Dr Judith Guedalia

When Pigs Fly - Something Out of the Ordinary: Chaim K.'s Perspective on Days of Awe and the Swine Flu

By Dr. Judith Guedalia and Chaim K.

           The Days of Awe are upon us, a time of introspection and renewal. Time reviewed and time projected. When Chaim K. came into my office during the month of Elul, the same month that school reconvened, we began a new "semester" as well.  To Chaim though, every day, hour, minute, second and nanosecond are the same.  Since being hit by a car when he was 14-years-old, this now 23-year-old man, has been wheelchair bound, a quadriplegic on a respirator. 
            He, always the gentleman, asks about my summer vacation and then drops a bombshell: until a week ago he was suffering from a serious bout of Swine Flu that he contracted from one of his aides! Shocked, all I could say is: Baruch Rofeh Holim, Blessed is He who heals the sick. 
            At the same time I look at Chaim and see his eyes smiling, I say something like:
Ain't that a kick in the head!  The point being that he is certainly among the most vulnerable of people for serious complications to the Swine Flu, serious meaning death.  We have had many sessions wondering about the meaning of life and death, particularly for one under his grave set of circumstances, and yet here he is at the beginning of our fourth year together, and after the dreaded Swine Flu no less!!
           He tells me that not only did he survive, but also the main reason he did so, was his respirator's entry hole.  As opposed to other healthier 20-ish young people in Israel and abroad, who died from the huge amount of infected mucosa that reached their lungs, it was the intubation port in his throat that saved him. This entry point was what allowed his caretakers to suction the mucus from his trachea and save his life.
            "I am fortunate, more so than the rest of Am Yisrael.  People that have too much of a 'good life' really have to worry, because Hashem 'cleanses' our sins through trials-and-tribulations.  It is written that a person who goes through forty days without any difficulties is receiving his reward in this life and will not receive benefits in the future life.  But don't be worried, because the Gemara uses the following as an example of a trial: a person putting a hand in his pocket wanting to remove three coins and only finds two. 
            "Where we are most different is that you may be going into the Yamim Noraiim (Days of Awe) praying but not knowing how Hashem will deal with your sins, or even if you have a purpose to your life.  Hashem has answered my questions of life and death.  I know He has plans for me. He wants me here on earth.
            "I accept G-d's judgment on me with love, and all of what has happened to me is a result of my sins, and Hashem, who is the righteous judge who doesn't err when He makes His decisions.  I pray that what I am going through, these torments will erase my guilt and sins.  I am fully aware as I 'sit' before the Almighty that I don't understand the extent of His decisions, and therefore I pray with all my heart that He will redeem my misdeeds and sins and sweeten all the injunctions against me and all of Bnai Yisrael."
            Chaim has paraphrased 'Shomer Emunim- Hashgacha Pratit' section 14, but these words reflect his deepest feelings especially now since he is a survivor of the H1N1 - Swine Flu.
            I look at Chaim nonplussed.  He knows me by now and he says: "Out with it". 
"I am afraid of hurting your feelings.  I am embarrassed," I say

"Come on, we know each other so well by now, you can tell me." 

            Okay, did you cough when you had the Swine Flu?

"Yes, so what's your point?"

            "Did your cough sound like: 'Oink Oink'?"
We both crack-up and say goodbye until next time.

            Chaim K. and I wish you all a wonderful new year in good health, with all your prayers being answered.

Tags: Chaim K. | Jewish Press | Swine Flu