The Other Side part three

Recap: They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

Hospital patients and their families become volunteers

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise.

Riva Levi, 39, married, with five children

Riva got to know Ezer Mizion through her father’s  hospitalization. Every day, the Ezer Mizion volunteers would bring her and her family tea, coffee, and pastries “I had no idea how significant this help is. And then, suddenly, I was in that position myself, on the receiving end. That’s when I decided to join to help people who were going through what we went through with my father.” When Riva’s father passed away, she decided to take upon herself to help others, l’iluy nishmato (for the merit of his soul). “I help bring clothing for ironing, drive patients to their doctor, and bring hospitalized patients things that they needs. “Sometimes, when you are in a situation of distress, the only thing you need is to know that you’re not alone.”

Batya Amsel, 35, mother of five sons and a nurse by profession

Batya came to know Ezer Mizion during her husband’s illness. Since neither she nor her husband had a driver’s license, they benefited on a regular basis from the Transportation Division who helped them get to the hospital and back. “It is hard for me to describe the relief and the heartwarming feeling given by the volunteers after a draining stay at the hospital,” she shared.

Over the years, she prayed to be on the giving end.  She learned how to drive and her first trips were for others, via Ezer Mizion. She’s been volunteering for over a year, with a sense of mission. “You cannot take away the pain of the hospital from patients and their families, but you definitely can ease and sweeten the experience.”

Ido Bennett, 25, from Raanana

Ido met up with Ezer Mizion eight years ago, when he was stricken with cancer

He calls Ezer Mizion “my second family.  During treatments, the volunteers were there with him at every given moment. During one of the summer vacations, he joined Ezer Mizion’s retreat, together with his family. “On the last day, Rabbi Chollak got on stage. He told us that his dream is to see us, the patients, coming to the retreat one day as volunteers.. “This sentence buzzed in my head like a bug. I decided that I was going to recover and go over to the other side and volunteer.”

Today Ido volunteers for Ezer Mizion. And this year, he joined the staff and volunteered in the summer retreat, precisely where he’d gone as a patient. His dream had come true. “I joined Ezer Mizion because I know that nothing else interests them beyond doing good. And I knew that through them, I’d be able to give to others, precisely as they gave to me. To know that you have the power to help others — there’s no better feeling than that.”

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The Other Side     part two

A volunteer makes sure each child has a great time, wheelchair or not!

Recap: They were there. They lay in the hospital beds, or sat next to family members for long hospitalizations. They know exactly what it feels like — the paralyzing fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness.

They know the importance of a sister’s outstretched hand, accompanied by a genuine sense of partnership and the knowledge that even though you walk in the darkness — you are not walking alone.

We turned to five volunteers who had been on the other side, on the dark, painful side, and who promised that the moment they were able to, they’d help others — and then carried out their promise.

S. Tovi, 21, had cancer four years ago.

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Now They Hear the Cheers

Disabled? Yes. But Capable? Absolutely!

Self-esteem. A vital component to day to day functioning. At least as vital as the proteins and vitamins we consume, perhaps more. Some of us are blessed with a hefty dose embedded in our natural psyche. Some of us develop it by a series of successes in academics, in sports, or music or drama. Any area will do as long as we can hear the cheers from our imaginary audience. And then there are some that don’t. From early childhood on, they were the ones who couldn’t. Couldn’t do sports due to their physical disability. Failed academically due to feeling different than the rest of the class.  And didn’t feel confident to even try to succeed in any area.

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We’re There When It Hurts

Cancer support at Ezer Mizion encompasses the whole family

“But Ima promised. For sure shell be back! She told me before she left!!” Shevy’s young heart broke as she tried to absorb the news. She was only eleven, well, almost twelve, too fragile to handle the bitter disappointment. Too small to comprehend the big picture. Not to have her mother at her side for her Bas Mitzvah? To celebrate without Mommy’s support? It was unthinkable. Yet it was happening and Shevy was inconsolable.

Shevy felt a hand on her shoulder. A warm hand, a loving hand. The same lady who had been helping their family since Mommy went to America for treatments.   It wasn’t Mommy but it was someone who cared. “Your eyes are such a pretty shade of blue. Let’s go shopping for a Bas Mitzvah dress. Maybe we can find something to match your eyes.  Something really pretty. Would you like something with lace?” Bit by bit, the Bas Mitzvah party took shape through the efforts of Ezer Mizion.   Yes, there were tears but they were outnumbered by the smiles. A gorgeous dress! Balloons! Gifts! The fanciest sweet table in town! And hugs… and love. Ezer Mizion: We’re there when it hurts.

Cancer support with love

And even when it hurts us. When our efforts to offer support will tear our own hearts to shreds. When the thought of what we are asked to do leaves us limp and shaky but we know it will help a family who is undergoing a horrendous crisis that no one should ever know of.

Cancer support till the very end

When we are asked to transport a little girl from the hospital to her home and back again. Her last trip home. To enable her family to say goodbye. Before she leaves this world. Forever.

Shuki Becker, one of Ezer Mizion’s devoted Ambulance Division members, undertook the assignment. Equipped with an oxygen tank and the paraphernalia to monitor her closely during her stay and armed with a prayer book to give himself the strength to support this precious soul in her last hours, this angel began the trip that meant so much to her family. 

Ever so gently, she was brought to her favorite spots in her home. Ever so gently, her family spoke to her, caressed her. Over and over they talked of the funny stories they had shared, her favorite foods she always chose for her birthday supper, the time she won the game three times in a row.

They were scheduled to leave for the hospital at seven o’clock but the family couldn’t let go.

Another memory. Another fun time. Another ounce of love to add to the package she would be taking on her final trip.

Her numbers looked good and so the visit continued. Parents, grandparents, siblings. Each reaching out and giving of themselves. A lifetime of love condensed into a few short hours. And then it was time to say the final goodbyes. Final.

May Moshiach come soon to wipe away our tears.

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BECAUSE OF YOU!

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Vitamin G

Giving makes the grumpiness go away

Woke up in a grumpy mood today? We have a sure-fire cure. Works every time. It’s a one-word recipe: Giving. Ask Shmuel and his wife, Batsheva. They are members of Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a  whatsappp network where rides and deliveries  are handled to ease the burden of the ill. It may be a ride to therapy for an elderly patient or procurement of forgotten meds for a Parkinsons patient visiting his children. Perhaps a desperately needed ‘bankie’ for a hospitalized toddler or delivery of blood samples needed asap. Often only seconds elapse before the response comes in from one of the thousands of Linked to Life members: I’m on my way there and can pick it up in ten minutes.  This time it was a woman in desperate need of a walker not available through any of the standard sources. No problem. A few phone calls to friends by Shmuel and Batsheva resulted in enough funds raised to purchase a new walker, perfect for her needs. Note the smile on Shmuel’s face as he hand-delivers it to her door.

Battling cancer with puxxles

Then there is Elad. He has a different name when dealing with Ezer Mizion’s young cancer patients.  He is known as The Puzzle Man. There he is making his way with an immense pile of puzzles. Each child receives his choice and begins to work on it with Elad at his side cheering him on. The challenge takes their mind off the pain and fears they are dealing with and instills a feeling of confidence and accomplishment boosting their image of positivity.   The discipline and patience will spill over into his day by day battle with a monster named Cancer. The puzzle’s triumphant completion acts as a metaphor for the victorious completion of treatment accompanied by the longed-for glorious announcement: REMISSION!

If i can conquer that puzzle, i can conquer cancer, too!

Kofiko’s smile is hidden deep inside his monkey costume. Children know him as a popular entertainer in Israel  and can hardly believe he is sitting right there with them in the hospital room whose walls are now reverberating with squeals and giggles.  

Kofiko loves me!

Along with cancer’s frightening medical repercussions, the dreaded disease brings with it a host of other challenges, and drains families’ physical, emotional and financial resources. The Ezer Mizion Cancer Support Division offers cancer patients and their families comfort, love and support, as well as an array of services tailored to meet their unique needs: Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s guest home for children with cancer and their families, is a beautiful home away from home for families battling the dreaded illness“Mikol Halev”: From the Heart provides sick children with VIP visitors, parties, entertainers, gifts, computers, and games, and coordinates unique summer and winter retreats for cancer patients and their families.

Fun, fun and more fun! A powerful tool in fighting disease!

Vitamin G – Giving – one tablet a day puts a smile not only on the recipient’s face but erases grumpiness and brings joy to the giver, too.

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Giving Wherever There Is a Need

Giving on Wheels

Some people put their lives into neat little compartments. Nine to five on weekdays is work… Tuesdays from 7-9 is chessed (giving)…Mondays and Wednesdays…Avrohom is not one of those people.  Together with his family, he delivers hot meals to families dealing with serious illness. Yes he has set times to do it but it doesn’t stop there.  Chessed permeates his every hour. Avrohom drive a bus during his 9-5 work hours but he is not an ordinary driver and his bus is not an ordinary bus. With the permission of his boss,  Avrohom’s bus sports a large sign notifying families in need of help in transporting food packages, meds, personal items – anything to make the life of a sick person easier – from one bus stop to another. And, like any businessperson, he is happiest when lots of “customers” use his services. Avraham we are so proud that you are part of the Ezer Mizion family!!!

Giving underlies every service provided by Ezer Mizion whether it is alleviating the stress of illness, working with a special child or the mentally ill. Many services ease the predicament of the lonely holocaust survivor such as the One Wish program which seeks to strengthen the elderly’s fast receding sense of self.

Like Aspir. She is originally from Ukraine and immigrated to Israel with her brother. Neither one remarried. They are the sole survivors of their family with no future generations to ease their loneliness and the pain of growing old. No children to erase the feeling of helplessness and no grandchildren to give them an identity. She had lived in Israel since World War ll but her childhood roots remained in Ukraine. She longed to connect once again. And so, in barely a whisper, she responded to the ‘What is Your Wish’ question: If at all possible…do you think you could…I heard there is a museum. I forgot what it’s called.  They talk about Ukraine about, you know, about what happened. Maybe I could find something about my home town…the streets… the people….?

Re-living her child in pre-holocaust Ukraine

What a wonderful day it was at Yad v’shem, a day of closure for the lonely golden-ager. The soft smile remained on her lips, accompanying her into her dreams that night. Another wish fulfilled by Ezer Mizion’s Golden Age Program bringing a feeling of identity to so many whose self-image has been gradually becoming nothing more than a room number.

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The Smile Factory

What is Ezer Mizion? In addition to its Bone Marrow Registry and many other services, it is a factory. And the product? The product is smiles. Sometimes the going is rough. We may not be able to cure the disease but we can ease the pain and bring a smile to a face that hasn’t smiled in days. Like little Rachel* who has seen more pain in her four years than most adults have seen in a lifetime. Chemotherapy has stolen her innocent childhood from her and now she is on the way to Vienna with her mother and twin sister to continue treatment. Her mother packed a suitcase of the basics and Ezer Mizion packed a suitcase of smiles. If there is something that can ease the pain of a sweet little four-year-old girl somewhat, it’s Hello Kitty and so loving hands packed up every imaginable Hello Kitty item… a suitcase of emotional strength for the grueling months ahead. 

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A Vacation from Cancer

Enjoying their vacation from cancer

Countless families are living under the horrific tension of dealing with the life-threatening disease that we don’t even like to mention. The occasional relief of tension does wonders for their psyche and revives the spirit enabling it to partner with the body in its battle for life. To provide emotional relief from the tension of cancer, periodic retreats are scheduled where the whole family can re-bond in a convivial, upbeat atmosphere.

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To Really See. To Really Care.

It’s a talent. An innate ability found in only a few. The ability to notice. To really see. To understand what someone else needs. Only a few have it but the few can give it over to the many.

Rabbi Chananya Chollak

Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion in 1979, was such a person. A new chosson (groom) who would be expected to be involved in his kallah (bride) and not be able to see anything outside of new marriage, was spending time with his hospitalized father-in-law and became aware of the many problems facing the families of the patients.  It was there that several divisions of the future Ezer Mizion were born. What began with 8 volunteers to provide meals for family members spending hours at the hospital bedside and a professionally outfitted van to transport the wheelchair-bound has mushroomed into an empire of chessed with 30,000 volunteers, all who have absorbed Rav Chollak’s ability to really see and really care. 

Cancer Support Comes in Many Forms

Like Rina, a patient in the oncology ward. She was battling for her life but right now, uppermost in her mind, was her daughter who would normally be celebrating her bas mitzvah. What with all energies going toward fighting the cancer, this most special day was expected to pass with hardly a blip.  But Rina was an Ezer Mizion client and that made all the difference. Professional studio pictures taken at her home. A sweet table to vie those at the fanciest event. A cake donated for the occasion by an elite patisserie. A makeup artist for both of them who would wield the wand and turn them into princesses.  No detail was omitted by Shula, the volunteer who really saw and really cared.

Caring Eases the Trauma

Then there was the recent fire in Yerushalayim. People were being evaluated en masse. The need to evacuate was obvious and the volunteers were working hard. What wasn’t so obvious is the fact that a group of yeshiva bochurim (students) had not had anything to eat since the early morning. Moments after they arrived to safety, there appeared pizza pies galore. The starving boys never would have asked but grins on their faces showed how welcome the unexpected treat was.

A Day to Look Forward to for the Disabled

The first step in creating a new division is seeing the need. Matan in Nechalim was born because it became obvious to Rav Chollak that handicapped adults need something more than care. They need self-esteem – the kind that comes from accomplishment. And how can they accomplish when they cannot even move from here to there? Ideas were tossed around, debated, discarded, re-evaluated until a full program came into being. A program that gets these talented young people to leave their homes early, excited to begin their day. They’re taught 3-D printing, crafts, and much more…skills that can generate income, activities that create positive social interaction. Recently their creations were proudly displayed at a fair where crowds converged at the individual tables where each one’s products were admired and many purchased.

The files are filled with thank you notes from people who are longing to express their gratitude for the practical and emotional support. Many join our volunteer groups, anxious to give back to others what they received in their time of crisis. And many are accompanied by donations but none so poignant as the following written in childish scrawl:

I’m a 12 year old cancer patient sending you my donation. I want to thank you with my whole heart for all the good and fun things you give me.

Thank you so much,

Y.S.

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