Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs
Life Member, Hadassah Northern New Jersey

An Angel on My Shoulder: Hadassah’s Dr. Dimitrios Karussis

Dr. Dimitrios Karussis photo courtesy of Hadassah.
Dr. Dimitrios Karussis photo courtesy of Hadassah.

Back in 1966, when I visited Israel for the first time, I couldn’t wait to hit the Tel Aviv beach to see for myself the beautiful views of the sunset. We got there early in the afternoon, ready to enjoy, but instead, I was rushed to the ER of a local hospital.

The ER physicians in attendance did not know why I suddenly became too weak to walk, could not hold a glass, and my heart was racing. If I didn’t show improvement – my friends knew I would want to be at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. But, after being in the air-conditioned facility and having rested, things improved, and I felt better – with no logical explanation. I figured I would hedge my bets and stay out of the sun and keep hydrated. Once back in the states and another episode occurred….my doctor, after many tests, told me I had MS.

MS???  Since I had been a volunteer for years in Maimonides Hospital, Brooklyn, I was aware of the condition and recalled an article…perhaps in my Hadassah newsletter, of a certain research doctor at Hadassah Hospital who was studying MS and what could be done.

As two, three, four, five years pass, I became increasingly handicapped. Coincidentally – remembering that there was this specialist at Hadassah Hospital researching MS, I looked him up. Prof. Dimitrios Karussis is the head of the MS Center, Hadassah Medical Organization Laboratory of Neuroimmunology.

Dr. Karussis once wrote, “I believe that we have to be connected with the spirit and the mind of the patients to understand what they are going through. We must understand that we have to provide hope. Because if we see that the success of treatments is so much related to what we call placebo effect, then this means that if we enhance hope, a positive attitude and positive thinking — then we can do much more and we can be connected and fight together with a patient who has any disease.”

Profound. Absolutely profound!! AND, as I am living proof — absolutely correct!

By the late 1980’s, I was a quadriplegic, with extremely limited vision. But I never forgot his comment: “I believe that we have to be connected with the spirit and the mind of the patients to understand what they are going through. We have to understand that we have to provide hope.”

If this brilliant Hadassah MS researcher believed that the spirit plays a significant role in the healing process, then I too believed it and put my “spirit” on a pedestal and connected with it. I studied his words and took them to heart.

As a result of being unable to walk, see, or use my hands – MS took over. At one point, I was told I needed a heart pacemaker, or I would die. At one point I was told I needed to be on a respirator…or I would die. Being homebound for seven years left me in a terrible bind. Do I cry and begrudge Hashem …as in, “Why Me”? How easy it would have been to give up, cave in and even pray for an end.

To be truthful, after too many years…I did plan my end for an upcoming Thursday. I couldn’t let my husband assist me…as he could find himself in trouble with the law. Dr. Kevorkian was now my hero…but he was in jail. It was up to me to figure out “how.”

I had always kept the words of Prof. Karussis in the forefront of my mind…”hope… belief… and spirit.” Now it seemed to have been put aside to acknowledge the coming Thursday as my “Dr. Kevorkian Day!!”

Who’s to say how or why…

Miracle of Miracles…The Monday preceding that Thursday turned out to be my true spiritual awakening…

That Monday morning…I gave out such a shrei….my daughter and son came running into my room to see why and, shocked by what they saw – she saw screamed…”Mommy, you’re better”!!!

I could stand – alone. I could speak and be heard. I saw them clearly. I reached out my hands to hug them!!!!

What accounted for this reversal of incapacities – literally overnight??? I have no reason, no explanation. I tried no magical potions. I did nothing out of the ordinary. I did not participate in any trials. I did nothing. Gornisht. Zip.

This great diminution (90%) of physical challenges, was tagged as a “Spontaneous Remission” by my doctors…all of whom sought to take credit believing I had followed their regimens. WRONG!!

I had never stopped having Emunah…and I passionately believe the philosophies of Prof. Karussis kept me spiritually uplifted, even in the worst of times all those years…until that fateful Monday….

I continued teaching…from a wheelchair. My students had to learn to read in a unique style – an adaptation of technique…as I could finally speak. What fun!

It has been at least 15 years since that magical moment….and I remain 90% remarkably “remissed”!!

My pay it forward began when I became a chaplain – to be there for patients as Professor Karussis was there for me!!!***

Baruch Hashem…all is well!!!

As an aside – I deliberately became a rabbi for the title. To assure Jewish patients that when a chaplain is called to them, rather than priest, deacon or reverend be sent…Rabbi Laurie is available!!!!

About the Author
Rabbi Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs is a Life Member of Hadassah and spent her youth in Brooklyn, volunteering for such organizations as Junior Hadassah, the Civil Air Patrol, BBYO, and Young Judea. As an adult, she became a member of Hadassah, BBW (B’nai Brith Women), Women's American ORT (Organization for Educational Resources and Technological Training) and The National Council of Jewish Women. She has a Masters in rehabilitation of the handicapped. She taught for 25 years and upon retirement became a hospice chaplain. She and Steve, her husband of 53 years have two children, ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren!
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