Some people my age are still kids but I was forced to grow up fast. It hasn’t been an easy life. Until fourteen, I was like everyone else. You know. Playing ball, studying for tests, doing pretty well in school except for math. I had a lot of friends and life was great. Until it wasn’t. Until I found myself alone in the hospital. My friends weren’t allowed to visit and even if they had been, they were probably too scared. I know I would have been if it had been someone else lying there attached to tubes and sick with a disease that people didn’t even like to mention. I got chemo treatment. I couldn’t even dream of a ballgame. Every time I pictured the ball flying through the air, I got more nauseous and had to grab that basin fast. But the chemo did the trick, at least for a while. And the cancer seemed to disappear. Then at nineteen, the monster was back again. This time there were no triumphant handshakes from the medical staff. No banter like “We never want to see you here again.” This time, they weren’t sure. I got a bone marrow transplant, the kind where they use your own cells. It was grueling and the ‘maybe it will work, maybe it won’t’ I was hearing was no comfort.
Hours: 9-5. A perfectly acceptable job description, wouldn’t you say? True, but one an Ezer Mizion employee cannot relate to. Don’t get me wrong. Ezer Mizion employees have specific work hours like those of any other entity. But the difference is seen at 5:00 PM when the average office employee locks the door to her office, to her mind and to her heart until the next day at nine. The Ezer Mizion employee doesn’t know how to do that. Her typical evening will be interspersed with phone calls. Did the desperately needed wheelchair ordered at ten-to-five arrive? Did her suggestion for the Alzeimer’s patient work? How is the K family whose mother was just diagnosed with cancer doing?
Let me introduce you to David. He’ll tell you his story.
A garbage truck stops and its driver jumps out. He had noticed a familiar car on the road. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a generous bill he had been saving, hands it to Maor Cohen and, in seconds he is back at his job. “What’ s this?” Maor call s out.
“For the children. The children with cancer at Ezer Mizion. To buy them a lego set.”
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni opened the Knesset meeting this morning with words of thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu (G-d) for His many kindnesses and pronounced the berachah (blessing) of “Hagomel” —“Who does good to the undeserving and Who has rendered every kindness to me.”
MK Gafni related: “I didn’t realize what it was all about. It was Shabbos (Sabbath). Suddenly I felt that I couldn’t walk and before I knew it, I had fallen. I wanted to go down to Minchah (Afternoon Services) so my children wouldn’t worry about me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It’s probably nothing, i thought to myself, but I did need to take care of the gash near my eye before Mincha so I went to Ezer Mizion’s Emergency First Aid Station. There were two doctors there, Arabs, it happened, friends of mine. I told them that I had fallen and I asked them to close and bandage the wound I’d gotten around my eye from the fall. Even though all I had asked them to do was to take care of my wound, they insisted on doing an EKG. EKG for a wound??? I told them that all I came for was a simple bandaging. But they did an EKG and immediately sent me to the nearby Maayanei Hayeshua Hospital Emergency Room.
Dr. Zachalka was there, a cousin of the former MK. We’re old friends but he just looked at me seriously. And he didn’t make any jokes. I asked him: “What’s going on?” He says to me, “Is this your EKG test?” “Yes,” I answered, “It’s mine. I just came with it from Ezer Mizion.” He immediately called another doctor and brought him in together with his team. They did this. They did that. And then like the voice of a nightmare, Dr. Zachalka tells me, “You’re having an angioplasty right now. You’re in the middle of a heart attack.” He couldn’t understand how I was speaking and laughing. It was a Divine miracle. Had I not fallen, i never would have gone to Ezer Mizion. I would not have known that I was having a heart attack. I didn’t even know that I had a heart…”
Knesset colleagues interjected: “It was your good fortune is that you fell and got hurt. Otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten to the hospital…”
“They called in Professor Granat, head of Cardiology at Maayanei Hayeshua. He immediately put in a stent and that saved my life. That is the story. Baruch Hashem (thank G-d), they took very good care of me. I have the highest praise for the doctors in all the places that took care of me; they were exceptional. My children, especially my youngest son, were with me for the duration of my hospitalization and recovery at home, and in addition, there wasn’t a single Knesset worker or MK who didn’t inquire as to how I was doing. I hope to reciprocate to everyone on happy occasions, and I thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu again and again for all of the kindnesses He did for me.”
Two adorable twins. Too young to understand numbers and question why the ‘two’ doesn’t match their actual age. When they mature perhaps Mommy will explain that this was a party celebrating another birthday. It had been two years since Yarden. had received her life-saving bone marrow transplant. No family member was a genetic match and her parents had been forced to look elsewhere, somewhere, around the globe, for someone whose DNA matched their precious child. We cannot imagine the tension, the fear, the prayers that filled their home until one morning, the phone rang. “I’m calling from Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. I have wonderful news…” Life hasn’t been easy for the twins. They were born together but have been apart for so much of their life what with Yarden in and out of hospitals. May they now spend the rest of their lives together, enjoying each other’s company in perfect health.
Next week is my birthday and I want…The words are those of an eight year old but can easily be the thoughts of a thirty-eight year old. She’s just learned to be more polite. Natural feelings. We like being pampered and appreciated. We may be giving parents, neighbors, friends but on a birthday, it’s nice to receive. But then there are others, those rare few, who receive the most by giving. They don’t even realize how special they are and will casually send a message like the one below.
“What is Ezer Mizion? Is it the Jewish Bone Marrow Registry?”
“I think it’s an organization that helps cancer patients. When my sister lived in Israel, her son was in the hospital off and on for months with leukemia. Ezer Mizion couldn’t do enough for the family. Meals at the hospital, rides, a beautiful apartment for the family to live so they wouldn’t have to travel for treatments. And let me tell you, that apartment was housed in a gan eden (garden of eden) for kids with everything a child could want including a petting zoo. You know, they even took all the kids on a chol hamoed trip
“I always thought Ezer Mizion was an organization for special children. When my cousin moved to Israel , she was so excited to see all the programs available for her autistic child.”
“A few years ago, we were visiting Israel and I noticed they were having an inauguration of a mental health building. So many g’dolim (sages) came. Isn’t it an organization for mental health?”
The scene is typical at Montfort Lake in Israel. A lone man casts his fishing rod breaking the shimmering lake’s surface. His pail is already filled with trout for the family supper that evening. A father helps his youngsters into a rowboat cautioning them to close their life jackets with care. A newlywed couple strolls around the lake’s edge. And then there is the Ezer Mizion group. Not the typical. They are in their eighties and nineties. No boating or fishing for them. But the memories…They, too, had once loved the lake. It may have been a lifetime ago but in their hearts there is the same joy of yesteryear when they were young. The weather was perfect. The view magnificent. They sang. They engaged in sports suitable for the golden-ager. This most sublime day was topped with a cookout, a marvelous treat for our survivors whose three meals a day are eaten in the nursing home dining room.
This special day was part of Ezer Mizion’s One Wish Program whose purpose is to enable the holocaust survivor living in a nursing home to emerge from the ‘just a number’ syndrome and once again experience his favorite activities.