This past Wednesday, the attendees of the Second Annual RCCS (Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society) Flatbush Dinner heard a story related to them by Dr. Michael Zelefsky, Chief of Brachytherapy, Department of Radiation Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in which he says “I witnessed a nes (miracle) assisted through the invaluable help of RCCS”.
Elly Kleinman, the RCCS dinner chairman, continued the story: “A few weeks ago, Dr. Zelefsky called Rabbi Golding, RCCS executive director, and told him that one of the famous medical askanim had sent him a patient from out-of-town to arrange for life-saving surgery to remove a massive tumor in the sinus area. This type of surgery was not typical and needed a world-class surgeon. Dr. Zelefsky arranged for Dr. Shah, arguably the best such surgeon in the world, to do the surgery…until the doctor found out that the patient was on Medicaid, which he did not accept.
Extremely concerned because of the potential delay in getting the critical therapy for the patient, Dr. Zelefsky called RCCS for help! The patient was in mid-air, the surgery was already scheduled, and now there was no surgeon to perform this operation!
Thanks to RCCS efforts, within 24 hours of landing, the patient was fully covered by a major health insurance company, which Dr. Shah accepted, and the scheduled surgery was to take place that very week.
The morning of the surgery, Dr. Zelefsky accompanied the patient to the operating room as the anesthesia was being administered. The patient held his hand and kept repeating “ain od milvado, ain od milvado, ain od milvado”, until he went “under”.
As the surgery was supposed to last 4 hours, and Dr. Zelefsky had a lecture to deliver in Philadelphia that afternoon, he left the patient after the surgery was underway. While delayed at Penn Station, his cell phone rang. It was Dr. Shah, calling from the operating room! “It is much worse than we anticipated. I have to change course mid-surgery and I need a new team of plastic surgeons. The surgery will last at least 12 hours and I need consent from the family”.
Dr. Zelefsky told him that he could arrange for the new team of surgeons but there was no family member available to give consent. Remembering that “Kol Yisroel Araivim Zeh Lozeh”, Dr. Zelefsky said “I will give consent”! Dr. Shah reluctantly accepted this “consent” and continued the surgery, which B”H proved to be successful.
Dr. Zelefsky finished the story by saying, “The patient would have died if not for the expertise of this doctor, only made possible through the “shlichus” of RCCS”.
This story was but one small aspect of the dinner in which a young man personally told everyone how RCCS efforts helped keep his family together in the “darkest of times”, and helped save his mother’s life. RCCS founder and president, Reb Hershel Kohn, regaled the audience with how he recently took part in a Kiddush for the birth of a baby girl, the “miracle” offspring of two former RCCS patients.
Awards were presented to Sheya Greenberg, Pinny Rand, Shloime Perlmutter and Yitzchok Perlstein, to the Young Leadership, Yosef Goldberg, Osher Levovitz and Shmilu Neuman, and to the Journal Committee, Sandy Braun, Boruch Eisenreich, and Itchy Goldstein. The evening was dedicated in memory of Yehuda Wolf a”h by Mr. and Mrs. Shmuel Goldstein; the RCCS Flatbush Division is dedicated to the memory of Tziporah Faiga Gelb, a”h. Heartfelt zemiros were delivered by Shloime Dachs, together with the Hamizamrim singing group.
The first part of the dinner saw the leading Rabbanim of Flatbush gathered together to say Tehillim for the sick patients in our midst, led by Rav Eliezer Ginsberg of Agudath Israel Zichron Shmuel. This emotional plea for Rachamei Shamiyim was preceded by a touching and eloquent address by the evening’s guest speaker, Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff of Agudath Israel Beis Binyamin.