Susan Barth
Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Anatomy of a Chanukah Miracle

If there is one word synonymous with Chanukah it is the word Miracle – and the eight days of commemoration of the Miracles of the cruse of oil and the victory of the Maccabees also provide an opportunity for reflecting on the “miracles” that happen in our own lives.

I experienced one such “miracle” this Chanukah in the medical arena which gave a new addendum to the Project Holistic Healing that I coined back in 2015 and featured in my blog The Journey from Pain to Freedom.

The History –Medical Procedures

In my life, I have been blessed with good health and little exposure to surgical procedures to the point that the only actual surgery I had was 39 years ago with the removal of an ovary due to a bust cyst.

However, this calendar year I have found myself immersed in the nuances of the surgical world in ways I did not ever imagine. For example, I had not ever heard of the term umbilical hernia and was shocked when that was the term applied to a naval bump which kept enlarging and required surgery on August 24 of this calendar year. In my blog Elul Umbilical Countdown Connection, I described the process and conclusions from that unexpected surgery.

FAST FORWARD TO NOVEMBER

Fast forward to this November when I felt that the swelling and pain accompanying the surgery was not healing and went to check it out with the primary doctor. He reasonably ordered an ultrasound to just make sure that there were no underlying issues.

Little could I have imagined that the ultrasound would come back showing a potentially large “pelvic” mass and with a recommendation to see a gynecologist ASAP.

I made an appointment immediately with a surgeon on November 11 who gave grave news that this “mass” did not look good and immediately ordered a gynecological ultrasound with an expert which he personally attended that very day of my appointment. His concern at the time was that the mass was on the ovary which could mean the “c word” and its implications.  And he immediately ordered a battery of tests and blood work including a gynecological ultrasound, a CT scan and a blood work for indications of the C word.

Needless to say, my anxiety level was now tested as all of a sudden I was confronted with scheduling and having medical procedures done for the first time in my life and unanticipated visits to the hospital. I was also exposed to new medical terminology which was confusing at best and inconclusive at worst.

And even though the tests came back with positive indications that yes there was a growth, but quite possibly it was benign and that was reassuring.

But for surgeons the words “possibly” means “guilty until proven innocent” and that means surgery – which in this case was deemed Exploratory Laparotomy – again a term I never heard of but quickly read from Dr Google meaning MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY – and here was the clincher – the Laparotomy was just the means to the end – the end being complete Abdominal HYSTERECTOMY – a word I have NEVER expected to be confronted with.

And the verdict the HYSTERECTOMY had to take place ASAP and was indeed scheduled for November 30 – i.e., less than two and a half weeks after the discovery of the mass and during Chanukah.

By this time, I was in complete shock as I never felt any symptoms and here a major organ was being scheduled for extraction and a second abdominal procedure when the original hernia surgery was not healed yet (the incision for the Laparotomy could in fact intersect the same area as the incision for the Hernia – not the kind of slicing I ever expected).

Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l Consultation Requirements

One of the areas that the Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l was very involved with was the necessity for obtaining second and third opinions for any procedure which would require surgical intervention and in the case of a hysterectomy – there must be 3 concurring opinions from specialty experts in the field that the hysterectomy is necessary and to the extent that they differed there must be majority rule.

So wanting to honor the Rebbe’s proclamation for determination for surgery, and being a little shell shocked from the rapidity of the conclusions, I went in search of 3 opinions from actual expert gynecological specialists without a clue to whom to approach.

I started soliciting recommendations and although I was making process, it became very clear that I was not going to get the requisite opinions in order to comply with the November 30 surgical appointment despite the urgency which the surgeon was advocating.

So I decided that the best thing I could do is postpone the surgery and honestly tell the surgeon that I had not complied with the Lubavitch Rebbe’s pre- requisites for surgery. And frankly, I had some trepidation in any event again given the overlapping surgeries and the fact that whatever recovery clock I had for the healing from the hernia surgery was now stopped and a whole new clock of recovery would supersede the progress made.

The Real Chanukah Miracle Enter My Eliyahu Ha Novi

In the process of researching potential consultants, I relayed my findings to my dear Rebbitzin Chaya Chava Pavlov from She’arim College for Woman who suggested that I should turn to the leading and most recognized authority organization for making medical shidduchim with experts an organization known as:

Magen Lacholeh and headed by Rabbi Benjamin Fisher

This organization founded at the initiative of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z”l who I hold in such esteem, became my “life line” as a resource for referrals.

I sent my particulars to Rabbi Fisher’s office on Thursday before Chanukah with copies of the tests that had been ordered and was told that someone would contact me. However, in the interim, I was getting some pressure to just succumb to the full hysterectomy and ASAP which I frankly was still resisting on many grounds.

So much to my relief, I contacted back to Rabbi Fisher’s office on Friday before Chanukah and discovered that Rabbi Fisher had already in the course of one day reviewed and my file and gave me his recommendation for an expert gynecological specialist.

And so I followed up on the same Friday  before Shabbat and actually got the specialist on the phone – much to my complete surprise and as it turned out he was able to give me an appointment for Monday the second day of Chanukah.

And here is where the miracle takes form

The doctor said the decision on whether to have the hysterectomy performed hinged on the last appointment and ultrasound findings that I had which was back some time ago. So with great trepidation of how and where I was going to obtain records quickly going back in time  and what they would indicate – I made visits the next day to my primary kupah and the source of the ultrasound which had the essential data. The real award for record keeping goes to Terem as they were able to retrieve my dated record in 5 minutes which I quickly transferred to the specialist.

And Drum Roll Please

After inspecting the records and his examination, the specialist came back with the Verdict –

That SURGERY WAS NOT INDICATED AT THIS TIME!

To say that I was ecstatic that I did not have to have the surgery AT ALL at this time was the greatest Chanukah miracle I could have. It was like a major weight was off my shoulders. He did recommend regular checkups with actually one of the names who I approached for one of the 3 consultants and she agreed with his findings and to have me become a patient for the future. So not only did I not have to have the surgery now but I obtained a great sensitive new gynecologist for the future – the best shidduch possible.

And in fact at the end of the securing of the consultants, there were 3 opinions that the surgery was not needed at this time – so the system of the Lubavitch Rebbe z”l was indeed honored!

So what are the Lessons –

And this is where the addendum to Project Holistic Healing is included

Project Holistic Healing was predicated on finding:

(1) the best advisors (and in this case the advice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l and the other expert specialists) and

(2) the best mental and physical and emotional and spiritual guides which are included in the appendices listed in The Journey from Pain to Freedom

Also having all of this happen during Chanukah made me appreciate even more that one has to have the belief that light will overpower darkness and to have emunah including sustaining joy without suffering and directing a focus on happiness, positivity and optimism and most of all staying In the Moment and making every moment count.

Each of us can have miracles big and small and as the Chanukah story and my own shows – never give up HOPE and give gratitude for every gift that you have been given.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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