Back in November 2005, I was hospitalized with a life-threatening spinal abscess.
A dear friend of mine bought me for my 50th birthday a combined Chanukah-Christmas-birthday present. This was the greatest present anyone ever bought for me, a round-trip tickets to the Holy Land of Israel along with hotel, including two all you can kosher buffets a day.
I was getting ready for my sojourn by updating my passport and since I had been suffering with back pain for many years from a bicycle accident, I decided to get an epidural recommended by my orthopedic surgeon before departing.
After the epidural, I started experiencing a sharp pain right where I was punctured with the needle. The doctor who gave me the epidural was in Honolulu. I called his office and they said I should go to my local primary care physician and get something to manage the pain, because it is most likely nerve damage and I should be fine in a day or two. Don’t worry, I was told. This can happen. Although all previous epidurals gave me immediate pain relief.
I went to two doctors and both said, “Go on your trip, the pain will disappear, just enjoy your Holy Land visit.”
I departed for my trip still in pain. I needed assistance boarding the plane. I had a direct flight from Honolulu to Newark and was to lay over in Newark to visit family who had relocated there that I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. Four days later, I was schedule to depart on a nonstop flight from Newark to Tel Aviv.
I went to bed that night in pain. The next day I pretended to not be hurting, but my system had shut down, I could no longer urinate or defecate. That night I went to bed screaming in pain. My cousin called 911 and I was admitted to Overlook hospital in New Jersey.
I was in such pain I could not stay still in the MRI machine so they had to call in an anesthesiologist to knock me out.
Upon review, they found one of the largest spinal abscess they had ever seen, located in such a spot that was pretty much inoperable.
The doctors advised my cousins and sister that I would most likely not make it, and if I was lucky and blessed enough to make it, I would most likely be paralyzed for life.
I was hospitalized for two months with many specialists visiting me daily. I was an actual case in study where many specialist doctors were called in to contribute and observe my progress along with classes of interns. They had never seen anybody recover from the condition I was in.
After two months in the hospital, I still needed 24-hour care of an IV of anti-antibiotics every four hours for at least three more months.
I was released from the hospital and admitted to a Manor Care nursing home so I could learn to walk again and to keep on my IV of antibiotics. Back home on Kauai, every church group I knew and every Jewish congregation was praying for me.
After a grueling six months, I finally made it home. It was hard to walk so I actually bought a comfort bike with 21 gears that was easier than walking and great therapy. It took about a year to actually start feeling better.
One year later, in December 2006, I was called by a Chabad Rabbi to share in the honor and Mitzvah of lighting the community Tiki menorah at Kapaa Beach Park.
Lighting that menorah and just being alive was the most memorable and fantastic Chanukah I ever had. It just felt good to be alive.
I never made it to the the Holy Land, besides, Kauai is a holy land in ways all its own.
As we say on the Garden Island, “Happy Chanukauai!”
James “Kimo” Rosen is a retired professional photographer living in Kapaa with his best friend Obama Da Dog, Rosen also blogs as a hobby www.dakinetalk.blogspot.com