I’m very honored to share our personal story about how Judaism and our PTS family helped us through the most terrifying and traumatic time we’ve ever had.
During family movie night a year ago, Jimmy, my husband – 56 years young – suddenly collapsed from cardiac arrest. Luckily, he’s OK. It all happened so fast for me and our three teeanagers. And yet time stood still. When he passed out, which has never happened, I asked Alana, our oldest daughter, to call 911. Her hands were shaking so badly that she had trouble entering her passcode and by now he was having convulsions. I started doing Heimlich thinking he choked on the popcorn. Tovia, our youngest, had just taken CPR and she pushed me aside and started doing chest compressions. Tovia’s name translates to goodness of God. At that moment, Mollie, our middle daughter, came home from a birthday party and saw her dad unconscious and saw us hysterical and frantically trying to save his life. She ran over and checked for a pulse. There was none.
There we were, the 4 of us trying to save his life while he turned darker shades of purple. Since I completely came unhinged Alana worked with 911. First they directed us to move Jimmy from the couch to the floor. We each grabbed an arm and a leg and struggled to pull him to the ground. We didn’t even think about protecting his head. Alana continued to do chest compressions counting out loud with 911 until firefighters arrived in what seemed like hours later. With every second, I knew our chances to save him grew less and less. I screamed “Don’t leave us! We need you! We are all here! You can do this!”
Doctors told us that Jimmy had a 1% chance of survival. From a medical standpoint, we know he’s alive because of immediate CPR and other good fortunes. And from a spiritual perspective, when we were on the brink of losing him, we clearly understood the fragility of life.
As close family would do, our clergy and our temple, as well as lots of friends and community members, reached out to offer their love and support.
Rabbi Feder came to the hospital that first morning. When Jimmy had a second or maybe even it was the third cardiac arrest, Rabbi was there to comfort me and two of my girlfriends as we all embraced and I begged out loud for God to help us. Proving comfort is a Jewish value and having Rabbi there with us reassured me that we’re not alone. And, I also think we have a direct line to God.
Rabbi continued to stop by the hospital on a regular basis. Everything is such a blur now. But one very clear memory was our being on either side of Jimmy and chanting into his ear our Jewish prayer for healing.
Jimmy had short-term memory loss for a few days and couldn’t remember who stopped by. We had a lot of visitors one day and the only one he remembered seeing was Rabbi. That’s telling.
Cantor also stopped by late one evening when I was sitting alone with Jimmy. While Jimmy doesn’t remember our meaningful visit and Cantor’s prayer for his healing, we do know how giving it was for Cantor to come by after a long day of work. He made time for us and we were so grateful.
A couple of weeks after the “episode” – as we like to call it – I was struggling with the “what-ifs” and I questioned whether God chooses when it’s someone’s time to leave this world. I reached out to Rabbi for help and he was immediately available. Everyone kept saying “It wasn’t his time to go” and I was having a hard time coming to terms with this notion. Was it that because it wasn’t his time to go that he survived 4 cardiac arrests – four times when he wasn’t breathing and his heart wasn’t beating? And what does this mean for all the people who tragically die too young?
Rabbi explained that this notion of whether it’s their time to go isn’t a helpful, healthy or accurate way of looking at our lives. He said ” God does not make people die or live longer because it is or it isn’t their time to go. God is real, and God is powerful, but God does not work in that way.” We talked about the life-saving circumstances that all fell into place that saved Jimmy’s life. He’s alive because we immediately started CPR, the firefighters came within 4 minutes of getting dispatch’s call, that we live so close to Mills-Peninsula and that we had an incredible team of doctors.
Knowing firsthand the important role we each have in helping to save lives and in the spirit of performing tikkun olam, we took action to build awareness about the importance of knowing CPR. We told the Fire Chief that lots of friends want to learn CPR. He said he’d train as many people as are interested. So within 2 weeks we had 250 friends and community members signed up to learn CPR. We held six training sessions over two consecutive Sundays. In the process, we also raised $2,000 for local firefighters to purchase CPR training materials. Stay tuned because we plan to arrange CPR training here at PTS.
It’s impossible to fully express how much it meant to us that our PTS family was there for our whole family providing comfort, love and support every step of the way. We’re so blessed – so very blessed – to be a part of this special community.
More than ever, our family understands the miracle of life and healing. May we all be inscribed for a year of good health.