several hours at the home of a mother who has given birth to multiples. What will she be doing there? It’s different each time. Some mothers can’t face the ever-growing pile of laundry and apologetically ask her if she can tackle it. It means the world to their emotional well-being to know that every sock in its right place. Other mothers don’t mind the clutter but want their family to come home to the aroma of a delicious supper and ask her to prepare a vegetable soup to use for the whole week. And still others, eyes drooping from tiredness, hand her one of the babies to rock as their heads blissfully touch the pillow, a rarity these days. Esther is happy to help no matter what she’s asked to do. Helping others is the gas that keeps her going. She, like most Ezer Mizion volunteers, thrive on giving. There is no salary, no dinner given in her honor, no reward points for hours logged. Yet, an Ezer Mizion volunteer canceling a commitment almost never happens. Why? What’s keep them going? Why don’t they take a day off every so often? Esther answers for all of them: “Why would I give up something that brings me such joy just to have a relaxed day at home?!”
Many have school-age children and feel that having Mommy volunteer is the best education they can give their kids. Of course, they make sure they are home when their kids need them. “My kids know that during ‘rush hour’ I am not available to answer the phone but if an Ezer Mizion coordinator calls, they call me to the phone. It gives them a sense of values without my ever saying a word on the importance of chessed.
No salary can compare to the reward of giving. Chani is a case in point. She works full time and pr moneyspends her day off doing volunteer work. Part of the day is feeding lunch to an elderly lady. Strange, isn’t it that when a toddler dribbles, spits out a spoonful that looks larger than what went in, splatters Mommy’s outfit with mashed peaches and takes over an hour to finish a meal—it’s adorable. But when his elderly counterpart does the same, it’s, well…not adorable. Chani has the patience to do this every week as do other volunteers who take the days that she is at work. However, there are many meals that the patient misses due to no one being available to spend the time and emotional energy feeding her. The patient’s family had what they considered an obvious solution. They would offer to pay Chani and perhaps she would come at other times. They understood that they cannot ask her to put in more volunteer hours but for pay? Of course, she’d agree. They didn’t get it. Money? No amount of money would be enough to pay for such an hour. But knowing that she was helping a helpless Jew —that was the salary that put a bounce in her step as she walked down the corridor toward the communal dining room and “her” patient.
Ezer Mizion…providing help to those who need and satisfaction to those who give.
For further info: 5225 New Utrecht Ave, Bk, NY 11219 718 853 8400 http://www.ezermizion .o

It’s Me, Kobi

August 12, 2015

Kobi – that’s me, Yaakov. Pleased to meet you.

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Two decades ago, I was first exposed to Ezer Mizion, an organization that was over ten years old at the time. Ever since then, I have been following it with love and with great awe – with love because of the “what” and with awe because of the “how.”
One day, a little over thirty years ago, a good-hearted young man in Bnei Brak suddenly had the idea that something ought to be done to help the people around him. He himself was confronted with a family medical problem and discovered a number of related problems that could be resolved. He and his wife went home, recruited a few friends and neighbors, prepared a few meals, went to the hospital, helped some families cope, and cheered a few hearts. Since he had a big head and an even bigger heart, things didn’t stop there. They continued to snowball, to gain momentum, to become established, and to expand.
Today, some thirty-plus years later, you cannot look at life in Israel without seeing Ezer Mizion. This beautiful organization, which earned public recognition in the form of the Israel Prize awarded to it a few years back, has become an integral part of the Israeli experience: Food for the needy, medical equipment, transport of patients and their families, medical counseling, support for cancer patients, services for special children, care and support for the elderly, a mental health division, community social services, and above all – the biggest interpersonal lifesaving enterprise in human history: Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
What exactly happened here?
What happened was that a civilian, social force entered a vacuum that was left unoccupied by the public authorities and filled it totally. Every citizen in Israel knows that when a medical or social service problem crops up, there is an address. Yes, thanks to the vision and revolutionary thinking of individuals who swept the masses after them, the face of society has changed. That is how you build a model society.pr bldg
I got to know this story from up close, through volunteering and working for Ezer Mizion. I had the chance to share a car with a patient whose life, for over a decade, would not be livable without Ezer Mizion; to look in the eyes of motherless children when volunteers come to their house to play with and care for them; to take part in and photograph the first encounter between a bone marrow donor and the one whose life was saved thanks to him; to see from up close men and women for whom this organization stands between their life-hungry smile and a paralyzing fear of the unknown; and above all, to lovingly get to know the precious people who are responsible for all this.
I’ve taken upon myself to tell you here the magnificent story of Ezer Mizion. It’s not really “a story,” but rather a chain of stories. At the heart of each one of them will be a man or woman, a boy or girl, whose life story is intricately interwoven with the story of Ezer Mizion.
I’m Kobi. This is the first story.
For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org

Bella Stern’s Math Lesson

May 20, 2015

Bella Stern’s math lesson: When you have less, give away more and the total will increase.
It’s a tried and true method, says Mrs. Stern. It works every time. Mrs. Stern is past seventy and paralyzed from the waist down due to polio which she contracted as a child. She moves around with heavy leg braces on crutches. Many people who knew her from phone conversations are shocked when they meet her in person, never realizing the challenging physical condition she endures with such cheer and optimism. (more…)

Rabbi Chollak Visits

March 25, 2015

Yated Ne’eman – Yated Hashavua

Sept. 19, 2014

By: Y. Shalev

“YOU ARE OUR ANGELS” – A DAY OF SHARING THE BURDEN – WITH RABBI CHANANYA CHOLLAK AND THE EZER MIZION VOLUNTEERS IN THE TOUGHEST HOSPITAL WARDS

Ko’ach Ezer” – All-Embracing Help

At the entrance to the Oncology Ward, the world stops. A fight for life rages in every room, in every bed. And as in war, there are many forces involved: doctors and nurses, relatives and friends, social workers, medical clowns, and more. Each one and his job, each one and his part in the battle * But hovering over them all is the “Iron Dome” of Ezer Mizion, there at the ready to intercept every challenge, remove every obstacle that appears on the way, and take care of all the auxiliary matters, so that the people fighting for their lives can focus on the battle, and with Hashem’s help, get past it safely.

A hum of whispers accompanies Rabbi Chananya Chollak’s entrance to the ward. Doctors and staff members alike, parents and children, all look up to him with reverent eyes. This is the man who stands behind the two-word phrase, “Ezer Mizion,” a phrase that personifies for them the light within the darkness, the warm, enveloping embrace in rocky, frightening times.

Those who recognize Rabbi Chollak quickly inform the others of the identity of the one who came in, and they too join in eying the man who stands behind all the good angels filling the ward around the clock, all in one, single goal: to help relieve the patients’ burden.

But Rabbi Chollak does not seem to register the looks of reverence. He came here to visit the sick, wish them a speedy recovery, and he does so with the full seriousness that befits someone who knows all too well what this battle is all about and who believes that relieving the patient’s burden is literally a matter of saving life.

Hashem Will Help!

He dons covers on his shoes and a surgical mask on his mouth and nose and opens the door of the isolation room. A young couple sits there next to the crib of their baby son, who underwent a bone marrow transplant from a donor found for him in the Ezer Mizion Registry. Rabbi Chollak inquires of the details and the father tells him the type of illness, the treatment that was given and the doctors’ prognosis. Medical terms, their difficult pronunciation merely hinting at the real difficulty of actually coping with them, roll easily off this young man’s tongue. His friends are probably busy with terms from the world of weddings, or at most, the world of mortgages and projects going up for young couples. How is it that he is occupied with such terrifying terms?

Tears come to the eyes uninvited, but the young mother is determined: “With Hashem’s help, he will get better and this entire period will be like a huge wave that came and went, leaving us only with strengthened faith and a more developed relationship between us. But there is no doubt that a major part of our growth and strength is credited to Ezer Mizion. Without them, we would have fallen apart.”

In the ward itself, Rabbi Chollak goes from bed to bed, taking a sincere interest in each and every patient, showering words of encouragement and hope, and giving a sick child a bag of treats. At the conclusion of each visit, he asks for the name of the patient and his mother, closes his eyes in intense concentration, and prays – for Sarah bat Shulamit, may she have a full recovery among all the Jewish ill, for Shlomo ben Limor, for Chaim Uri ben Dalia, and for each and every one of the children – l’refuah shleimah b’toch she’ar cholei Yisrael.

“Hashem will help!” he encourages a group of mothers who stepped out of the room so that the cleaning help could do their job. The caring in his eyes adds depth of meaning to the words so often superficially tossed out. “Yishtabach shemo la’ad – May His Name be eternally praised!” responds one mother, a somewhat unexpected expression, considering her external appearance. But she does not leave any doubts. “Yishtabach shemo la’ad! That is my motto these days. We are strong! In this place, we see the Jewish nation that is all heart! So many organizations, so much help, so much caring! And it is all for the name of G-d and His children. There is no one like the Jewish people and none like their G-d. Yishtabach shemo la’ad!” she concludes, and you can tell that this is indeed the motto that helps her in the fight with her daughter’s illness.

A suspicious glint is seen in the eye of a mother carrying her son in her hands. Rabbi Chollak inquires of the details, and soon enough, the teary glint is contagious. This little boy was already healthy, but the illness returned in full force. The doctors say there is nothing they can do … Again, he asks for the name of the child and his mother, his eyes close, and the prayer is uttered. “Hakadosh baruch Hu can do everything. Don’t lose hope!” he says quietly. “We never give up hope,” the mother promises, holding the child close to her heart.

Resolute Mission

In the next room sits an Ezer Mizion volunteer next to the bed of a seven-year-old girl. “How long will you be here with her?” I ask. “Until another volunteer comes to relieve me…” she replies, and a slight spasm of her face hints to me not to go on and ask the obvious question: “And where are the parents?” Once outside the room, Yumi will tell me that the parents, wretched and impoverished, come to “visit” their daughter from time to time, but the ones who are with her on a regular basis are the Ezer Mizion volunteers.

We pass by a cart set up with refreshments for all those who come through the ward – a compact cafeteria, offering home-made cake and drinks. The “Ezer Mizion” symbol on the cups leaves no room for doubt. Next to the cart sits a pleasant-countenanced volunteer, who pours and serves the drinks, asks “How much sugar,” and wipes away a drop of milk that dripped on the cart, making sure everything is esthetic, dignified and respectful.

A sweet little girl rides a tricycle alongside her mother. Her bald head seems incongruous with the merry mischief dancing in her eyes. “What’s your name,” Rabbi Chollak asks, bending all the way down to the colorful tricycle. “Talia,” the girl answers in a tinkling voice, happily accepting the bag of treats he offers her. “I’m going to eat it all up and nothing will be left for anyone else,” she announces with amazing self-confidence. “How old are you, Talia?” inquires Rabbi Chollak. “Three,” she replies. “And when will you be four?” he goes on, but she is already riding away, checking out the sweets in the bag, and the question remains hanging in the air. We bless Talia that she should indeed reach the age of four, hale and healthy, with the horrible disease behind her.

From every direction, people come over, shake Rabbi Chollak’s hand in choked silence, exchange looks reserved for people of one family, even if not biologically related, and their eyes express the depth of the gratitude they concentrate into one immortal word: Thanks! Or at most, three words: Thanks for everything!

“You are our angels,” the phrase is heard again and again, and not as an empty cliché. On the surface, it seems as if everyone studied the same script, but when you hear the intonation and see the look that comes along with the words, and especially – when you hear of the cushion of warm, embracing help Ezer Mizion offers families of cancer patients, you understand the depth of meaning contained in the word “angels” appended automatically to Ezer Mizion volunteers: “Angels” are the agents of the Creator. G-d has many agents, and Ezer Mizion chose to be His agents in the Oncology Ward – counseling, guiding, supporting, and helping, in the hospital and at home, to parents and children, from the technical aspect and from the emotional-spiritual aspect. No wonder that they are seen as “angels”!

In the virtual telephone book of every person here are the personal phone numbers of these angels, representatives of Ezer Mizion in the Oncology Ward of the hospital and in the organization’s Cancer Patients’ Support Division: Yumi, Zevi, Blumi, Ophira, and all the rest. Every time there is a problem, question, difficulty, or request, they do not hesitate to call. Experience has already taught them that if they want to do Ezer Mizion a favor, all they have to do is call and ask, and above all – to accept what the help they want so much to give them.

The assistance is provided directly to the patients and their families, but also indirectly, via the ward staff. Here, a social worker comes over to Zevi and tells him about a problem she encountered with one of the children on the ward. You can tell by his expression how obvious it is to her that Zevi is the address for her problem and that is where the answers and the solution is to be found.

Another social worker approaches Ophira and informs her about a “new” family from Modi’in Ilit who arrived at the ward. She, too, knows that in spite of her professional training and rich experience, she could never give this family everything that Ezer Mizion will give it: Comprehensive support in every necessary area, with maximal understanding of the special sensitivities that flow from their being a Torah-observant family.

The cafeteria cart has not yet receded when another cart appears, led by a different volunteer, carrying trays with hot, fresh lunches cooked in the Ezer Mizion kitchens, to be given out to the people sitting beside the patients. It seems that nobody other than me is surprised by the sight. It happens here every day, and, as we know, routine dulls the sense of amazement.

Around the Clock, Day In Day Out

Rivky T. hosts me in the isolation room where she is sitting with her three-year-old Down’s Syndrome daughter, who has leukemia. Rivky’s eyes are gleaming and she shares her experience with me openly. “My children love Tehilla dearly, and dealing with her illness is not easy for any of us. Ever since she was born, we learned that every therapy and every entitlement, every allotment and every co-payment, even for a few dozen shekels, involves filling out countless forms, sending faxes, getting confirmations, and recommendations, and proofs… And suddenly, here we were exposed to something new: Someone who wants to give to us. Perhaps ‘wants’ is not the right word, but rather: aspires and pleads and hopes that we will agree to accept… and all this without our having to fill out a single form! Without investigating us and asking ‘Who are you, where are you from, how much do you earn, have you realized your employment potential, what newspaper do you read at home… without any bureaucracy and nitpicking, just with an amazing understanding of the needs of a family struggling with their child’s illness.

“Ever since we are here, I feel as if I am getting one long hug from Ezer Mizion, which infuses me with the strength I need to get through this tough period and backs me up with full support on the home front so that the house will continue functioning as if everything was fine. We receive a lot of technical support, and the children get therapies meant to calm them, mentors who are ready to give them the moon, and more and more.

Nechama C. sits outside the treatment room. In the carriage at her side is her baby, brother of the five-year-old sick girl. “I have been here on and off for three years already,” she relates in the tone of someone who has already made peace with the tough facts of life. “I think that everyone knows at least a part of what Ezer Mizion does for the patients and their families. For us, it came to particular expression in the time after I had the baby. They enveloped us all in everything you can imagine – and also what you can’t.

Yocheved sits alongside her two-year-old son’s bed and says Tehillim (Psalms). “You’re asking about Ezer Mizion?” She asks in wonder. “They are our family. They are our angels. For the last eight months, they have been our address for everything you can think of. Thanks to them, my head is clear of everything that would preoccupy a Jewish mother. They know that a sick child needs parents who are available – physically and emotionally, and everything they do and offer us is geared towards this objective. It is inadequate to try and list the things they do for us, because the whole is far more than the sum of its parts. The biggest help does not boil down to a listing of the specific areas of assistance that they offer at no cost, but to the fact that they are available and accessible and understand the needs of patients and their families even better than we ourselves know and understand.

“Let me tell you about the special clock we prepared for them – it is hanging in the ward – so you can understand a tiny bit of what I am talking about: On the clock face we wrote: ‘Ezer Mizion around the clock.’ Next to each of the digits on the clock, we wrote something connected to that number and connected to what Ezer Mizion does for us. For example, next to the number one, we wrote: ‘Number one in chessed’ Number three says, ‘Three nights at the summer retreat a vacation that puts us back on our feet with attractions for parents, for each girl and boy and all in abundance, with nachat and joy’; By the number five we wrote: ‘Every Thursday, a devoted volunteer cleans the house for free, in good cheer. And behind the door sits a box full of treats to make our Shabbat table complete. Number nine speaks of a unique type of chessed: On the fast day of the Ninth of Av. It’s the weary parents they are thinking of. So they take the little ones off the scene for a program of balloons and a trampoline… I’m sure that even if there were a hundred hours on the clock, we would have been able to fill each hour with another detail and another piece of the tapestry of tremendous help they do for us.”

In the middle of our conversation, Yocheved’s cell phone rings. “You have a ride coming home,” the indefatigable Transport Division secretary tells her.

“I didn’t even request it!” Yocheved says with amazement. “I just told them that I need a volunteer to relieve me for two hours in the afternoon to sit with the child. But they understood on their own that if I need a volunteer – I also need a ride home. There you are – that, in short, is the whole story of this remarkable organization and the people in it: They infer what you need, they are one step ahead and figure out what we are lacking before we ourselves know.

“We can never thank them enough for all they do. All we can do is try to link on to their tremendous acts of chessed – by donating money and joining the ranks of volunteers the moment this story will be behind us.

Mothers’ Seismographs

“The Kupat Cholim refuses to reimburse me for the cost of the ambulance we took when we rushed the child to the hospital because he got a fever,” A man grabs hold of Zev Freund in the hospital corridor, shoving a pile of forms in his hand. Zev takes them, as if it was self-understood. Who, if not he, will take care of the bureaucratic glitch that is disturbing the father and not enabling him to be fully available to his sick son?

One of the doctors comes over to Yumi and exchanges a few whispered words with him. Yumi nods and the doctor continues on his way calmly, his face showing that he is assured that the matter will be taken care of.

“What is your motto?” I ask these unflagging people, who spend more time in the Oncology Ward than anywhere else.

“Life here has taught us that the child is his parents’ seismograph,” Zev explains. “The sick child needs a hundred percent Ima, but his Ima has another few children and endless obligations. We are here to remove all those concerns from her shoulders. There are general concerns, like meals and housecleaning, that everyone needs, and there are the unique concerns of each family and every day. We take both kinds of needs on our shoulders so that the parents will be totally available to their sick child. When the child tells me with pure simplicity: “Today Ima is happy,” I know that baruch Hashem, we achieved our goal.”

What the Cards Revealed

“During summer vacation, I prepared a card game for my children, and I urge everyone to adopt the idea,” Rivky T. says. “On each of the cards, I wrote a different fact, and I placed the cards in a pile. The facts were, for example: Leukemia is a scary disease; I am embarrassed by Tehilla’s baldness; It pays to have leukemia; The food we get for Shabbat is delicious; I prefer the food that Mommy cooks; I want Tehilla to come home; and so on. Every child, and also we, the parents, took a turn picking up a card and reading what it said. If he felt that the sentence on the card was correct for him, he explained why and took it for himself. If not, he put the card in another pile.

“I was very touched to see that the cards the children identified with indicated that they were not experiencing difficult, black days, but rather saw many positive things that they had. I could have even been insulted by what the cards revealed – that the food I prepare cannot always compete with the food we get from Ezer Mizion, and the attractions I can offer my children do not even come close to what their mentors do for them. The same is true for the day camps and fun days that Ezer Mizion organizes for them. But don’t worry, I’m not offended. On the contrary – I am happy that this is what the cards revealed. I know that the fact that this period will be engraved in the memories of my children as an interesting, colorful time, though certainly challenging, is all to the credit of Ezer Mizion, which enveloped us in such an amazing all-embracing support system, and thanks to their vast experience, managed to preempt the difficulties by offering us every necessary assistance, even before we realized that we need it.

Merkaz Ha’inyanim Oct. 6, 2014 By: Shaul Weiss

Statistics inspire both amazement and pain as Ezer Mizion sums up another year of activity: 15,500 volunteers, 650,000 meals or the ill, 78,900 transports by ambulance and volunteer drivers

At this time, a new year of activity has opened at Ezer Mizion. With the conclusion of the past year, the organization sums up its work in the many different divisions operating all year with unflagging dedication. The statistics, only a small part of which are publicized, reveal the scope of Ezer Mizion’s broad, unprecedented chessed activity.

Ezer Mizion’s devoted volunteers report to Oncology Units across the country, day and night, to be there for the patients and their families. The large organization, with its roster of unique services, envelops patients and their families with unstinting help to ease their difficult battle for life as much as possible.

As of the beginning of 5775, Ezer Mizion’s volunteer network numbers more than 15,500 members in dozens of population centers across the country. 650,000 meals were distributed over the past year to the ill, elderly, and needy. More than 724,000 potential donors are registered at present in Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Thanks to this registry, third largest in the world, 1,600 life-saving transplants have already taken place.

More statistics: Over 80,000 medical and rehabilitative devices and equipment were loaned at no cost this past year and more than 78,900 patients and handicapped individuals were transported by ambulances and volunteer drivers. Thousands of children with special needs were cared for by the Special Children’s Division, tens of thousands of calls came in to the Medical Counseling Center, thousands of people required counseling, care, and rehabilitation at the Mental Health Division, thousands of seniors benefited from projects and services at the Geriatric Division, 407 families of Alzheimer’s patients received assistance at Ezer Mizion’s Tzipora Fried Center, 57 chessed branches operated under the organization’s auspices, helping over 670,000 people.

For further info: ezermizion.org

A Volunteer from Elad Speaks…

December 24, 2014

Yerucham Turner, a volunteer at the Ezer Mizion’s Elad branch, speaks.
About a year ago, a moving article appeared in an Elad publication asking for local volunteers to join Ezer Mizion. The article spoke to me and, without hesitation, I knew I wanted to be part of this. Something unique began to grow in our city…quietly…unobtrusively… out of the spotlight.
And so, I joined, at first, as a volunteer driver to transport patients to and from the hospital. Slowly but surely, I learned more and more about this special organization and all the amazing work it does here in my city. The Elad volunteers are ordinary citizens from all sectors of the public and from all the different communities in the city. But Ezer Mizion arouses in them the common inner spark of generosity and the intrinsic desire to do good. Together, they work in wondrous unity and amazing efficacy on behalf of everyone, not for personal profit or publicity – but because we are all brothers.
Ezer Mizion’s volunteer network in the city was formulated within less than a year. Nevertheless, it is already big and extensive, branching off into a wide variety of areas. I am not a spokesman for Ezer Mizion, and thank G-d, our city is flowing with other special chessed organizations, but I feel I must give voice to what I see. I would like to share just a few cases and glimmers of light that I was privileged to see with my own eyes during this past year.
For example, I had the opportunity to participate in a musical Melave Malka, together with another thirty volunteers, in the home of a resident of the city who has cancer – a young father of six. Beyond the genuine joy at the event that broke down all barriers, his wife told me the next day, “It’s unbelievable. I got my husband back! Until yesterday, he was depressed and broken and wouldn’t eat anything. But since you all were here, he doesn’t stop speaking about you. The color returned to his face and his joie de vivre is back. He agreed to eat. You gave him hope.”
This family is just one example. I have seen how Ezer Mizion envelops these families with genuine caring. Volunteer drivers take them to the hospital for treatments and bring them home. Women volunteers cook hot meals for the family for the weekdays and for Shabbat. High school girls come to help with light household chores and play with the children. Volunteer teachers come to study with the children and do homework with them. Only people on the inside can grasp what this kind of help and chessed does for a family. Other volunteers take turns doing laundry and ironing, making sure the children have clean, pressed clothes. Hospital volunteers go to the hospital to visit the patient – and this is just for one family!!!
Unfortunately, the cases in our city are many, too many. There are so many people fighting cancer,– young parents and even little children, aside from other cases of illness and hospitalization. But Ezer Mizion is everywhere, ready to help!
In almost every incident and tragedy in the city – they are there, efficient and unobtrusive. I remember that in the case of the kidnapping of Eyal Hy”d, one of the three boys that was murdered early this past summer and whose family lives in Elad, I was exposed to the sheer numbers of Ezer Mizion volunteers in the city. I saw how they all reported for duty, without exception, and helped in any way possible, day after day.
And how can we fail to mention Operation Protective Edge, when hundreds of residents of the South were hosted in our city for a long weekend – Thursday, Friday, Shabbat, and Sunday. There too, I witnessed the dimensions of Ezer Mizion and its strength, as well as the large number of volunteers. Everything was planned out, to the last detail, including programs and activities for the children. The parent shed tears of joy and said that for a month, their children had not even left the house.
Just a year ago, it was all a dream. Today, the Elad branch of Ezer Mizion is an accomplished fact. More than 300 wonderful volunteers are active in the branch – good people with a big heart, who want so much to help, all absorbing the Ezer Mizion maxim of caring and compassion in gigantic doses but always coupled with dignity and respect.
For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org

When Hadassah Hospital Slows Down, We Speed Up

February 26, 2014

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Ezer Mizion’s volunteer network stepped up activity in all the wards  Additional manpower desperately needed to meet patients’ needs.

By Y. Sheinfeld

Due to the slowdown to “Shabbat mode” at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, the volunteer network was compelled to step up activity in all the hospital wards.

The Jerusalem branch of Ezer Mizion dispatches more than sixty volunteers each day to the five major Jerusalem hospitals. Most of these volunteers are brought to the hospitals by the organization’s fleet of volunteer drivers (an area where there is constantly a severe shortage, in spite of the admirable, large-scale roster of volunteers). The dedicated volunteers fan out on all the floors and get to work distributing meals, hot and cold drinks, and cake from a mobile cafeteria cart that makes its way through the various wards. Some volunteers take shifts at patients’ bedsides, in response the family’s request. In addition, aides stationed at the hospitals report to the Ezer Mizion branch on patients who have no close family to be with them. These patients are assigned volunteers for all three shifts to be available at their bedside and provide ongoing assistance. Professional service is also provided for patients. The Ezer Mizion branch regularly sends a social service representative to the major local hospitals. The coach passes through the various wards several times a week, meets the patients, and offers assistance.

One of the channels by which volunteers connect to patients is through neighborhood phone hot lines recently initiated in Jerusalem. At the neighborhood hot line, the local coordinator receives requests and can send out volunteers from the area to provide assistance within the neighborhood itself.

The Hadassah Ein Kerem administration recently announced that they would be working in low-key Shabbat mode in all the wards. In light of this, Ezer Mizion stepped up their volunteer network at the hospital and volunteers are doing whatever they can for the patients’ benefit.

For further info: http://www.ezermizion.org

The Other Side

April 24, 2013

 

From the thoughts of Avi Sorias, an ambulance driver for Ezer Mizion

 

“Here,” says the young man from behind me. “At the right.”

From my place at the steering wheel, I glance at his image in the mirror. He sits there, limp and helpless, his head dropped back against the seat. His voice is soft, almost a whisper.

The vehicle, a modern Ezer Mizion ambulance, pulls up by a tall building. “Are you okay?” I ask the closed eyes behind me.

The young man, shaken, sharply pulls himself up in his seat, plastering a care-free smile on his gaunt face. “No,” he replies seriously, “but only you and I have to know that.”

He thanks me profusely for the ride, takes a deep breath, and steps out to the broad sidewalk.

The street is humming with people at this midday hour: Children are coming home from school, cheery preschoolers prance along with their colorful backpacks, busy parents rush along their way. A cat darts out from between the cars, startling a high-school girl leisurely walking home.

The young man continues along the path to the building. He stops a moment and glances at a large public bulletin board displaying freshly-pasted death notices announcing the demise of a special member of the community.

He scans it silently. I watch him and feel a stab of sadness, painfully aware of the thoughts running through his mind.

“He is so young,” I think to myself. “He has four little children at home. And so very little stands between him and a notice just like this one!”

A moment later, as my Ezer Mizion ambulance blends into the traffic. The young man’s face blends with the faces of so many more whom I have driven for treatment…and I think of other Ezer Mizion drivers transporting mothers who had moments before torn themselves from their well children to visit another child whose future is uncertain…or the many teens trembling as they near the hospital where their mother is wasting away and may never return. I chide myself for my lack of faith. “Is there anything stopping G-d from bringing a redemption, even when the outlook is so dim? Haven’t you seen in your own ambulance people who did not have the shadow of a chance to make it – and here they are among us, alive and well? And besides —” a sudden thought makes me tremble, “who guarantees you another hour of life? Can anyone know for sure in the morning that he will still be alive that night?”

When the ambulance is finally parked for the night in the parking lot outside my home, its doors still shut, I close my eyes for a moment and offer a prayer for all those broken-hearted heroes of the spirit who rode in this vehicle today. There are many such people in Elad, more that you can possibly imagine. I plead that He always keep me and my family on the giving side.”

Time passes…

If you were in Israel at the time, you probably read about it in the newspapers.  You probably sighed briefly, maybe mumbled the name. On the next page appeared an ad for a one-time sale of suits at discount prices, and that was more interesting. A school announcing registration, a new store opening its doors in Nachalat Yitzchak, another engineer resigned from the Municipality, Ordman advertising the weekly sale. There were so many things to read, and you leafed forward.

Shevat 15, 5772. The time is 4:30 in the afternoon.

I stretch out on my brown chair in the main office of the Ezer Mizion building in Bnei Brak. Dozens of other workers sit around me. All of them spend long hours every day manning Ezer Mizion’s ambulances. Now, we have gathered in the room for a lecture.

Opposite us sits Rabbi Chananya Chollak. Do you know Rabbi Chollak? Heard about him? No, hearing is not enough. If you never experienced his compassion, his soft gentleness, his humble practicality, his fine-tuned understanding, his enormous heart, and his vision — you haven’t tasted the true sweetness of giving. It’s no wonder that Ezer Mizion staff and volunteers are imbued with such a strong desire to give. They say that the ambience of an organization comes from the top. Rabbi Chollak founded Ezer Mizion way back in 1979 as a newly married young man and has continued to imbue the organization with his personal brand of compassion which filters down to every one of us- the paid staff and the over 12,000 volunteers.

Rabbi Chananya Chollak is speaking in honor of Tu B’shevat. We are all listening in fascination. He speaks about the connection between man and fruit, and elaborates on the moral sensitivities demanded of people in positions like ours.

I feel the tremor of the beeper in my pocket. Like all volunteers, I receive emergency calls. Out of habit, I glance at the screen. Emergency call. A severely wounded child, a fall from a high place. The address is… Ben Shetach 42.

At that address lives the Sorias family — that’s me.

Any of you who ever felt this inner panic knows what I am talking about — the spasm of fright, the paralyzing understanding that a terrifying clap of thunder has burst in like a storm and overturned your peaceful life.

Since I am not in Elad, I cannot speed to the site and offer assistance. I make a quick call to find out what happened, and leap into my ambulance, my face a deathly shade of gray.  I know the way to Beilinson Hospital with my eyes closed. A thousand hammers pound in my head, and for the first time in my life, my hands tremble at the wheel. I post myself at the entrance to the emergency room and wait for them with bated breath.”

Just fifteen minutes earlier, it was an ordinary, happy day. Four-year-old Yedidya was playing in the yard with Daniel, who was then five and a half. He ran mischievously along the length of the yard, and then, at a moment’s decision, he climbed onto the wall at the edge of the yard. The stone fence was quite low from the side facing the yard. But on the other side, it was very high, separating the yard from the adjacent building. A drop of five meters gaped from the top of the wall to the concrete floor at the bottom.  He climbed along the wall with cheery, childish steps-feeling like such a big boy-, but on his third step, he lost his balance. Daniel, who was watching him with interest, was horrified to realize that Yedidya had suddenly disappeared from sight.

He flew home in growing panic, swung open the door and screamed the first sentence that escaped from his throat: “Mommy! Yedidya is dead!”

“The fact that Daniel was watching and not on his own adventures was a tremendous miracle in itself. The neighbors from the bottom floor weren’t home. The child could have disappeared without anyone knowing where he went. Moments later, when they noticed he was missing, they all would have gone to search for him.  They would probably have gone to the big park, checked the nearby buildings, announced his disappearance with a loudspeaker from a car cruising the city streets. Meanwhile, the child would have lay unconscious below, sprawled on the hard concrete, and, G-d forbid, his life would have slowly slipped away.

My wife phoned Hatzalah and ran screaming to other neighbors for help. At first, the Hatzalah volunteers who arrived stood there, helpless. The family from the first-floor apartment wasn’t home and they could not be reached. The volunteers could not go through their apartment to reach the child. Five meters of wall distanced them from the wounded child. After quickly arranging the logistics, they carefully slid down the wall to the ground. They found Yedidya crushed, bruised, bleeding and unconscious, with a serious head injury.

The volunteers began doing resuscitation and CPR. Hunched over the concrete floor, they strapped him to a back board and a medical collar, and in a complex operation, succeeded in raising him up to the yard, sedated and on a respirator.

Everyone on the street held their breath. Residents of the area stood nearby and kept praying until the ambulance finally left the spot with a howling screech of tires and screaming siren, on its way to the hospital. Large blood stains on the sidewalk remained as sole witnesses to the trauma, along with the many chapters of psalms whispered among the buildings now making their way to the only One who could help.

The ambulance arrived at the entrance of the Beilinson Hospital Emergency Room. I was the first one to run up, open the doors, and rush my son out. One look was enough to understand everything.

“I did not wait there alone. One of the wonderful Ezer Mizion people was waiting there already. So many times had I been on the other side of the ambulance but for the first time, I grasped what the presence of a trained volunteer does for the patient’s family — the calming effect of their just being there, their unspoken support. The reassuring knowledge that you are “in good hands,” the hands of G-d’s compassionate and responsible agents, who will seek the absolute best for you and will never tire of doing the right thing. When an Ezer Mizion employee is there, you will not feel alone. It is like a warm elixir for an icy, chilled spirit.”

Yedidya was wheeled into Intensive Care in critical condition. The nurse, who has seen much over her years at the hospital, bit her lips when she saw him.  A deep silence hung heavily in the room. All you could hear was the steady ticking of the medical machinery, pounding along with our hearts, beat after beat. Pipes surrounded his little, exposed body, and his sweet face was swallowed up in the huge bandages.

The esteemed professor leafed through the notes. He leaned back on the wall and looked at us gravely. “We don’t know,” he summed it up in one brief sentence. “He may lie like that forever, he might wake up. The brain injury is very severe and it is too early to know its full extent at present. Chances are that if he wakes up, he won’t see, could be he won’t hear, probably he won’t move. It is impossible to know if he will remember or be able to think or understand. Walk? Very slight chance.”

He regarded us with a long look. For years he has been meeting with parents. Too often, he is compelled to give them bad news. Does he realize the weight of the cement block he is dropping on our young heads?

The Ezer Mizion volunteer squeezed my hand. I held on tight.

“Pray,” he suggests.

“We did all we could,” the doctor promises sincerely. “What happens from now — is not in our hands.”

The doctor steps out of the room, leaving Yedidya and us, and G-d whose Presence never leaves the distraught.

Helplessness.

You sit next to him and count the grains of time creeping by on the attached monitor. How will Yedidya look in another eight and a half years, by his bar mitzvah? Will he be alive? Will he be conscious? In a wheelchair? Will he understand anything? This sweet, wonderful child, who we dreamed we would raise … His gushing exuberance, replaced in a fraction of a moment by a horrible pallor. The busy, beautiful routine, sharply torn from our lives. The pain, the pain that fogs your view and dampens your eyes.

How long will we be here? How many years will it take?

Where…Where do they bury little children? Harsh thoughts keep rising in my mind, and I try to banish them.

Torn.

After long, blurry hours, we suddenly remember that there is a home, and in it, thank G-d, are another five children, frightened, searching for their parents, anxious about Yedidya.

Is it suppertime now? Morning? Is there school? Oh, work! Somebody has to inform my place of work! But not me. I don’t have the emotional strength. Someone. Is there really a world outside? People going to the office as usual, attending school, slicing bread, buying milk? There are people who turn the key to lock their door, just like that, and go to sleep, complaining about the laundry they did not have a chance to fold or the pail that was knocked over by a cat?!

Within the hospital walls, the world outside loses all meaning. The Angel of Death stretches out his hand from behind the wall, and normal life suddenly seems so unreal. Even when you leave the hospital for a spell and return home, half your heart- and your entire mind- remain there.

We know that things have to get done. Suppers. Baths. Homework. Laundry. But they don’t seem real. Reality is here. Here in this edifice that houses fear, paralyzing fear and bad thoughts…thoughts like…

Ezer Mizion is on hand, as always. Rejuvenating sandwiches, a hot lunch, along with a good word and all-encompassing empathy. They are able to enter our world. They understand. Their warm hug offers strong support as we hang there floating in this strange reality. They offer food. We know we need it. We have to be there for Yedidya. And for our other kids. Tough decisions will have to be made. But we – should eat – now? Our Yedidya is in critical condition!! The world has come crashing down!! Who can think of a tuna sandwich?  But in the end, the hunger and physical weakness force us to eat. The meal is setup attractively. Someone cared to make it nice. It feels good. We feel connected to those anonymous others at Ezer Mizion’s Food Division and to the kind angel who delivered it. Their compassion strengthens us as much as the chicken cutlets.  With renewed vigor, with the homey warmth and pleasant caring, we find a magical energy, a source of empathy, affection, support and acceptance rushing through us. Somebody thought of us. Somebody took the trouble to relieve us of worrying about these trivial things in the strange, agonizing planet called a hospital.

The next moment, I feel tears welling up in my eyes. A calm, sated voice within me is surprised that I forgot. There is a Master to the Universe. He thinks about me and embraces me all the time. He wants me to be taken care of. He sent me the Ezer Mizion angels. He Himself comes down to collect our tears.

At this moment, invigorated by the meal and by the love shown by those who care, I utter my first real prayer. You, G-d, are here with us in Intensive Care. And you are also with our children at home. In your compassion, You gave us Yedidya four and a half years ago, a healthy baby boy.

We did not ask then, ‘Why were we chosen to have a healthy child?’ Some people wait many years for a child, in vain. Some families receive the gift of a brain-damaged child. Some individuals who walk the earth have no family at all.

We did not ask then, ‘Why were we chosen to have a hale, healthy child?’ It seemed to us to be normal and self-understood.

“So now too, Dear Father, now too, we ask no questions.”

For the first time since that fateful message, I feel calm.

The Fight for Survival

The next weeks were tough, in a thousand different details, large and small. There are children at home. Someone has to be with them. Someone has to explain to them what’s happening. Someone has to give them breakfast. Put sandwiches in their backpacks. Prepare lunch. Do the laundry. Make the beds. Pick them up from preschool. Be with them in the afternoon. Put them to sleep.

Transportation to the hospital is not available at all hours. If you linger an extra minute with the child, you missed your bus. At home, little children are waiting, starved for a tiny slice of Mommy.

Long hours of wakefulness. Lengthy shifts in the hospital. Work is tossed at the wayside. The choking worry, the tension, the agonizing thoughts.

And the practical needs: Who will do the ironing? Who will shop? Who will take the children to school? When we come home, we are wiped out, yet try to give a few minutes of quality parenting time to the little children, to make up for their long absence. We try to calm fears: What happened to Yedidya? Where is he? Will he come home? Why? When? What? I want you, Mommy! Why do you go just to Yedidya? The teacher says that I have to review.  Tomorrow I have a test, Abba…

Thousands of different needs pulling us in thousands of directions. This is where the finest hour of beautiful trained volunteering comes to the fore.

Ezer Mizion extends a helping hand to cover every need. Their sensitivity and dedication formed a heart-warming lifeline for us those difficult days.

“Ezer Mizion was with us in all their glory. As an Ezer Mizion man myself, I, of course, embrace the ideal and the mission. But I never before felt in all my bones how very critical is the role that we play. They were there with meals for us, the parents, always lovingly prepared. They came to do homework with the children, they babysat, they brought meals, they cleaned, did laundry, they even took the kids out for fun trips. They provided necessary medical equipment for Yedidya and sent volunteers to sit with him to give us, the parents, a much-needed break. And they talked. To us who so badly needed a shoulder to lean on and to the children who were bewildered, worried.

The area so close to my heart – the transportation division. Never had I realized what my role as an Ezer Mizion driver actually gives to the distraught patient.

Going to the hospital by public transportation is an unbelievable waste of time, at a period when every minute is packed tightly and used to the utmost. Waiting at the bus stop, the time it takes to pick up passengers and let them off, the infrequency of the buses, and some hospitals, like Sheba in Tel Hashomer, do not even have any direct bus line from the city at all. The problem repeats itself day after day and also becomes a serious financial burden. And even more. When going by bus, you have to take charge. What time should I leave? Where do I switch to the next bus? Don’t fall asleep, you might miss your stop. But with Ezer Mizion, you can relax. Someone else is worrying about those little details that loom so big when you have no ‘gas’ left to handle even the slightest burden. And you can even talk your heart out to the driver who really, really cares. Never had I realized what tremendous good I was doing for all those others when I would drive them to their destinations.

We had to get to and from the hospital 5-6 times a day, exchanging shifts around the clock.  For someone without a car, this is a heavy, exhausting challenge, at a time when the crisis situation is already threatening to finish you off.

Those Ezer Mizion drivers-I can’t believe that I am so fortunate as to be one of them-were just one of the lifelines that kept us going.

The hospital staff was devoted, professional, and very empathetic. Every day, they tried detaching the respirator. The pipe was gently pulled out, while we all stood by, waiting tensely. The suspense would fill the silent room until the shrill beeping sounds would disturb the stillness. Not yet.  Yedidya was not yet able to breath on his own.  He lay on the bed, silent, wan, without movement, our sweet flower, our little boy, a four-year old child. Are you a parent? Do you understand?!

But one morning it happened. We waited expectantly for the beeping. Nothing. The doctor gaped. The nurse checked the machine. And we-we daavened-a lot! The respirator was detached and Yedidya was breathing. On his own.

It was a good sign, but the situation was still very serious. He lay in his bed without moving a muscle. His arms and legs were like thin, white sticks. He did not turn over, did not move around, did not speak or smile, did not scream or cry. Just a dark, agonizing silence. Only his eyes were open. “Does he see me?” Yedidya’s mother asked the doctor, excited.

“I don’t know,” the doctor shrugged his shoulders.  “Maybe he sees and maybe not. He certainly is not following with his eyes at all. And even if we grant the slim chance that he sees,” he said uncomfortably, “most likely, he does not remember anything and does not recognize you.”

“But I’m his mother!”

“I know,” replied the doctor, playing with his white collar.

He could breathe. A miracle in itself. But  would he speak? Would he hear, Would he walk Would he understand?

“Pray,” they kept saying, and that is indeed what we did.

“One night,” relates Avi Sorias, his voice ripe with feeling, “my friends from Ezer Mizion, led by Rabbi Chananya Chollak, organized a heart-rending prayer at the Kotel. The eyes that saw so much suffering shed copious tears- they all shared our pain, and their joint plea rose heavenward, united and hopeful. We scattered silently, dabbing at the tears, and strong in our belief that G-d hears our prayers.

“From Jerusalem, I went straight back to the hospital. It was late at night. I sat beside my little boy’s bed. Four weeks had already passed since the accident. No change was seen other than his ability to breathe on his own. I thought about the home I left behind, the children. Our Yedidya. I felt as if my heart would break.

And suddenly… suddenly somebody near me hesitantly utters in a soft, sweet voice,

‘Abba?’ (father)

I looked around and discovered my Yedidya.

He looked at me with concentration, and in his eyes were all the wonder and love in the world. “Abba?” he said again, and then he lay back, exhausted.

He saw, he recognized, he remembered, he spoke.

I ran to the phone to call my wife and then we both uttered the same word as Yedidya, “Abba, Abba, thank you, thank you, thank you.” Like Yedidya, we sank back in utter exhaustion, so full of joy, so full of gratitude to the One who had heard our prayers.

Then came the tough days of rehabilitation. We were transferred to Tel Hashomer, to an excellent ward. Once again, we sat with him all hours of the day and night, accompanying him in a repeat cycle of his original development, a slow, agonizing process as he relearned what he had learned in infancy.

At first, he began moving only his right arm in slow movements. Two weeks later, his left arm allowed itself to move a centimeter or two. A few weeks later, Yedidya began moving his legs.  Of course, he did not yet walk and could not even stand up. It was a long, painful journey until he began taking steps.

He needed the support of a walker. I remembered that Ezer Mizion had a medical equipment division. We asked. Yes, a professional therapist will be down to fit him with a special child-size walker. We knew they’d come through.  For a long period after he was able to finally walk on his own, he still wore a bicycle helmet on his head, because he would often lose his balance without advance warning.

Coming Home

“After a long hospitalization and a long rehabilitation, Yedidya was finally released. No, not for the entire week. At first, he came home just for Shabbos. On Sunday, at eight in the morning, he had to be back there.

Yedidya came home in a wheelchair. He still was unable to walk. The children were horrified: Why doesn’t he get up? What is that strange pipe coming out of his nose? Why does he look like that? Here he finally comes home — and this is how he comes…?

Parents who are bone tired, happy and sad at the same time, try to answer to the best of our small minds. Yedidya listens too. The children, at a range of ages, seek clarity.

Our grandmothers used to say, may G-d help us never know how broad our shoulders really are…

So we try.

Friday night, Yedidya comes with us to the beit Knesset. Sitting in his wheelchair, he sways back and forth, holding a siddur, his eyes closed. He doesn’t yet know how to read, of course, but, like any Jew, his soul knows how to pray .

“What did you pray for?” I ask him when we leave the beit knesset.

He looks thoughtfully into the clear night air. Neighbors and friends are happy to see him, and they come over excitedly.

The Elad street is tranquil and velvety. A tiny tear hangs at the corner of his eye.

“I prayed for the children still there in Schneider Hospital,” he says, and remains silent for long minutes.

 After long months, the time came for outpatient care, meaning that we had to come to the hospital every morning and go home in the afternoon. Traveling with a young child in a wheelchair, making sure someone was there to get the other children out in the morning, since we had to leave very early, and to receive them in the afternoon. Encouraging him and nurturing his patience…day after tension-filled day. Rehabilitation is tough, arduous, and only someone who was badly injured discovers how much we have to be thankful for the simple actions that every child does so easily.

Ezer Mizion was with us every step of the way.

“Throughout this stormy period, I thought to myself, I used to always be on the other side. In the course of my work, I come into contact with the population of sick people. I come to their homes, feel it all from close up. I feel the pain of the seriously ill: patients on dialysis, with CP, cancer, CVA, people who are paralyzed, debilitated, in rehab. Old and young, men, women, and children. People who go through tunnels of suffering and experience piercing pain and torturous doubts, crushing handicaps,  black moments, despair and shame, sorrow and struggle. But I admitted to myself, that in fact, I never really understood them fully. I respected them, had compassion for them. But there are some things that you have to go through yourself, in order to know how much you did not understand before.

Now G-d sent me to the other side of the fence, to experience sleepless nights in hospital hallways, moments of tension, fear and doubt. All the tough decisions we had to make, a long hospitalization. I never knew how critical the support, assistance and loving embrace that Ezer Mizion offers at these times is for the patient and his family.

 “

A year has passed. Yedidya has returned to preschool, hale and healthy, happy and in full function. He sees and hears, plays and runs, perceives and understands, speaks and plans. We walk him every morning, and then stand outside for another moment, on the green, clean Elad street, raise our eyes Heavenward, and simply say, ‘Thank You.’

He’s a cute kid, our Yedidya. The doctors and nurses would often talk to him. I glowed when I overheard the following conversation:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“I want to be like my father,” he immediately declared, his eyes shining, “and work in Ezer Mizion.”

“And what will you do there?” inquired the doctor.

“I’ll help sick children,” Yedidya announced confidently.