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Chanukah Miracle in the Emergency Room

Chanukah Miracle in the Emergency Room

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Rivka Toledano, an emergency-room nurse, recalls a miraculous occurrence she witnessed while working in a Canadian hospital.

We’re in the middle of a snowstorm, which means the ER can get pretty crazy. Chanukah is starting that night, and I am looking forward to completing my shift and going home to light the menorah with my family.

Around 11We’re in the middle of a snowstorm a.m., I see a middle-aged couple walking in. Mark Kramer, an overweight man, looks pale and sweaty. His wife Debbie anxiously explains that, despite her warnings, Mark had been shoveling the snow in their driveway. When he began to feel ill, she drove him straight to the ER, despite his protests that it wasn't necessary.

Suddenly, right before our eyes, Mark collapses on the floor with a massive heart attack. Alerted by Debbie’s frantic screams, Dr. Schwartz rushes over and starts providing CPR, resuscitation, defibrillation and drugs for heart rhythm. Despite all these efforts to save him, Mark is still in cardiac arrest. I count no less than 10 episodes of defibrillation.

Debbie remains glued to Mark’s side until Dr. Schwartz asks her to leave. Sobbing, she phones her children and her rabbi, frantically begging them to pray for Mark’s life.

Back in the ER, the doctor looks grim, commenting that people don’t survive heart attacks with prolonged resuscitation, since sufficient oxygen can’t get to the heart or brain. Gently, he breaks the devastating news to Debbie that Mark probably won’t survive. Totally distraught, Debbie explains how he’d insisted on shoveling the driveway. “I kept warning him not to, telling him it wasn’t safe for a man his age to shovel snow, and to wait until our son got home or else borrow our neighbor’s snowblower, but he wouldn’t listen! How do I tell our kids they’ve lost their dad?” she cries hysterically.

Dr. Schwartz, who doesn’t appear to be religious, says, “We’ve tried everything we could, but it’s not working. The only thing left to do now is pray.”

So that’s what we do. The whole ER team and Debbie, we pray together for Mark’s life, hanging so precariously in the balance.

Forty-five tense minutes pass in agonizing silence, but Mark still doesn’t have a pulse. Then, just when we’re about to sadly admit defeat, the miracle occurs.

“We’ve got a pulse!” Dr. Schwarz calls out excitedly.

The ultrasound machine indicates that Mark has some cardiac activity—a tiny sign of life and hope. Awestruck, we realize we’re witnessing a miracle before our eyes.

Debbie, tears flowing down her stricken face, murmurs, “Thank G‑d.”

Dr. Schwartz sends Mark to the operating room for emergency heart surgery. He explains, “Though Mark is stable and we’re thankful for that, he’s not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. We still need your prayers for a good outcome.” Mark’s family, friends and rabbi continue to pray fervently as surgeons perform open-heart surgery for three hours. They say there are no atheists in foxholes—or waiting outside an operating room either.

A day-and-a-half later, Mark wakes up to see Debbie and their children sitting anxiously around his hospital bed, looks at them, and says “Hi.” He is completely unaware of what happened to him.

Here’s a man who, the day before, had been totally blue. With a 45-minute-long resuscitation, it’s unbelievable. By all standard measures, Mark should have died. But he didn’t. He survives physically and mentally, is sitting up and talking the next day. This has to be Divine intervention. Since it is Chanukah, we keep saying: “A great miracle happened here.”

Mark is released from the hospital in only 10 days. Waiting for him in their driveway is a belated yet significant Chanukah gift from Debbie and their children: a new snowblower, decorated with a huge, red-heart-shaped bow.

Mark collapses on the floor with a massive heart attack

Debbie says, “This whole experience has made me appreciate Mark more, helping me realize what’s truly important in life. We need to appreciate our spouses, our families and what G‑d has given us.”

Mark agrees. “My family and I realize that without those prayers going on that day, I wouldn’t be alive now. For some reason, I merited to be spared. Now I make sure to pray three times a day!”

I’ve seen many fascinating things during my years as an ER nurse, but this case was clearly a modern-day Chanukah miracle!

Menucha Chana Levin is the author of two novels, The Youngest Bride and The Castle Builders, published by Israel Bookshop Publications.
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M. Gordon Melbourne December 25, 2014

Finding the Diamond Amongst the Chaff Miracle stories restore our faith that there is Someone running this world, and that there is a purpose and intent in everything that happens although it may be hidden from our eyes. That means that we have to take responsibility for our actions. Thank you Menucha Chana, for sharing this inspiring story. Reply

Elisabeth Soros Calgary December 23, 2014

My comment is to Ed.
HaShem is testing us. I believe that HaShem is judging us as individuals.
Baruch HaShem I have had many "Miracles" in my very different and unusual life.
I have learned in my long life that G-d giving us "Miracles" not only for our benefit but for all of us around the "miracle"s or just to read a simple story or just a Chanukha Miracle. Do we realize at all that our life is only in HaShems hand?
Same people never learn because they are using of their human mind. The children many times do not understand their father's decisions only later on the life. Our Life is in HaShems hand how long we are living and what kind of lessons we must go through. In the above case maybe the patient or the wife, or the Physician or somebody else had to learn from the Miracle of the Prayer. Can we trust HaShem ? Reply

josh jerusalem December 22, 2014

To Ed in Lexington I agree with you; there are many many many times when a miracle was needed and none appeared. Tzvi Freeman writes that our shared frustration and anger is right on; we must demand more of Hashem and of ourselves! For me the miracle stories are less about the unexpected occurring and more about the moments when human blindness was pierced even for a moment. That medical staff could have just acted business as usual of 'letting nature take its course". They didn't though. They let themselves care and look beyond the expected. They overcame their blindness. I spend most of my life in a haze of fear and numbness. So when something as simple and everyday as a pigeon taking flight from a standing position or how someone's smile can electrify me, I experience the miracle of resurrection. Otherwise I'd just ignore it all and waste away, God forbid. So miracles punctuate my blindness and that s why I love reading the stories of others miracles. Reply

chaya December 21, 2014

to Ed It is true that not everyone merits a miracle and some stories end tragically. However, I don't think the existence of tragic stories diminishes the impact of a miracle when it occurs. We don't know why we merit miracles on some occasions and not others. We don't stop celebrating Chanukah because there was a Holocaust. We need to celebrate and thank G-d for each and every miracle, and in doing so we hasten the time when such miracles will become the norm, with the true and complete Redemption. Reply

Ed Lexington, MA December 11, 2014

Divine Intervention is a contovercial concept I have mixed feelings about these miracle stories. On one hand, I love to see people's lives saved. But how many more people including children who died on Chanukah and were not rescued by G-d. Why was there was no "Divine Intervention" for them? Are their lives less worthy? More importantly, the concept of Divine Intervention fundamentally takes away from a concept of free will for both the mind and the soul. I would rather believe that our prayers make a difference than G-d rushing to our rescue once in a while and for a chosen few. Reply

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