The Midrash teaches us that from the beginning of Sefer B’reishis until Parshas VaY’chi, the word “choleh” is not mentioned. It was Yaakov Avinu who asked Hashem to bring illness to the world. Yaakov requested of Hashem, as a show of mercy, to bring illness so that a person can put his affairs in order. Primarily, if a person dies suddenly, he will not be at peace without first having the opportunity to make proper arrangements among his children. Therefore, if a person has some time prior to dying, he can have yishuv ha’daas, a settling of his mind, surrounding his children. Yaakov’s request was accepted and, thus, Yaakov was the first person to become sick. But on occasion, finding out that one is sick can be a pathway to enabling the cure to come, too.
A man was bringing his elderly father to the hospital, one day, for a scheduled procedure. But the moment he walked into the waiting room with his father, he instantly realized that something unusual was happening. Doctors were running in and out of the operating theater, nurses and other medical staff were yelling orders, and a hapless and terrified family was congregating in the waiting area, not knowing whether to scream or to cry. What was going on?
It took many minutes before the situation stabilized and someone explained to the man what was happening. The story went as follows: This very morning, a 75-year-old man had a dentist appointment. He was there to have some dental work done, including having a tooth pulled. It seemed innocent enough. The man was accompanied by two of his kids, who were there to bring him and drive him home. As the man was on the chair, his kids waited outside, flipping through magazines.
Suddenly, they heard a scream of pain, accompanied by a scream of horror – one from the patient and the other from the dentist! In the midst of removing the man’s tooth, the dentist somehow lost his grip on the instrument he was using, and the extracted tooth came loose, sliding down the man’s throat! It lodged itself in the man’s larynx and he began having trouble breathing. The kids came running in and everyone began screaming at the same time – the patient in pain, and the others threatening to sue the dentist for his negligence. The dentist kept saying that such a thing had never happened before.
But something needed to be done and fast. The dentist quickly helped the man off the chair and loaded everyone into his car. He sped to the emergency room where the man was quickly wheeled into the operating room to have his tooth removed.
The surgeon began to prep the patient for immediate surgery and ordered an X-ray done, post-haste, so he can get an exact location on the tooth, in order to extract it carefully and painlessly. There was no time for full anesthesia – the tooth needed to be removed right away, explained the surgeon, as the sharp, ragged edges of the tooth can cause lacerations to the inner walls of the throat, causing irreparable and terribly painful damage to his larynx, voice box, esophagus, and a host of other organs in that region. The X-ray machine was brought in and as the picture came up on the large overhead screen, the doctors and nurses seemed to all gasp at the same time. There, in plain sight, was the tooth nestled directly above a foreign entity that had found its way into the man’s throat: a tumor!
The professionalism of the surgical staff was evident as now, everyone shifted gears. This was much more than a simple tooth extraction. This called for radical cancer treatment. The oncologist and his team were called in and more tests were conducted to determine the size and weight of the tumor. The patient was transferred to another ward of the hospital while the family was called, and everyone came running to the hospital. The tumor was, in fact, malignant, and although it was still rather small and easily removed, the surgeon later said that this tumor tends to grow and metastasize very quickly, constricting a person’s throat and not allowing him to breathe. Had they not caught it at this stage, it might have proven to be fatal. Statistics show that a patient of this age, with this type of tumor, generally succumbs to the ravages of the disease!
What a miracle it was! A man who was deathly ill, but did not even know it, was saved because of a procedure gone wrong. Kol mah d’avid, l’tav avid! The man’s kids were concerned with suing the dentist for causing his tooth to slide down his throat when, in fact, Hashem arranged that this accidental procedure is what caused the man to be saved!