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April 29, 2020 6:36 am

Recovering From COVID-19 Gives a New Meaning to Independence

avatar by Eli Beer / JNS.org

Opinion

Israeli-Arab Doctor Abed Zahalka hands a Torah scroll to a coronavirus patient at Maayanei Hayeshua hospital in Bnei Brak. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

JNS.orgI caught coronavirus in the United States, of all places — far from Israel and my family. A few days after Purim, I was feeling unwell. My temperature rose, so I entered self-quarantine.  Two days later, I was hospitalized at University of Miami Hospital with a serious case of pneumonia, barely able to breathe. When the test results came back, it was official: I had COVID-19.

A few days later, my doctors told me they would need to induce a coma and put me on a ventilator.

For 30 years, I’ve been working in emergency medicine as a paramedic. I founded United Hatzalah, whose volunteers have saved many lives. The terms “coma” and “ventilator” are familiar to me, and I was very scared.

When I woke up, a month had passed.

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At first, I didn’t know where I was. The doctors explained my situation and what had happened. They said I was at the start of a long road to recovery. I was sad to find that I’d missed Passover, my favorite holiday, but I was very happy to talk to my family.

“Dad, what did you dream about while you were asleep?” my youngest daughter asked me in our first conversation.

“I think I dreamed about angels,” I answered. But it was no dream — there were angels, angels from all over the world, who took care of me — and my eyes were opened to amazing things that had been happening while I was in a coma.

I learned about Yosef Chaim Kadosh, who celebrated his bar mitzvah last week. A cancer patient fighting for his life, twice a day he read Psalms for my recovery. They told me how 6,000 Hatzalah volunteers — Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze — had, each in their own way, prayed for me. I heard about the prayers of members of the Jewish community in Miami and across the United States, of a group of American Christians I’d spoken to, of an Indian group, and many others.

There were also angels close around me: Dr. Joel Sandberg and his wife Adele, who made sure I was getting the best treatment and kept my family updated; Dr. Miriam Adelson, whom I know personally, a doctor who saved many people over the course of her life and the publisher of Israel Hayom, extended her kindness to me, prayed for me, and ensured that I got the treatment and medicine that quite simply saved my life.

Last week, when I had recovered sufficiently, she brought me back to Israel on a private plane belonging to her and her husband Sheldon. When I got off the plane, I met my wife and children with great excitement. The first step was hard. I realized it was the first step of my long road to independence.

This Independence Day, I wished for Israel and all its citizens to continue standing on our own, both as individuals and as a nation — that we continue to close ranks, take it upon ourselves to help each other, and worry about people other than ourselves. That is how we will grow stronger, and that’s how we’ll beat the coronavirus.

I thank God for healing me, the doctors who treated me, and my angels — who enveloped me in prayers, love, and mercy, up close and from afar.

Eli Beer is the founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, a volunteer-based emergency medical services organization, and president of US-based organization Friends of United Hatzalah. A version of this article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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