The Chanukah Heart Miracle – by Batya Solomon
Everything was as though I was looking through a window. Everything was real… but then I’d say, “I don’t feel normal,” and collapse back into the hospital bed. It was the strangest sensation: kind of numb… kind of dizzy… kind of faint… I was sitting up, and then I was opening my eyes and I was lying down, my head on the pillow, looking up at the ceiling, wondering what had happened.
My parents were there. Poor Mom and Dad!! This was their big trip to visit us in Israel and see all the grandchildren and celebrate Chanukah together and instead they were in the hospital with me!
Our kids also came to visit… maybe all of them… maybe a few at a time… I don’t remember who came and when, but it must have been very, very scary for them. Wasn’t their Imma invincible? Mrs. Super Energy? Mrs. Smiley? Mrs. Positive?
There were our oldest, married children… so mature and wise and loving… but no, they couldn’t hide from me that worried look in their eyes, a shadow beyond their warmth.
And each one over eighteen needed to come and sign a medical form that gave my husband the right to decide on treatment for his unconscious wife, and if something would happen to him, these children would be given guardianship and could make these decisions on my behalf. The younger siblings, they were there too, and they didn’t even pretend to look fine.
I didn’t want visitors because I couldn’t really talk. I couldn’t concentrate or remember everyone’s names. Everyone looked familiar; I knew who everyone was who entered the room, but their names? Why should friends come and then be worried? Everyone was already worried. The big, tall lady who I knew was my dear friend told everyone to daven urgently for me and everyone was davening!
I couldn’t read or daven myself… except for the blessing asher yatzar… thanking Hashem for the wondrous ways our bodies function: that was so, so important… I had to say that… and there was a card with the words to the brachah taped to the wall above the sink near the bathroom. How comforting to be in a Jewish hospital in Israel… one I knew too well from treatments in the distant past…
“How do you feel? How are you feeling?” the well meaning visitors asked with concern in their voices.
But I didn’t want to talk about how I felt. I didn’t like that tone in their voice when they asked me. I really did not want to say, “I feel terrible!” Ask something else! Or tell me something interesting, to distract me. I was just too, too tired, and my head hurt. I wasn’t even sick! Why was I here?
It was the longest, craziest, super busy Wednesday. I had never stopped. I had barely slept on Tuesday night, going over my notes for the lecture I was giving to a large gathering of women for a yeshiva fundraiser. It was a full day of meetings with numerous people.
When I got to the lecture room, a moment after the organizer introduced me, I stood up and suddenly, as I spoke, I felt a strange sensation wash over me, like I was about to fall over. I’d never fainted in my life so I plopped down into the chair beside me, as though I had planned to sit instead of stand, and I kept speaking, even though the words seemed to slide out without my consciousness to guide them. Baruch Hashem, after a few seconds, I felt fine and fully conscious. I don’t think anyone noticed except one close friend, who thought I must be very tired.
So I forgot about it.
A week later, our youngest son was performing in a Chanukah concert. He and the other boys practiced for months and this was a big deal. My parents arrived two days before Chanukah and were going to see him perform. Grandparents coming for the big event made it even more special. One of our neighbors was giving them a ride to the school where the performance would be held, while I was walking up early to make sure the posters were put up on the fence of the school, so it would be easier for everyone to find the auditorium.
So I was walking fast, almost there when that strange dizzy feeling overwhelmed me again. I grabbed the fence alongside the sidewalk where I was walking, holding on to it for support.
That’s all I remember. I don’t know what happened. I opened up my eyes, and stared straight up at the dark, starry sky. Why was I flat on my back on the sidewalk? Where was I? Why did my head hurt?
Still lying on the ground, I reached towards my skull and there was a large, tender bump on the back of head. I felt very confused and disoriented.
Wow! I had actually fainted!!! I never did that before. I wasn’t feeling sick in any way. A car drove by and slowed down. The driver, a young teenager, rolled down the window and called out, “Savta, do you need help?”
I was very embarrassed. I sat up, feeling fine accept for the painful bump on the back of my head. I tried to smile and look reassuring. “Um…yes, can you drive me up the hill to the school?”
There were two teenagers in the car, sons of neighbors in our community. They dropped me off and I thanked them profusely for assisting me.
I was there before my parents, or any parents. I hung up the posters and sat to wait for everyone. I didn’t want to alarm my family. Only later, during the intermission between songs, I asked my mother if she had ever fainted in her life.
“Oh sure, when I was ten, right before I had the flu. And after that when I was eighteen and had a virus.”
She recounted a few more times, all connected to episodes of illness and I thought,
“There is no connection to me. I don’t feel sick at all!”
“Yeah, well, I fainted on the way here and bumped my head.”
“Oh my! You don’t eat enough and you don’t sleep enough. You take on too much all the time,” she said with genuine concern.
But I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t thirsty or hungry!!
The performance was spectacular. Real nachas to see and hear our son and his friends sing with gusto the joyous songs of Chanukah! Only in the back of my head… literally… and within my thoughts… I was wondering, “What is going on?”
The next day I told my husband that I wanted to go our family doctor, who knew me for years, and just ask him what could have happened that would cause unexplainable fainting?
That was my plan. In the morning, while kneading challah for Shabbos, my daughter claims that I slowed down, bent over, instead of standing next to the table, and just kind of stopped. I really don’t recall that at all.
Baruch insisted that he was coming with me to Doctor Feiner.
“But why? I’m not going very far, I feel perfectly fine and there’s plenty more to do here for Shabbos. You don’t have to waste time coming!”
He didn’t say anything. He just came along at 10:45 am. I brought our shopping cart as well, in case we wanted to pick something up from the store on the way back home. As we walked, he said,
“It’s no big deal for me to come. I would also like to know what Dr. Feiner thinks it could be.”
When we got there Baruch wanted to sit inside the clinic, so he went in to get us seats. I was talking to a friend on my cell phone, enjoying the sunshine and the crisp winter breeze. I stayed outside on the patio of the clinic.
I remember talking animatedly on the phone to my friend. I felt fine. I felt great! I didn’t feel faint or dizzy or anything!
Two days later, on Sunday… I “woke up” or became conscious… and I was in the hospital, completely disoriented and in pain. What happened? Why was I in a hospital? I looked next to me and saw that I wasn’t alone. Baruch was sitting on a chair beside me.
“I heard you talking on the phone. Then I heard a very loud bang, like something had crashed on the floor… and I didn’t hear you speaking anymore. I jumped up and ran outside and you were lying flat on your back. There was a trickle of blood coming out of your ear. I wasn’t the only one who heard the sound of the impact you made on the concrete floor. People in the waiting room yelled to Dr. Feiner to come. He called an ambulance and they brought you to the emergency room. You don’t remember any of this?
“You were answering questions in the ambulance. You were speaking to the medics. Do you remember that?”
No, I definitely did not remember being in an ambulance or speaking to anyone!
Another neighbor claimed that I spoke to her from the emergency room to clarify the time her son was supposed to meet the girl I suggested he meet that night!
But I didn’t remember entering the hospital or anything from the emergency room. How could I have arranged a shidduch meeting? I didn’t recall any of this.
The first two weeks in the hospital, I fainted another twenty times. While I was sitting on the hospital bed or chair, I wasn’t hurt when I passed out. And when I had to go for tests, if I fainted while walking, Baruch always caught me, making sure that I did not hit the floor again, preventing another crash. I definitely didn’t feel faint, only “strange.”
“I feel weird,” I would say out loud, unaware if anyone heard me, and then I would “wake up” looking up at the ceiling of the room.
The CT of my brain showed the damage caused to my head, the internal hemorrhaging and swelling, which was excessive… but no tumors, baruch Hashem, no epilepsy, no signs of disease. There were other evaluations; there were other diagnostic tests, but all with no conclusions.
They put me on tons of drugs, all different colors, including Leviratem (Keepra), an anti-convulsive drug to prevent convulsions while my brain injuries were healing.
“Baruch, why anti-convulsive drugs? I’m fainting, not convulsing,” I protested.
“Well, when you faint, your body shakes. It looks like convulsing. They don’t like it, so that’s what they are giving you.”
I didn’t like the assortment of pills in the little cup that appeared before the tray with breakfast every morning. A nurse came in one morning to find out why I was an “uncooperative patient” not taking the medicines.
“But what are these all for?” I wanted to know.
She answered, but I didn’t remember her answers and I didn’t want to upset them, so I just slid them into the garbage pail when no one was looking.
We were on the seventh floor, in the neurology ward. Baruch spoke to the head of the department every day, “In the past my wife had radiation treatment and chemotherapy, which can damage the heart. Please do a 24 hour holter on her heart.”
The short two hour heart check had been fine. My heart seemed to be working normal, so they were in no rush.
“But every time she faints she has no pulse,” he told them over and over again.
“Yes, you are right; we have to do the 24 hour heart exam. Yes, yes, we will,” they would say in agreement, but every day passed with no change in my condition and no holter vest.
They had so many patients to take care of! And we were in the wrong ward!
Meanwhile, tefillos, prayers, were going worldwide. Their were shelichim at k’verei tzaddikim in Israel, in Europe, and elsewhere. There were tears and cries and pleas on my behalf… though I knew nothing about this.
I couldn’t daven. I couldn’t read, except very BIG print. I could call out to Hashem with my own words… but what did I need to say? “Hi Hashem, I need help. Will I ever be normal again? What is wrong with me?”
My husband never left the hospital, except for one night when my tall lady friend insisted he go home for a rest. How well can you sleep in a lounge chair beside a patient, surrounded by the other patients whose machines blinked and whirred and beeped?
Two weeks went by before the 24 hour holter vest, which was designed to enable the doctors to observe a full day of heart function was finally strapped on. When that miracle finally occurred, it was discovered that my heart was not functioning normally!
The SA node, also called the Sinus Node, is supposed to send an electrical message to the AV node (the atrioventricular node) in the heart to signal to the heart to beat. It wasn’t doing that consistently! The conclusion: I needed a pacemaker immediately!!
How many of us ever heard of SA and AV nodes? How many of us understand all the miracles involved in our hearts beating? What a miracle to be alive at all!!
That evening a pacemaker was surgically inserted and my new life began. My new life with a heart that was beginning anew, like a newborn heart!
And there were more miracles.
When we returned to the hospital a few months later for the required “post-everything” appointment with the head of the department of neurological injuries, he asked me many questions regarding the last few months of my daily activities.
“How are you reading now? How are your cognitive abilities? How is your memory? How does your head feel?”
He continued with more questions to evaluate how I was doing, how I was functioning, how my brain had healed.
Very happy with my answers, he smiled at us with clear approval. Then he pulled out the CT scans, put them up on the light box and stared at them for what seemed like a long, long time.
“Hmm… there is something very strange here. The date on these scans is only from a few months ago.”
“Well, yes… this happened the first night of Chanukah…”
“Yes, but the way you described how you are feeling and functioning is not possible with this amount of hemorrhaging and swelling in the brain. Here look at this area of the scan,” he said as he pointed to one area.
We had looked at the scan. We knew what he meant.
“Recovery from this kind of injury takes many long months… at least nine to twelve or longer… and that does not mean full recovery… hmm…”
The head of the department was a distinguished professor for many decades. He knew what he was talking about. We had no doubts about his evaluation of my situation.
“I must say that there is something about you religious people that is simply remarkable. It must be a result of all that praying you do!!”
My husband smiled broadly…
“Well, my wife wasn’t able to daven, but there were hundreds of people, well beyond those we even know, who davened for her to recover fully, to really recuperate.”
“Yes, we are very, very grateful to Hashem and all His people who care so much,” I added.
Hashem decided that I would live. And truly I do believe that I am here today in the merit of all those who davened for me to be alive. Not a day goes by… not even barely a minute, that I don’t stop and say, “Wow Hashem, I can’t believe I am alive!! What can I possibly do or say to express my immense gratitude to You for this precious gift of life?”
This changes my perspective on everything that happens every day… and impacts on how I interact with every person that I meet… everyone is so special! Everyone is so precious!! And when we view and greet everyone with this awareness of how truly holy they are… it brings out their inner glow, the radiance of their neshamos.
During Chanukah, and every day… this really makes the world shine with Hashem’s immense love and every new day is a celebration!!
May Hashem send refuah shalaimahs in every way to everyone!
About the author:
Batya has been living in Israel for over 32 (Lev!) years with her husband, children and grandchildren. She writes articles on numerous health topics for various publications and medical journals.