We all have a right to dignity in our lives, but some people apparently do not know how to treat others with respect. And sometimes a situation weakens our ability to ask for proper treatment.

When I was twenty-eight, a practicing social worker in my seventh month of pregnancy, I was in a car accident.

In a state of shock immediately following the crash, I did not remember being pregnant, having two other children who were in the car, or being married. I felt like I was sixteen, without any responsibility to anyone but myself.

In a state of shock immediately following the crash, I did not remember being pregnantIn the emergency room, doctors surrounded me. One was stitching up my head as another worked on my wounded legs. Yet another was doing a sonogram. Due to the shock, or maybe denial, I was only peripherally aware of all that was being done to me. Stunned by the pain I felt when an additional doctor tried to put a tube down my throat to my stomach, I tried to stop him. No one spoke to me, or explained what had happened or what they were doing. My thinking was too fuzzy to ask. My spontaneous reflex to a sense that I was being attacked was to pull out the tube.

He looked at me and said flatly, “Do you want to kill your unborn child?”

His tactless statement snapped me out of my oblivion, and back to a frightening reality. He proceeded to pull my head back by my hair, unfeelingly pushing the tube down my throat. I felt victimized and humiliated. Despite the thin tube in my throat, I tried to ask about my family and my baby. A kind nurse finally took notice of my distress. She told me that my husband was being taken care of; my children were, thankfully, uninjured.

At that moment the doctor who had performed the sonogram assured me that the baby was unharmed. He smiled, and with a wink, also told me it was a boy. Feeling an overwhelming sense of relief, I thanked him, grateful for all the miracles we were receiving. He remained nearby, calmly speaking to me and explaining what had happened.

As perspective returned, I realize that my bloodied clothes had been cut off. Wherever they were not sewing me, I was covered with a sheet. I asked the kind doctor if my hair was covered, and if not, could he please do so.

He placed a cloth, maybe a pillowcase, over my hair, explaining that his sister was also an Orthodox Jew. In a stunning show of kindness, Dr. Cohen* offered to care for me and the baby—whether or not I had money or insurance. He promised he would see to it that the baby would be born with the best of care.

Like an angel sent from heaven to comfort me, he also restored my dignity and self-respect.

Two and a half months later, with much prayer, and with the strength of my family, the Jewish community and this extraordinarily caring doctor, my healthy baby son was born.

At my critical time of need, I felt an additional gratefulness that it was a fellow Jew who came to my aid. I felt that we are best able to offer each other the special kind of dignity and respect we need and for which we long.

As soon as I was able, I wrote a thank-you note to Dr. Cohen, and he sent me this reply:

Dear Doreen,

A special thanks for the beautiful note you sent me. I had no idea that I had made such an impression during your time in the hospital. I am very honored by your response.

Your note came at a very good time, as I have recently been questioning how much I really do for people. Letters such as yours inspire me to go on with the long hours involved in my specialty. Perhaps your note is just another example of Jew helping Jew!

Your note came at a very good time, as I have recently been questioning how much I really do for peopleI am pleased to know that you and your family are all healthy. If I can help you with medical care in the future, please don’t hesitate to call.

Thanks again for your note.

Sincerely,

Dr. Cohen

It seems that each of us receives a gift within the most difficult tests, and we may never know who is actually helping and who is receiving. Either way, I sense that G‑d wants us to ride the waves of challenge with faith and gratefulness, keeping our dignity intact.