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Experts on Speed Dial
How is Lema’anchem able to get deep medical knowledge for illnesses of all sorts
The ringing of the phone shatters the stillness of the night. My brother Chaim* is on the phone.“Yossel!*” His voice is laced with shock. “There’s been an accident on the highway. A truck rammed into Shmuel’s car and Shuki has been badly injured. His life is hanging by a thread. You know a lot of people. Is there anything you can do?”
Shuki, my ten-year-old nephew?
A horrific descriptionof what happened pours out of Chaim’s mouth. Thegravity of the situation leads me to make a split-second decision. It doesn’t matter that it’s already almost midnight; I’m callingRabbi Ehrblich..
In the past, I and several friends have had occasion to benefit from hisspecialized medical guidance and consultation organization. The situation we are facing now, however, is hardly a clear-cut diagnosis or hard-to-treat syndrome. It’s a dire medical emergency with my nephew’s body crushed and bleedingin multiple places.
I hang up the phone and dial the number of Lema’anchem’s director, Rabbi Yossi Erblich. He doesn’t remember me from our former interactions and I don’t expect him to. Nevertheless, he immediately agrees to help. “Tel Hashomer, you said? I’ll beright over.”
I quickly grab my jacket before running outside. Tel HashomerHospital is only about 20 minutes away,and I want to help my nephew as much as possible.
Shuki is in the trauma unit when I arrive. My brother and sister-in-law are ashen-faced, still in shock. Shuki was the worst-hit passenger in the car and many of his organs are in a compromised state. He also sustained numerous bone fractures.
Rabbi Erblich arrives and quickly assesses the situation. “It was a bad accident but we’re going to do whatever we can to save Shuki’s life, with Hashem’s help. I’ve already called Professor Joseph Press, the director of the Schneider Children’s Medical Center and president of our organization. He’ll be here very shortly to decide on an exact course of action.”
Professor Press was vacationing with his family when he received the call. But like Rabbi Erblich, he too is available in an emergency 24/7, including Shabbos, Yom Tov and vacations.
Professor Press arrives on the scene. Even though Shuki is in Tel Hashomerand not Schneider’s, his opinion is highly respected.
Professor Presssizes up the situation and places several phone calls, summoning famous and less famous doctors from around the country, anyone and everyone he thinks might be able to save Shuki’s life.
The subject of which organ to operate on first is raised. With so many organs in danger, the decision is a momentous one. Aroundtable discussion ensues. The medical team that’s been assembled examines Shuki’sX-rays and decides, “His liver is themost compromised right now and needs immediate surgical intervention. The other operationscan wait a bit.”
Shuki is wheeled off to the OR and the surgeons don scrubs. Doctors from Tel Hashomer partner with their colleagues from the north and south of the country to try and save my nephew’s life.
Outside in the hall, Shuki’sparentsare looking around in a haze.“With Hashem’s help, things will work out,” Rabbi Erblichreassures them. “Our team is comprised of some of the top doctors in the country.” For the next few hours, he walks back and forth between the doctors andShuki’s parents, flawleslys shifting from emotional supporter to manager of top-tiered professionals at the drop of a hat.
Four days later, Rabbi Erblich’s reassurances prove to have been well placed. Shuki is out of the ICU and recuperating in the regular children’s ward.Three weeks later, he is released from the hospital.
His medical saga, however, is far from over. He has metal plates and screws in his legs, cannot walk properly and is taking medication for internal organ function. The Lema’anchem team continues to be in touch with his family every step of the way, checking up on him, advising his parents and inquiring about everyone’s well-being.
Shuki’s story is only one of the thousands of cases that come to Lema’anchem’s attention every month. “We receive about 100 calls a day,” Rabbi Erblich says. “But what makes our organization unique is the fact that it combines medical consultations and guidance with a team of professionals chosen for their knowledge.”
YossiErblichhad served as a medical askanfor over a decade before foundingLema’anchem-MafleeLa’asot. Even though it is located in BneiBrak, in Central Israel, its reachextends far and wide. The doctors who are affiliated with the organization are constantly updating their medical knowledge, staying abreast of the most current research, treatments and clinical trials.
“I started the organization because while askanim can provide patients with the names of doctors, when people are very sick—either with a hard-to-diagnose condition or a rare disease—a physician rather than an askanneeds to be their final address.”
Lema’anchem does more than hold the hands of the patients who turn to them for help. With four doctors working onsite and 170 others volunteering as professional reservists who can pool their knowledge together, Lema’anchem offers struggling patients real-time guidance.
ProfessorPress, president of Lema’anchem, and Dr. Benny Davidson, director of the AssafHarofeh Medical Center, review all the cases before reaching their own conclusions. Although most of themconcur with the patients’ earlier diagnoses (with the Lema’anchem doctors primarily offering guidance to helpthem navigate the often confusing maze of professionals available),there are timeswhen they will challenge them.
“There was one patient who came to Lema’anchem with a diagnosis of a brain tumor,” Professor Press says. “She was experiencing severe headaches and suffered from convulsions. After undergoing an MRI, the doctors had determined she had a tumor that needed to be operated on.But undergoing brain surgery is a major life-altering decision, so the patient came to Lema’anchem for a second opinion. We read through her file, looked at the results of the MRI and said that she should have a biopsy performed before agreeing to surgery.”
The biopsy revealed that the woman did not have a tumor. What she had was a soft tissueamyloidoma, a solitarymass of amyloid protein in her brain, something that surgery wouldn’t have been able to treat. “We consulted with various doctors and drew up a new treatment protocol,” Professor Presssays. “Surgery wouldn’t have helped her at all.”
Lema’anchem will also follow up on patients’ cases, referring them for further testing when necessary and having connections with the best specialists in every field.
“There are so many nuances in medicine,” Rabbi Erblich says. “Fortunately, thanks to our doctors’ experience and skill, they can direct patients to the right expert to solve their specific problems.”
Most of Lema’anchem’svolunteer doctors are from hospitals all over Israel. But Lema’anchem also has 40 doctors from abroad on its list of reservists. The organization receives its fair share of cases from the US and Europe, and the doctors all happily share their expertise for free. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Martin and Richard Scharf and ShlomoElimelech Geller, the organization’s services are completely free of charge and available to all.
Rabbi Erblich’s monumental efforts to establish something unique—a blend of heart and cutting-edge knowledge—has earned him a reputation as one of the topmost influential people in the medical arena. And when the heart is involved, there is truly no limit to what can be accomplished.
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