It has been a long and arduous wait for my husband to finally have his hip-replacement surgery that was keeping him from normal mobility for months. Pain is one of those things that is all-encompassing, mood-affecting and easily seen on one’s face when the severity level increases. So it has been, until the day of surgery finally approached. Of course, I was filled with trepidation as the case would be for almost anyone “going under the knife.” Well-wishers called or texted, asking for my husband’s Hebrew name and his mother’s name, and word spread, and tefillot and Tehillim were said in many cities and, of course, in Israel as well. With God’s loving kindness, the surgeon said the surgery was successful, and miraculously my husband took his first steps with a new prosthetic hip soon after he woke up. I thought to myself that this is truly a miracle from shamayim. We owe such gratitude to these competent surgeons and their blessed hands.
This surgery took place in Hackensack Medical Center on Thursday, which segued into Friday and through Shabbat as my husband still needed confidence to manage a few basic tasks, e.g., transferring in and out of bed, bathrooming, dressing and the like before coming home.
With the knowledge that we would be staying over Shabbat in the hospital, I contacted Lydia Zuckier, who volunteers for Bikur Cholim of Bergen County and arranges for guests from different communities to have a place to stay for Shabbat. Lydia gave me directions and an entry code to the Bikur Cholim apartment three blocks from hospital. She told me that the concierge at the front desk is aware of the apartment designated for family members of patients who need to stay in the hospital. The apartment provides valet parking and one can park their car for the duration of one’s stay.
What was particularly remarkable was what I saw as soon as I opened the door to the apartment. The space was well-lit, nicely scented, spotless, modern and well-organized. The living room was the first thing I noticed. It was comfortable and spacious, with shiny wood parquet flooring and comfortable leather couches. A basket of Jewish magazines was strategically positioned near the couch. On the other side of the living room was a fine wood table with wonderful Jewish books to enjoy, along with another decorative box with siddurim, Chumashim and Tehillim and one with benchers. All well-thought-out for one’s Shabbat reading pleasure.
The dining room, which was an extension of the living room, had on the table a white disposable but elegant tablecloth. On the table were special tall, flickering light bulb candles that one uses for traveling purposes when fire cannot be used, as in hotel room stays. On the table, challot were already under a cloth for visitors planning to have a Shabbat meal there. The kitchen was beautifully clean, with granite countertops and fully stocked cabinets. There was a warming tray filled with food for those who would be eating there. The refrigerator was also remarkably filled, with everything one might need for all the Shabbat meals. On one of the walls was a list of generous donors who contributed to the various needs of the Bikur Cholim apartment. I was happy to know most of the names, and frequent the stores and businesses that were listed. Next, the bedrooms were clean, spacious, comfortable and very cozy. The bathroom was beautiful, spotless and well-supplied.
Lydia Zuckier connected me to Chesed 24/7, which is also an amazing organization that provides Shabbos meals at the hospital. They also help stock the Bikur Cholim room with food, which is a great go-to place for family members who would like food available as if they were home. The Shabbat meals sent by Chesed 24/7 included a Shabbat box that provided a white plastic tablecloth that fits over the little rolling hospital table and a decorative plastic challah cover. Two Shabbat bulb candles were provided, as well as a becher for the bottle of grape juice and an artificial but decorative rose. The box also contained a small pouch of spices for Havdalah purposes. The delicious, homemade Shabbat food was warmed on the blech in the Bikur Cholim room prior to Shabbat. When Shabbat began, my husband sat across from me at the glowing Shabbat table in the hospital room that was there with the assistance of all the wonderful, charitable people involved in making the hospital stay a beautiful and pleasant one for my husband and me. As we sang Shalom Aleichem, inviting the Shabbat Queen into our hospital room, we felt tremendous hakarat hatov to all those involved in the healing process, making our hospital stay a comfortable and manageable experience.
By Stacey Berman Gardin