By Rabbi Binyomin Pruzansky
Even in the most difficult periods of one’s life, Hashem provides a glimmer of hope to reassure us that He isthere for us. The following is a story of how Reb David Hyman, a father raising a disabled son, experienced one such instance of hope and reassurance. On Purim, let us reflect on this idea that Hashem is always guiding our way through the darkness and challenges that may come our way.
My son, Benji, was a premature baby, weighing only four pounds and one ounce at birth. He was rushed immediately to the Maimonides Intensive Care Unit, where it was determined that he had suffered severe brain damage. My wife and I, a young couple, were deeply shocked and disturbed by this news. We couldn’t imagine how we could deal with such an unthinkable reality. Yet, then and there, we resolved to accept the situation and do whatever needed to be done. Specialists told us that we could only pray at this point, and that was a good place to start.
Benji’s seizures began when he was four, and they frightened us tremendously. There is no way to describe how it feels to watch helplessly as one’s own child suffers through a convulsion. Somehow, we learned to cope with it, and to wait for each seizure to end so that we could be there for Benji when his awareness returned.
The seizures stopped occurring that same year, only to reappear with a vengeance when Benji was seven. Now, they were longer and more difficult to endure. By the time Benji was ten years old, the seizures were lasting an hour or longer, and we knew that the situation was impossible. Something had to be done.
Several top neurologists advised us to consider brain surgery, explaining that the culprit was a condition that affected a significant portion of our son’s brain. If we would consent to have that portion removed, the seizures would stop. It was a risky, complex surgery, and we tried to push it off as long as we could, horrified at the idea of putting Benji through such an ordeal. Eventually, however, we arrived at the understanding that only such a surgery could offer our son the possibility of normalcy. With heavy hearts, we consented to the operation.
To our overwhelming joy, the surgery was a success. Benji’s seizures had stopped for good, and he was able to join a mainstream school and live a life that was normal in every respect.
Nothing could have prepared us for the next tragedy.
It was on Purim, a day of joy. The mood in the streets of Flatbush was festive, as teams of children in colorful costumes hurried to deliver mishloach manos to their friends, family and teachers. Benji was fourteen then. He still loved Purim fiercely and insisted on being the one to deliver the gifts.
He and I were waiting to cross the street to greet our guest who had come for the Purim seudah, when disaster struck. Benji was waiting for a large van to pass and, when it did, he began to cross behind it. What neither of us could have anticipated was that the van driver had missed his address and thus decided to back up suddenly. The van struck Benji forcefully, slamming his head into the concrete. I and passersby began to scream for Hatzolah as Benji, unconscious, bled profusely from his head. Desperate, weeping uncontrollably, I wrapped my son’s head in a towel as I waited for the ambulance to arrive. The realization dawned that this might be the end of my beloved child, who had already been through so much.
At the hospital, we were told that Benji’s situation was very grave. His skull had fractured with the impact, he was bleeding internally, and his brain was swelling. The prognosis was bleak and, in the blink of an eye, my wife and I, still in a state of disbelief, began to prepare ourselves for the heartbreak that seemed certain to lie ahead.
We were not allowed into the emergency room. There was nothing for us to do but sit in the waiting room, overcome by a storm of emotions, praying and crying for our son. Benji was in critical condition and there was no way to know if he would make it out alive.
We prayed over the next few days that he would somehow recover.
A few days later, while I was sitting with my Tehillim in hand in the hospital’s waiting room, a doctor arrived. He wore a grave expression as he approached me and asked if I was Benji’s father.
“Yes,” I replied, leaping from my seat as my heart thudded powerfully. “What’s happening?”
“It’s a miracle,” the doctor declared, with feeling, “but your son will make it!”
I sank back into my seat unwittingly, an overwhelming flood of relief weakening my knees. “Thank G-d! Thank G-d! How is this possible?”
“When I say it was a miracle,” the doctor replied, “I really mean it. Your son was bleeding into his brain and, under normal circumstances, it would have continued swelling and he would have died. However, this is only because the excess blood has nowhere to go. In your son’s case, we discovered that a sizeable portion of his brain was removed, and so the blood filled that space and relieved the pressure. If it hadn’t been for that surgery, your son would no longer be with us!”
I was dumbfounded, speechless, and the happiest man in the world! I realized then, to my amazement, that we had been wrong about the surgery all along. What had seemed like the worst procedure in the world to impose on our young child had actually provided the wherewithal to save his life.
I believe that it is important to understand that Hashem has only our good in mind. What may seem like a terrible test at one time may prove to save your life at another. So let a little hope into your life. You will someday come to thank Hashem for all that He’s done for you, even without your knowledge.
P.S. Benji’s classmates never treated him as a special case. He is beloved by all, and just another student of Yeshiva Darchei Torah. In fact, they all joined together to write Benji a great get-well card during his recovery. Benji is a bright boy with a beautiful future and devoted friends. Thank you Darchei Torah and, most of all, thank You, Hashem, for Benji.
Rabbi Pruzansky is the author of the “Stories For The Heart” series and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.