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Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Kol Nidre to Remember...

It was the holiest day of the year.  Kol Nidre.  The night before Yom Kippur.

I entered the synagogue after a filling meal preparing for my fast.  Running late as usual.  Looking around to find my family and my seat before the service started.  There they were. In the usual place.  We embraced.  Ready to be inscribed in The Book of Life.

Then it happened.  Something I was totally unprepared for; yet, I had spent years of my adult life preparing for this actual moment.  I turn to the elderly man seated next to me, he is slumped over in his chair; no breath, no pulse, no life.  His heart had stopped.  In this most sacred of places, on this most holy of nights.  Right next to his family.  Just as he was to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

I remained calm and my doctor instincts took over.  I have done this before, so many times, so long ago, it seemed.  Yet this was so different.  The hospital is a safe, controlled environment.  There are masks and medicines and respirators and IV lines.  Here, there is none of that.  Just a bunch of well trained physicians and other caring members of the community wanting to help.  Praying that this breath would not be his last.

He lay across on the chairs where we were seated.  I felt his neck and confirmed that he was without a pulse.  Delegate.  Someone call 911.  Start compressions.  I look down.  It is my duty to give him a breath.

ABC.  Airway.  Breathing.  Circulation.

No bag and mask.  No comforts of the familiar "code blue".  I bent down and began to breathe for him.  And then started chest compressions to circulate the blood that needed to get to his brain quickly.

He was moved to the hallway.  The life saving device was there.  An Automated External Defibrillator.  Another doctor placed the pads, called all clear, and the life sustaining shock was delivered to the patient.  The patient, a husband, a brother, a father called Abba.  It had been about 4 minutes.  It seemed like an eternity.

And then a breath.  And with that, a return of a pulse.  And his eyes opened.

"Abba, don't leave me", his son insisted.  "I am here with you."

Time passed, EMS arrived, the patient was stabilized and transferred to the hospital.  He was awake, combative and breathing on his own.  On his way to a recovery.  From death, back to life.

I returned to the service trying to decipher what had just happened.  But before I could gather my thoughts, before I could process this moment, the following words were spoken:
Great is the eternal power at the heart of life; mighty the love that is stronger than death.  Faithful love gives life to all, the acts of grace restore our strength.
Words I have heard every year at this time since childhood.  Yet tonight, they took on a new meaning.
Life's harsh winds uproot the weak; its hard rain beats down upon our kin.  Let those who stand support the falling, keep faith with those that lie in the dust.
And while I would not classify myself as deeply religious or even necessarily spiritual, it was hard to hear those words and not feel as though they were being spoken directly to us.  To all those who helped bring this man back to life.
To the sick, we must bring healing; and to those that are bound, release.  We give thanks for the power to live and act, for the blessing of love that is stronger than death.
Was there some divine intervention that put me in this place?  Was this night not supposed to be his last?  Could his family's blessings of love save this man from death?

I sat through the rest of the service and continued to reflect on what had happened.  I spoke the words that I have every year, tonight, with more conviction.
Birth is a beginning, and death a destination.
And life is a journey: 
from childhood to maturity, and youth to age;
From innocence to awareness, and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion, and then, perhaps, to wisdom;
From weakness to strength, or strength to weakness--
and, often, back again;
From health to sickness, And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion
And grief to understanding---from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat--
Until, looking backward or ahead, 
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, 
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning, and death a destination.
And life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage--
To life everlasting.

May this year be a happy and healthy one.  L'shanah Tovah.


Anonymous said...

Wow. There is no words for what you said. This man that you helped save is my great uncle. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for him and my family. Miracles do exist and you helped create this miracle. Thank you for being there and being so kind. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Anonymous said...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my uncles life! I am Ryan's sister and he just thinks the world of you! I hope one day I will be able to meet you and give you a big hug! My uncle is a very special man who everyone loves and adores, and you gave us the most wonderful gift to be able to keep loving and adoring him!

Happy and Healthy New Years

Cindy Shifman

Anonymous said...

thank you for saving the life of a good friend's Great Uncle.

Anonymous said...

You saved a good man and spared a good family much sorrow. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

And so you were there, on that holiest of days, with your gift, that you worked for, earned and keep well honed. You are a blessing. I think if you live with that in your heart...if you truly realize the blessing you will always help your patients in the very best way.

Unknown said...

As a close friend of Benny and Bruria Barish, I cannot thank you enough for keeping your cool and doing your job in the best possible way. Moses Maimonides, himself a doctor, wrote: "When you save a life, it as though you had saved the entire world." Yasherkoach!

A Happy Sukkot from Israel,

Rabbi Michael (Micky) Boyden
Kehilat Yonatan
Hod Hasharon

SmartBear said...

I am so glad you were there to help! What an amazing story. I am in awe...

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