G-d Likes Positive Thinking

G-d Likes Positive Thinking It has been a few hours since the Seudos Hadoah for my husband, Larry, who now wants to be called only by his Jewish name, Aryeh.  Almost everyone whom we invited RSVP’d that they were coming, and many who didn’t, showed up anyways, some driving over an hour in horrible weather, wanting to be part of this simcha.  The guest list included family and those friends, near and far, who visited, davened, learned and made hochlotas dedicated to his refuah.

A short month ago, Aryeh told me, on a Wednesday night, that he didn’t feel well.  “I’m tired, achy, and have chills” he said, on his way to bed.  By the next morning, we decided that he had the flu.  This was, of course, a logical conclusion, since it is flu season.  We generally don’t get flu shots, reasoning that often the shot doesn’t really target the actual flu strain, and because we work to keep ourselves healthy and strong, we generally don’t get sick, thank G-d.  But there is always an exception, and this seemed to be it.  “Maybe”, I thought now, “I should get the shot, just in case…”.

And so, for the next few days, Aryeh did the typical flu intervention – fluids, rest, vitamin C, zinc, Echinacea, etc.  And, we used Motrin to bring down his fever, which was surprisingly persistent and higher that I expected a flu fever to be.  I should interject here, that since I am a health care provider (a Nurse-midwife practicing gynecology), my family tends to rely on my medical knowledge in these situations.  In any case, this flu didn’t seem to want to move on, no matter what we tried. 

After five days, we decided it was time for some tests.  Maybe this had become bacterial and it would be appropriate to add an antibiotic.  The tests at the doctor’s office didn’t offer any more clarity.  Everything was normal, so the decision was that it was “just a persistent flu”.  We were to continue doing what we had been doing. 

Two more days, and now the fever hovered around 103+, even with the Motrin.  It was clear that he was very dehydrated, so IV hydration at the doctor’s office made sense.  And, it seemed to work!  He perked up, his fever went down and since his vitals were still normal, we went home, very hopeful that he was getting better.  Wrong!  That afternoon, the fever spiked back up and he faded once again.  So now, after consulting with his physician, Dr. Dauer, we agreed, something else must be going on.  More sophisticated tests were needed, so we went to the ER.  Thankfully, one of our friends heads the ER, and so we didn’t need to wait.  But the truth was that we wouldn’t have waited anyways since once the intake nurse took Aryeh’s blood pressure, he was immediately rushed back to the unit.  His pressure was so low, that she was shocked he hadn’t passed out… and his pulse was three times what it should have been! 

What ensued was five hours of multiple tests but no diagnosis.  It became clear, as the answer became more elusive, that he had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  He had become somewhat delirious and was a very, very sick man.  Dr. Dauer immediately brought in a team of specialists: cardiology, hematology, infectious disease, oncology, all ordering multiple diagnostic tests and then consulting with him as the results continued to show nothing.  The next few days were terrifying, as Aryeh’s systems began shutting down and he became weaker and weaker.  There were no answers, only questions.  His values were all abnormal now, but no one could find the reason.  He was bombarded with multiple medications, the hope being that perhaps one would treat the mystery organism that was devastating, actually destroying his system, and maybe others would then stabilize him.  He had IVs in both arms, monitors on his body, oxygen and one-on-one nursing for immediate response.  He was near comatose. The medical team met, and ideas for treatments, testing, procedures were discussed, discarded, discussed again as the desperation grew for a solution.

The Rebbe tells us “think good and it will be good”.  Though it sounds simple, I think this is the hardest, most demanding task possible, especially in the face of such terror.  We are all so good at being seduced by negativity, allowing those insidious thoughts that tear at the edges of our best efforts to stay optimistic.  My medical knowledge served only to weaken my resolve.  Visuals of the most horrible outcomes flooded my brain.

On the short drive back home that first night, to catch a few hours of sleep, I begged Hashem for the ability to clear my mind of the tragic fantasies which entered uninvited. I knew that I needed to focus only on a positive outcome.  Within the few minutes duration of that drive, as I got home, I realized that my prayer was granted. The children who were here in LA, were waiting.  I gave them the update and, with more force than I knew I had, told them that the doctors were doing a good job of taking care of the gashmius, and so we needed to do at least as good a job taking care of the ruchnius.  That was our only job.

In thinking about this moment, the image that comes to my mind is that of a powerful tidal wave, an earthquake, some force of nature, the strength of which is irresistible.  With that strength, we all made commitments.  We took on, with a renewed effort, davening, Tehillim, Tzedakah, hochlotahs.  With the power of these promises propelling us, we then called and emailed virtually everyone we knew, asking them to do the same.  My children and grandchildren, all over the world, mirrored our efforts.  Thanks to the instantaneous nature of the Internet, soon a network of “positive energy” had been created, which would nurture Aryeh over the next few days and begin the healing process.

What was astounding to me is a simple truth, which became a renewed lesson.  Wherever we put our attention, that is what grows.  I felt a determination that I had never felt before. No negativity would enter my mind, and I insisted on the same from my children and grandchildren.  Tatty/Zeidy is going to get better – there is no option!!  With Hashem’s help, we never wavered in that certainty.

After four days in the ICU, having had every test/scan/culture possible, there were still no answers.  There was a lot of davening, but no answers.  But, Boruch Hashem, Aryeh was showing signs of improvement.  As the infectious disease doctor said, “its better to not have an answer but get better, than the opposite”.  We certainly agreed!  So on day five, he was transferred to a cardiac floor, still sick, but definitely on the mend.  I assured myself that we didn’t need to know the cause, we only needed this result.  I kept our whole network, at least the part of it that I knew, updated, and asked them to continue davening and thinking optimistically.  This, I knew, with certainty, is what was bringing the refuah. 

Then on the night of day six, the infectious disease doctor came into the room and announced, “we have an answer!”  He did do this with a bit of drama, but considering the effort put into solving the mystery, he deserved his moment!   When none of the usual organisms proved to be the cause, he kept digging deeper and deeper, testing for more and more obscure organisms and finally, nearing the proverbial bottom of the pile, a test finally came back positive.  It turns out that Aryeh was literally one in a million!  In the county of Los Angeles, there are 10 million people and in that population, there have been 10 cases diagnosed with what was trying to kill him – Typhus!!  And, Boruch Hashem, by Hoshgochah Protis, one of the many drugs he had running into him was the treatment of choice.

I don’t think there has been one person, who upon hearing the diagnosis, hasn’t said, “Typhus?  How did he get that?”  So the answer to that question is simply “We don’t know”. This, unlike the diagnosis, will remain a mystery.  But we can live with this mystery.

At the Seudos Hadoah, one of our friends spoke. He said that since we know nothing happens by accident, there must be a lesson, not only for Aryeh in this event, but for all of us.   

For me, the lesson is that the Rebbe’s injunction to “Tracht gut” is in fact possible to achieve and once we do it, the results are almost inevitable.  No, its not easy, and often, as was in this case, it takes a huge boost from Hashem to make it really happen.  But the point is to remember, to keep in the forefront of our minds, is that it is within our grasp.  The Rebbe tells us even more.  Not only does positive thinking bring positive results, but it is, in actuality, the act of that positive thinking that creates those positive results.  We have a tremendous power as Jews and when we use it properly, the accomplishments are awesome. As happened here, even the specter of death can be made, Boruch Hashem, to skulk away!

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