Vernon Kurtz

A Bump in the Road

A rather startling thing happened to me on my way to write a blog of our visit with our grandchildren to Mt. Herzl during Herzl week (I’ll write that another time.) I had a heart attack.

Sunday morning, July 28, I came home after attending morning minyan and told my wife, Bryna, that I had some pains in my chest and right arm. We called our Kupat Holim provider, Maccabi, who told us to get right over there. Fortunately, the office was two minutes from my home in Jerusalem and I was there in no time. My doctor, a nurse and a room was immediately set aside for me. An EKG was taken and an ambulance from Magen David Adom was called. Soon I was whisked away to Hadassah Ein Kerem while being treated in the ambulance. They had called ahead to the hospital and were waiting for me. The guard opened the doors and I was wheeled into the cardiac catheterization surgery area. I was suffering a heart attack and it was found that one of my arteries in the back of my heart was totally closed. Through angioplasty and a stent the blood began to flow again.

To say it was a shock would be a mild statement. I don’t smoke, drink, am careful of what I eat and exercise strenuously each day. However, it seems genetics have a great role to play in all of this. As my doctor said to me when I inquired how this could occur, “That is why it is called an attack.” For the next five days both in cardiac emergency care and in the cardiac care unit I was taken care of extremely well going through tests, EKGs, blood work, and many other checks of my heart and my system. I then returned home.

Unfortunately, a few days later after some discomfort the same scenario occurred – a visit to my doctor, a ride in the ambulance and a trip to Hadassah hospital. It was not as serious this time, but the medical team decided to take care of another partially blocked artery by putting in another stent. I am now home with much thanks to Maccabi, MDA and Hadassah hospital, am doing much better and will follow the directions of my medical team.

But there is story behind the story that I want to relate to you. A few weeks ago as part of the Hartman Institute Rabbinic Study Seminar my wife and I took a half-day trip to Hadassah Ein Kerem. Ostensibly, it was to see the new modern and scientifically advanced catheterization lab but the real purpose was to understand what really happens at Hadassah each and every day. As we walked through the lobby we saw Jew and Arab, black hats and women scarfs covering different peoples’ heads. We spoke to an Arab nurse who works in the department, an Arab young women who works as a family psychologist, and a Jewish nurse who is trying to bring nurses of all backgrounds together for the betterment of their profession and patient care.

Little did I realize that two weeks later I would see this type of cooperation enacted with my very own eyes. I had Jewish doctors and Arab doctors, Jewish nurses and Arab nurses take care of me. They all showed great care and concern for my health and my well-being. I heard both Hebrew and Arabic conversations in the nurses and doctor’s areas. They worked together as a team all trained properly. On my floor were also Arab and Jewish patients. It made no difference to any of the patients who treated us and to the doctors and nurses who they were treating, all that was important was the welfare of the patient.

We read a great deal about the Arab Israeli conflict. We hear little of Arab – Jewish cooperation for the betterment of both communities and those who inhabit them. Here was an example of the latter and I am one of the fortunate to have received the professional care of doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, kitchen and maintenance staff who simply did their jobs with great expertise no matter who the patient was or what the surrounding situation may be.

That is the story that needs to be told and thankfully I am here to tell it.

About the Author
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz is Rabbi Emeritus of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park Illinois, an 1100 family congregation which he served for 31 years. He is past president of the international Rabbinical Assembly, MERCAZ USA and MERCAZ Olami, and is a member of the committees of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish People Policy Institute. He is also past president of the American Zionist Movement and a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute. He is the author of Encountering Torah - Reflections on the Weekly Portion. He and his wife Bryna made Aliyah in June 2019.
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