Dr Judith Guedalia

A Purim L'Chaim, BS"D With G-d's Intervention

By Dr. Judith Guedalia and Chaim K. © 2008

(This column was written several weeks before Purim.)
"When a person wakes up in the morning, opens his eyes and he's alive, he might think that this is the most natural thing that [anything] can be; well he's wrong!
"What he doesn't realize is that this is a miracle. That he woke up with BS"D, with the help of G-d. Every day in a normal life is replete with times that are 'BS"D.' One doesn't even notice [them].
"In the last seven years, since my accident, I started to pay attention to personal BS"D that Hashem gives me. I'll recount for you the most significant ones.
"The first one is that I am alive. I didn't die when the car hit me as I was walking home on Taanit Esther seven years ago.

"The second one is that even though a lot of bones in my body were crushed, my shoulders, legs, hands, and most importantly my neck was broken, but even so I can say BS"D, my skull and brain were not injured. B'zechut Zeh, I am sitting here and talking to Dr. G."

What am I hearing, weeks before the eighth anniversary of the accident that left Chaim? K. CSI (Cervical Spine Injured), quadriplegic on a respirator? Is he really saying that sitting here in this massive electric wheelchair with the constant humming, never ceasing reminder of his dependence on the non-natural life − this mechanical air-supply − is a recognition of G-d's act of intervention in his favor?!

I am very concerned. Having "been" with Chaim for three years, I am worried about the rebound-effect of this positive 'reframing.' Sure, it demonstrates his intense belief in Hashem, but at the close of Taanit Esther as the Jewish world (and this year it is Purim Meshulash, no Shushan Purim in Jerusalem or other cities whose "walls" predated the time of Biblical Joshua) prepares for the letting-it-all-hang-out fun of our victory over the descendants of the Children of Israel's arch enemy, Amalek, where will that leave Chaim?
If he is "fortunate" he will be in his wheelchair − not in a hospital or worse − with his respirator humming, joined by the communal heartbeat of his wonderful family. Another year in which each hour, minute, second and nano-second, remind him of who he was, who he is and who he isn't anymore. As my mind asks these questions, he is continuing to "tick off" his list of BS"D, acts of mercy that G-d's intervention permitted.
Chaim continues: "Thirdly, the ambulance was very close to the site of the accident, it took him under two minutes to arrive. The paramedic found me on the street, not breathing. He immediately began to resuscitate me. If the ambulance had been more than those two minutes away, my brain would have been damaged from lack of oxygen. This is a huge BS"D.
"Fourthly, even though I am paralyzed in my whole body, from my neck down; the only thing I can move besides my face is my right thumb, I can see the BS"D here too − the fact that having the use of both my face and my right thumb is very fortunate, because as a result, I can use that thumb to operate my computer. I use a special mouse that I rotate with my chin, which operates a keyboard, letter by letter, then I "click" another especially equipped button that works practically at a hair's-breadth of force, to "enter" the information.
"Fifthly, several times in the last seven years, I had problems with the respirator, meaning that for some reason or other it stopped breathing for me. Once I recall, a nurse wasn't in the room and the tube disconnected. Even though it beeps to alert those around, no one heard. BS"D my father came into the room at just that minute, and found me unconscious and saved my life before I was brain damaged, or even worse, dead.
"Sixthly, since the accident my basic contact with the outside world is by computer. As you can imagine − as this is my only form of communication with the outside world − my computers wear out pretty quickly! In the last seven years I've had four laptops, and I didn't have to pay for even one! The first one I got from my father's niece; the second one, I received from the Make-A-Wish Foundation; the third one, from Reb Chaim Miller, who was the assistant mayor of Jerusalem under (then Mayor) Ehud Olmert. The fourth computer I received less than a month ago is from a friend of my Mother's in America. I am so grateful to Yehoshua and Fraidyl for their wonderful and thoughtful gift of "connection."
"I believe that G-d saved me for a reason. But now I am disappointed. Don't get me wrong; G-d helps me a lot in my day-to-day life. And this is the reason that I am so disappointed that my physical situation has not improved. I am G-d's friend; why am I still in this chair? I know that this decision is in His hands and we cannot use our mere minds to understand His ways. I'll give you an example: if two ants are put on the table and you try to explain the respective 2008 "platforms" of the Democratic or Republican parties, this would have the same result as our trying to understand G-d's judgment. Clearly though, I am disappointed and sad. Life is hard for me. But I believe in Hashem even in my darkest hours."
"How do you do it?" I ask. His "yahrzeit," as I call the date of the accident that changed his teenage and now adult life, is in three weeks. To say that this is a hard time of the year is to understate what is inestimable pain and mourning! To be "alive" for one's annual day of "death" sounds impossible. Yet eight years after the original 'Chaim's' catastrophic accident, he is "here," waiting for redemption. (The name Chaim was added to his given name, as is the minhag when someone is deathly ill; some say it is to "fool'" the Angel-of-Death who is seeking the person with the name given him at his Brit.)
Chaim K. continues: "Magic" he smiles, "seriously though, Mesillat Yesharim, Sifrei Mussar and a little L'Chaim". He is using the double entendre of L'Chaim, which in Hebrew means "to Chaim," and is what is said when you have a drink of wine or liquor.
"BS"D, I feel it is the mental strength with which I was fortunate enough to be born, that allows me to carry on."
I am in awe of his strength, "How can you teach and share with the rest of us, how we might access your strength in our own day-to-day lives with its disappointments?
"To paraphrase the Midrash," he continues, "we arrived in this world against our will or without our "permission"; we will live in this world without anyone asking if that is our choice, and we'll die too, without our opinion being asked. If you are already 'here,' try to make the most of it in any way you can. That is my credo.
"In the first chapter of Mesillat Yesharim it talks about man's responsibility to G-d's world. These words of Mussar − exhortation − encourage one to understand that even though as an individual one might dwell on his/her own problems, one must never lose sight of the fact that we are on earth for one reason, to ensure and increase our position in the Future World, the world that is the complete and ultimate truth.
"So when I say I am disappointed in G-d, I think about it and try to reconnect to the Mussar and realize that this time here is only a stepping stone to infinite life in the most perfect, whole and holy place. BS"D may we all achieve that goal, to appreciate and not fear the world as we know it. From my vantage point I must believe that these eight years are just a narrow bridge to Olam HaBa."
I sit in his company; tears are running down my face − if not externally, internally.
Originally published in the Jewish Press on March 26, 2008.


Tags: BS"D | Chaim K. | Jewish Press