The Power of a Tuna Fish Sandwich

Volunteering

A volunteer accepts an assignment. What does that mean? In Ezer Mizion language it means to give over her whole heart. Like the middle-aged volunteer asked to help out a mother with MS. The mother was so severely handicapped that her six-year-old son once shouted at her: How can you be a mother if you can’t do anything?! Words that pierced through the mother’s soul. She was hurting and so were her children. They needed caring and she was unable to provide it. And so ‘Grandma’ joined the family. She was not actually related but what difference does that make for an Ezer Mizion volunteer? She took over in the practical details plus all the extras. A new style knapsack like all the other kids have. A new dress for a classmate’s birthday party.  Every single item on the beginning-of-the-school-year teachers’ lists plus a pen that could write in four colors. A Chol Hamoed (holiday) trip. Chanukah gifts. She even bought the six-year-old a scooter. There was a big black, empty hole before she came. Now their days are colored pink, filling the empty spaces as only a grandmother can do. 

Another volunteer tells the story of how she joined Ezer Mizion’s army of volunteers:

“Eat. Just a little.” In one hand she held a sandwich. The other was patting me on the shoulder. With such warmth. Such love. Such caring.

Twenty years ago, my son was critically wounded in a terrorist attack. They brought him to Sheba-Tel Hashomer Hospital, sedated and intubated. I knew that his days were numbered.

“A little more,” she gently urged me.

“I can’t! It’s my son!  He’s in a coma! They say….they say…he’ll never…”

She held me tight. I felt protected in her embrace.

“Eat. You need strength.”

I hadn’t eaten all day. Maybe for longer than that. Time didn’t exist. Only my son existed as he lay there in a hospital bed.  Dying.

“How can I eat?” I sobbed. “Soon my son will be gone.”

“You need strength. Strength to cry.”

She held my hand and fed me. Each bite laced in compassion.   I felt her strength holding me up. I finished that sandwich. To this day I can taste that tuna. And I began to feel stronger. Able to handle come what may.

I made a promise when she left. “Hashem (G-d), if my son wakes up. I promise You. I promise that I will become that volunteer. I will volunteer for Ezer Mizion and be on the giving end. For Your children, Hashem. For all your children who are in pain.

Four hours passed. I sat there. Waiting. Dreading. And praying.

Suddenly were shouts. Nurses. Doctors. They came running. The whole medical team stood there in shock.

I sat there frozen. Numb. Unable to process what was happening right before my eyes. Little by little… my son whom I had already begun to part from…began… to wake up. He looked at me. My precious son. And I remembered my promise to the ultimate Healer. A promise I never forgot. For twenty years, I have tried to give back what I received that day from the Ezer Mizion volunteer. The power of a tuna sandwich when garnished with love.

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Right There With You

Were you ever sitting in the hospital Family Room?  Alone. Terrified. Only yards away is the OR. Your mother is there. Your mother! Scenes flash through your mind. The time she held you tight while you cried because your pet goldfish had died. The time she ran out late at night to buy you the soda you needed for the siyum and had forgotten to mention till the last minute. And now she is lying helpless on an operating table. You’re so scared.  They said it will take only 45 minutes. It’s been almost an hour. What’s going on???! Is she ok? Maybe they were just delayed in starting? Maybe. But your imagination is not letting you relax. You try to go back to your prayer book. But the letters are blurred. It’s hard to see through tears.  You have to know! But who can you ask? The lady at the desk? Surely not her. She bit your head off when you asked her where you can charge your phone.

You look up from the prayer book. There standing in front of you is a kindly looking woman in an Ezer Mizion jacket. With a smile. And a cup of hot coffee in her hand. “What would you like to go with the coffee…a Danish? Slice of sponge cake?”

Coffee garnished with caring and compassion

You extend your hand gratefully and reach for the ever-so-welcome coffee.

“Do you have someone in the OR? Would you like me to check on how things are going for you?” she asks gently.

Is this a dream, you wonder.  In moments she returns with reassuring words. All is fine with your mother. They’re finishing up and the doctor will be out soon to speak to you. They weren’t able to start on time and that’s why they’re a little late. Nothing to worry about. Now what kind of cake can I get you?”

Suddenly you’re starved. “A cinnamon Danish. No, make that two!”

 Recently ten of our new volunteers finished their training and went into action at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. From now on, when a person undergoes surgery, his family members will no longer have to worry alone. Our volunteers will be there to act as liaison between the staff and the family member providing reassurance and the comfort of an energizing snack to take the place of the breakfast you were probably too nervous to eat. We certainly hope none of your loved ones will be in need of surgery. But if they will be, we’ll be right there with you.     

Training as liaisons between family and surgical team

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