Our Amazing Trip to Israel – Part 4

The ominous sign led to the inevitable. By Sunday morning, my LVR (Lung Volume Recruitment) plus abdominal thrusts were assisting me with productive secretions mixed with blood. (By the way, LVR refers to the introduction of massive bursts of air through my mouth, via multiple compressions on a LVR tube– otherwise known as, “breath stacking). Since I’m vulnerable to pneumonia, I’ve often experienced rumbling airways and large secretions. But I’ve NEVER seen blood mixed with secretions!

I immediately called my brother-in-law, my in-house doctor, and informed him of the unfortunate turn of events. He ran over, and after a quick checkup, determined that I had to go to the Hadassah emergency room, with expedience.

Generally speaking, pneumonia lands me in the hospital for approximately 2 weeks. This would definitely put a damper on our vacation, not to mention missing the whole point of the trip, which was my niece’s wedding……

We went into emergency mode. More importantly, we threw our arms up to Hashem, and tapped into our inner strength and bitachon.

After many hours, the doctors determined that it would be necessary to admit me into the hospital.

What a downer! Admittance into the hospital ALWAYS sets me back. Without an air mattress (which requires being turned in my bed every 3 hours), physiotherapy, and hospital surroundings (all doom and gloom), it always takes me a couple of weeks to regain my spirit and strength.

Now I want to share something with you. Before our trip, there are quite a few things that we were concerned and worried about. I spoke with a close friend of mine, who happens to be a quadriplegic as well, to hear his experiences when he traveled to Israel. He opened my eyes to the risks involved, and he also calmed me with tips to overcome these risks.

Thankfully,Hashem was with us every step of the way. Not one single inconvenience or let-down that we could have anticipated took place. Every single thing flowed smoothly!

Except for out-of-blue pneumonia!

Remember, for THIS trip I was in tip-top physical, spiritual and emotional shape. I’d never felt better nor stronger. We were completely psyched and prepared.

And yet again, we learned who is REALLY in charge. Hashem was there to remind us that we can never think that we are in control of our destinies. Just when we were at great risk of falling in to that trap, Hashem caught us in his loving arms, and vividly reminded us that only He holds the cards!

In the end, I was admitted on Sunday night. I won’t go into the Israeli hospital experience right now, except to say, it served as an intensive lesson into the inner psyche of the Israeli and Arab mentality. In fact, nationalities were blurred – I actually asked a gentleman to put Tefillin on me, and when he expressed his cluelessness as to what Tefillin were, it became clear that he was an Arab!

I struggled through a restless night. Finally, the next morning came. This was it – MONDAY! The day of the wedding! And here I lie, feeling sick and short of breath. Of course, tensions were high. How could the wedding go on without me? After all, I was the side show to the bride and groom!

Team Simes went into high gear! My hospital room became the control center of a flurry of activity, with the ultimate goal of getting me to the wedding!

My brother-in-law, the doctor, spent most of the day by my side. By the minute, he monitored my condition, and relayed the information to my doctor.

My wife and sister served as my executive assistants. They fetched the hard to find nurses and manned (womanned?) the phone!

As the day wore on, my oxygen saturation level decreased, and I displayed an improved disposition. We all began to pray harder. By midday, my brother-in-law began to believe! By introducing increased amounts of oxygen, the objective began to take shape!

Now we had to get the doctor’s approval to leave the hospital and attend the wedding. His agreement was negative! He felt I was just too ill to leave the confines of the hospital.

Meanwhile, we had to secure the use of an oxygen tank, in case I would end up with a leave of absence from the hospital. We tried various organizations, but none of them were agreeable to lend us one on short notice.

Again, we hit a roadblock……

Suddenly, I was struck by a flash of inspiration! One of my closest friends lives in Beit Shemesh, and he has connections with a volunteer ambulance service. Perhaps he could convince them to lend us enough oxygen canisters to last for 3 hours – the maximum that we figured my doctor would allow me to leave the hospital.

As the time for the wedding inched closer, my oxygen levels were still erratic. My brother-in-law (father of the bride) kept urging us to go ahead. Double pneumonia? Reduced oxygen levels? Tied up in the hospital? “Who cares?”, he asked. “You came halfway around the world for this wedding of the century! You didn’t let anything in the world stop you! You came SO far!! Just get up and get out of that hospital – 575 people are expecting you!”

Well, as I’ve grown used to, “Yeshuat Hashem K’heref Ayin” (the salvation of Hashem comes as quickly as the blink of an eye) – actually, a beautiful drawing with those powerful words hung in my Rebbe’s office!

The oxygen canisters arrived just in time! My own oxygen levels leveled off in the nick of time! My brother-in-law ran to the phone to update my hospital doctor!

Immediately, we called for nurses to unplug me from my IV, and to get me dressed. After waiting for about five minutes, my “team” frantically ran through the hallways to grab any available nurse.

Guess what? The hallways were EMPTY! Not a soul in sight!

(Danger – the following paragraphs are not intended for the feint of heart….!!)

At that moment, we could sence the end zone! The quarterback (that is, Hashem) just executed a perfect hand-off to us – and we were ready to blast through the defensive line!

My brother-in-law did the prep work, as my wife organized the oxygen and power-chair. Within 10 minutes I was ready to go. However, as I lay in my hospital bed, we realized that we had to leap over the final hurdle!


But as I mentioned earlier, at Hadassah Hospital there are no ceiling or mechanical lifts – all transfers are done by hand!

Now, I overcame my fear of unpracticed manual transfers. But this was out of the necessity, performed by highly practiced professionals. However, this was WAY out of my comfort zone – just contemplating an unpracticed transfer sent shivers up my spine! And this would be performed by two unlikely characters….my brother-in-law and wife!

I frantically pleaded with my wife, “you guys don’t know what you’re doing!!”. She immediately looked at me straight in my eyes and responded, “WE’RE THE ONLY ONES WHO KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING!!! So take a deep breath and saddle up for the ride of your life!”.

So she took the top, my brother-in-law took the bottom and they swung me into a sitting position. Then, with incredible fluidness and grace, they scooped me up and dropped me down into my power-chair!


That last minute taught me a tremendous lesson – never be afraid of things that are in the realm of possibility. Now I always say a prayer before undertaking difficult challenges! And I feel more deeply that Hashem is always with me!

What a shot in the arm! I was charged and super anxious to free myself from the restricting grips of Hadassah Hospital, if only for three hours!

So with reckless abandon, we ignored the stares of the hospital staff, and rushed into our accessible van! The marriage ceremony was set for 7:00,

and we sped toward the marriage hall at 7:15! The groom’s father was shouting, “let’s get the ceremony underway! We have nearly 600 guests who are getting restless!”. To which my brother-in-law shouted, “keep singing, keep singing! Louder, louder! They are on the way, it’s only a few minutes now!”.

The truth is, as much as we raced toward our destination, and my brother-in-law held off the crowd, nothing could be done to alter the decree of Hashem. What was destined to happen at a specific time, could never be changed, whatever efforts we made.

As the saying goes, “GO WITH THE FLOW!!!”.


  1. This is a great story so far. I can’t wait for episode 5.

    1. Ha ha! I’m so anxious to share with everyone this extraordinary story!

      Thanks for following along!

      When will we see you again for Shabbat dinner?

  2. Mark Loewenstein · · Reply

    Heck of a story. I’m looking forward to the next installment. Thanks.

    1. Get this – this crazy story actually took place! Never a dull moment, huh?

      My warmest regards to you and your entire family!

  3. You write so vividly -it really is remarkable that you actually made it to the wedding!
    I’m printing this up and putting it into the photo album (when we will eventually get it)

    1. I love you and I miss you tons! If you’re available, let’s get back to phoning each other on Sundays!

  4. Micah Shotkin · · Reply

    I didn’tknow you had such a harrowing trip. thanks for writing it up. it is great stuff!

    1. You know more than most others that “harrowing” is my life!

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