Rivka Toledano, a religious emergency room nurse, has seen a lot in her time, but on one occasion, she recalls a miraculous occurrence that she personally witnessed while working in a Canadian hospital. It was a cold December night, in the middle of a snowstorm, when the ER can get pretty crazy. Chanukah was starting that night, and Rivka was looking forward to completing her shift and going home to light the menorah with her family.
Just before noon, a middle-aged couple walked into the ER. Mark Kramer, an overweight man, looked pale and sweaty. His wife Debbie anxiously explained that, despite her warnings, Mark had been shoveling snow in their driveway. When he began to feel ill, she drove him straight to the ER, despite his protests that it wasn’t necessary.
Well, it definitely was necessary, because suddenly, right before their eyes, Mark collapsed on the floor, the result of a massive heart attack. Alerted by his wife’s frantic screams, one of the senior doctors, Dr. Schwartz, rushed over and started CPR, resuscitation, 10 rounds of defibrillation and drugs for heart rhythm. Despite all these efforts to save him, Mark was still in cardiac arrest.
Debbie remained glued to Mark’s side until Dr. Schwartz asked her to leave. Sobbing, she phoned her children and her rabbi, frantically begging them to pray for Mark’s life.
Back in the ER, Dr. Schwartz was grim, commenting that people don’t typically survive heart attacks with prolonged resuscitation, since sufficient oxygen can’t get to the heart or brain. Gently, he broke the devastating news to Debbie: Mark probably wouldn’t survive the day. Totally distraught, Debbie kept repeating to herself and shouting at no one in particular, “I kept warning him not to shovel the driveway, telling him it wasn’t safe for a man his age to shovel snow, and to wait until our son got home or else borrow the neighbor’s snowblower. But he wouldn’t listen! How do I tell our kids they’ve lost their dad?” she cried hysterically, inconsolably.
Dr. Schwartz was not a religious Jew, but it was he who announced, “I’m so sorry. We’ve tried everything we could, but it’s not working. The only thing left to do now is pray.”
So that’s exactly what they did. The whole ER team, Dr. Schwartz, Rivka Toledano and Debbie, all started praying together for Mark’s life, hanging so precariously in the balance.
Forty-five tense minutes passed in agonizing silence, but Mark still didn’t have a pulse. Then, just when they were about to sadly admit defeat, a miracle occurred: A machine up above started beeping urgently. “We’ve got a pulse!” Dr. Schwarz called out excitedly.
The ultrasound machine indicated that Mark had some cardiac activity, a tiny sign of life and hope. Awestruck, the ER team realized they were witnessing a miracle right before their very eyes.
Debbie, tears flowing down her stricken face, murmured, “Thank you, Hashem. Thank you, Hashem!” And then, as the holiday of Chanukah ushered in, she said, “A great miracle has occurred here.”
Dr. Schwartz could not believe what he was seeing. Immediately, he sent Mark to the operating room for emergency heart surgery. He was very careful to caution everyone, “Though Mark is stable, and we are thankful for that, he is not out of the woods just yet, not by a long shot. We still need prayers for a good outcome.” Mark’s family, friends and the rabbi of his local shul continued to pray fervently as surgeons performed open-heart surgery for three hours. As they say, there are no atheists in foxholes - or waiting outside an operating room, either.
A day and a half later, Mark woke up to see Debbie and their children sitting anxiously around his hospital bed. He looked at them and said “Hi.” He was completely unaware of what had happened to him.
Here was a man who, the day before, had been totally blue - with more than one foot in the grave! With a 45-minute-long resuscitation, and 10 bouts of defibrillation, the fact that he was alive was truly unbelievable. By all standard measures, Mark should have died. But he didn’t. He survived physically and mentally and was sitting up and talking the next day. It was Chanukah, and the letters on the dreidel which spell out, “A great miracle happened here,” were lost on no one!
Mark was released from the hospital in only 10 days. Waiting for him in their driveway was a belated, yet significant, Chanukah gift from Debbie and their children: a new snowblower, decorated with a huge, red, heart-shaped bow. “My family and I realize that without those prayers going on that day, I wouldn’t be alive now,” said Mark Kramer. “Hashem spared me for some reason, and I will make an extra commitment to davening three times a day with a minyan!”
Rivka, the nurse, concludes: “I’ve seen many fascinating things during my years as an ER nurse, but this case was clearly a modern-day Chanukah miracle!” (Adapted from “Chanukah Miracle in the ER” by Menucha C. Levin)