Chanah wasn’t feeling well. Even though she had a busy schedule that day, she walked to her doctor to see if he would have any advice or medication that would enable her to function better as she went about her myriad of activities. That was the last walk she was to take for a very long time. The doctor wasn’t sure as to what was wrong and sent her to the Emergency Room. She was soon to learn that she was suffering from cancer which affected her abdomen and spine. The next day, she was unable to walk at all.
As difficult as her physical state was, her emotional state suffered greatly too. In no time, she had gone from an independent, active woman to someone dependent on others for every need. The hospital became her home for the next three months. It was then that she realized the full extent of her illness and just how much a person’s legs can determine one’s quality of life. If she woke up from a nap and wanted to continue reading a magazine, she needed someone to bring it to her from the table a foot away from her bed. For decades, she had begun her day with a steaming cup of coffee. Preparing it was such a simple task but now as impossible as climbing Mt. Everest. Of course, a nurse could make it for her but in Israel, nurses are overworked and often have to limit their assistance to medical needs. Coffee, magazines? These were for family members who spend hours at the bedside to provide ‘ the little things’ … those little things that make all the difference in a patient’s mood and comfort.
And if there is no family member? If the patient does not have family in Israel? Is she then to remain alone, miserable and discouraged? Is she to do without the refreshing shower? Does she skip the morning pick-me-up that will lift her spirits? Does she just lie there depressed, helpless?
Chana was one of those who had no family in Israel. She could expect no assistance other than medical. So she thought until nine o’clock one morning when a smiling angel walked in, “Hi, my name is Penina. I’m here from Ezer Mizion. I’m going to be here all morning so tell me, what can I do for you?” Penina was followed by Rivka and Daniella and Rochel Leah and Esther, by Linda and Lily and Vicky and Leah Miriam and so many more. For three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening, an Ezer Mizion volunteer sat at her bedside. Did I say ‘sat’? They did very little sitting. In Chanah’s words: “They made me coffee, helped me in the shower, went to the fruit store to purchase the fruit I loved, helped me to the bathroom, went to Yad Sarah to pick up medical equipment, did my laundry, picked up this and that from here and there. Nothing was too much trouble. Those Ezer Mizion malachim were my legs! And we talked and talked. It was like having family. They got to know what I liked. One would bring me smoked salmon on Fridays so I would have for Shabbos. Another would bake a cake especially for me. Some would walk in with a bag of fruit. Not one of them every accepted payment for whatever they purchased for me. Of course not. Family members don’t charge each other.”
Many studies have shown that a patient’s spirit will greatly affect the body’s ability to do battle with the disease. A cheerful mood brought about by the feeling that someone cares can significantly affect the outcome. Chana’s newly found Ezer Mizion friends certainly did care. It was they who rejoiced with her when the day came for Chana to be released walking (!) from the hospital. Now that she has regained most of her independence, they still continue to come…partly to help, partly to visit a new family member that they have come to love.