NEW YORK (VINnews/Elozar Dorfman) — It was Thursday evening, erev Sukkos 2020.
I knew something was off but it was just too hectic to pay any attention to it. At least not then.
By the time Friday afternoon came along with all the last minute sukkos preparations being culminated in a frenzy the symptoms were all but forgotten.
That Friday night, the first night of sukkos I made my way to shul not being the wiser. It didn’t even occur to me to wear a mask.
Covid was just not something that was going to affect me.
Or so I thought.
Shabbos morning was when it finally hit me that perhaps something was really up. I really wasn’t feeling my usual self and out of abundance of caution I stayed home from shul.
That abundance of caution turned quite rapidly into a pure necessity as I began to feel worse as the hours and days went on.
Finally on Sunday evening, motzai Yom Tov I went to the urgent care to get tested for Covid.
The urgent care was beyond packed! Everyone and their cousin was there for a Covid test.
When it was finally my turn I took a Covid test and a flu test naively hopeful that it was a flu.
After about 15 minutes of waiting I got the word that it was negative. Though it was clear to me that this was not the end of the story. I was pretty convinced that this was a mistake. After all I wasn’t feeling well in a way I haven’t felt ever.
Sure enough around 3 hours later I see a few missed calls from the urgent care. Yup, you guessed it. They called to tell me that I had tested positive for Covid.
So there I was. I. Had. Covid.
Wow, just the same time that president Trump came down with it. He was pretty cool about it and so was I. I really wasn’t feeling well but hey I was 28 years old and this will be over before I knew it.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
After a good 5 days of this virus things started to get pretty heated up.
The first sign something was really wrong was that my fever wasn’t letting up at all.
Everyone was telling me that that’s normal with Covid but I just wasn’t convinced.
Now here’s the saddest part. The regular doctors of the local clinic that I use were unfortunately a complete disaster. I don’t blame them at all though. They are I’ll prepared to treat such a thing and they wouldn’t let me come down so over the phone just had to do. The most they offered was some fluffy advice to take it easy and take tylenol.
The non medical advice cost valuable time and my condition kept on worsening.
Throughout this time I was making certain to stay hydrated by drinking lots of Gatorade provided to me by a caring cousin of mine who showed up at my front door with many bottles.
Eventually it became apparent that I was breathing funny. I couldn’t take deep breaths and when I tried I would cough and it would hurt.
Keep in mind that it still hasn’t dawned on me that I would experience a severe case of Covid I had just that day turned 29. A spring chicken doesn’t get a severe case of Covid.
At that point it was clear we had to go in a different direction.
My aunt who was in the thick of caring for her husband who was seriously ill with the virus got involved.
She sent the nicest person to come check up on me. He was with an organization called Save a Life dedicated to Covid patients and trying to make sure that they are well taken care of at home so they don’t need to go to the hospital.
He came, and checked me out.
My fever was pretty high but my oxygen levels although not the greatest was still considered okay.
He recommended that I get checked out for pneumonia and that I start medication right away.
So now I had to find a doctor. A real doctor. Not another clinician.
After some research we thankfully found a caring local doctor who happened to live in our neighborhood.
She set up an in house xray for the next day and even had someone come draw blood the same day.
The results were fast in coming. It had turned into pneumonia.
Wow. I was shocked. I hadn’t felt so vulnerable in a long time.
Me pneumonia. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.
Right away, I started on antibiotics and steroids.
It was better than nothing I guess but it just wasn’t enough.
By now, it was erev Yom Tov of the 2nd days already.
Throughout all this time there so many kind hearted people reaching out to me, following up and offering their prayers, support and encouragement.
Even though I knew deep down I wasn’t getting any better yet I didn’t have a clue of what was yet to come.
Friday night was a relatively good night. I ate a pretty good meal and felt pretty good.
The real problem was Shabbos morning.
I was really out of it. I felt like I was dehydrated and I didn’t have any more strength to drink anymore. I decided that I need IV. I needed fluid. Why else would I be feeling like this.
So, I finally gave my wife the okay to call Hatzalah.
Not 2 minutes went by when my trusted neighbor, friend and Hatzalah member all in one comes running in.
He quickly took my temperature and revealed that I had 105 fever. No that was not a typo. 105 fever. That was nuts!
It turns out I wasn’t dehydrated I was just burning with dangerously high fever.
They were taking me in. It wasn’t a question.
But, fear of going to the hospital in general and the thought of leaving my wife alone with 3 children on Yom Tov prompted me to plead with them not to take me in.
Remember this nice man from the Save a Life organization? So, he gave me a few of this ‘purplepill’ that was supposed to be a more natural and much stronger painkiller with a 12 hour affect.
I told the Hatzalah members that I have this magic pill that will take down my temperature very fast. If it doesn’t come down within 20 minutes then I’ll come with you.
I quickly took the pill and miraculously it indeed went down to no fever in about 20 minutes.
The trip to the hospital was off. For now, that is.
What we realized then was that we have to focus on keeping the fever down at all costs.
On recommendation from the upper people at Hatzalah I was to go on a strict regimen of tylenol and advil switching every 4 hours. We even set an alarm on Shabbos for the night hours so we shouldn’t miss it.
Thankfully it worked I had no fever.
The only problem was that i still wasn’t feeling any better. My breathing and coughing seemed to be getting worse.
What really started scaring me was when I would have a coughing fit it was uncontrollable and I literally couldn’t catch my breath. The only way it would end was with a vomit or with coughin up large amounts of thick phlegm.
Finally with things continuing like this my doctor started opening us up to the possibility of needing oxygen and even the dreaded idea of hospitalization.
On motzai Yom Tov my doctor arranged for a Hatzalah member to drop off a oximeter at my house so I can monitor my oxygen levels overnight. If it was in the low 90s and definitely if it dropped below 90 I should get oxygen right away in the morning.
Unfortunately, throughout the night my oxygen level kept dipping into the high 80s. 89, 88, 87 then back to 92. Yay. But checking back a few hours later only confirmed that it was back at 88.
In short, it was clear that I would now be the proud recipient of an oxygen concentrator and get hooked up through my nose.
I honestly wasn’t sure what hit me. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. Thankfully I didn’t have the strength to do either.
Early the next morning my angel neighbor the Hatzalah member brought me the oxygen and connected me. He quickly explained all the jargon that comes along with it, for example how many liters I should do and up until how many liters I can go etc.
Once the oxygen was on I did indeed feel calmer.
Calmer yes, better no.
By the time 24 hours had past it was pretty clear that this couldn’t go on for too much longer. My oxygen level was okay the problem was that I was on the highest output of oxygen that the machine was able to give. That was the problem I was at that point completely reliant on oxygen and was gasping for breath when it was lowered or taken off.
Throughout this time, there was one person who went above and beyond in his care and concern for me. That was my boss.
My boss, who himself came down with Covid the same time as me, was the nicest person in that he would genuinely check up and see how I’m doing every step of the way. He told me right in the beginning that if I ever got to a point where I needed to be hospitalized I should call him and he’ll take care of it. Of course I never dreamed I would need it but I was very grateful. In matter of fact the most soothing thing he said to me early on is Elozar, don’t worry I’m not going to let you
die from this. It sounds crazy but that was exactly what I needed to hear.
So, getting back to my current situation I tried calling him to discuss about hospitalization but couldn’t get through so that was that and anyways I decided together with my wife that it won’t be happening. We’ll swing it by at home.
Overnight would be crucial our doctor told us. If it doesn’t improve than you should really consider going to the hospital, said the doctor.
Reluctantly, both me and my wife started coming to terms with that possibility.
The next day I place the dreaded call to my boss. Not even a few words came out of my mouth and my boss stopped me. He tells me his right hand man, Nachum, is already on his way to me. Everything will be taken care of just sit back, try to relax and wait.
Sure enough, about 20 minutes later, Nachum shows up. He’s on Hatzalah so he’s familiar with assessing the situation. His first assessment was that I’m not going anywhere. In his attempt at calming things he pointed to my oxygen level which was fine. What only became clear after a few minutes was just how high of an oxygen output I was on to bring out these results. Plus after learning that I was symptomatic for already 2 weeks even Nachum was convinced that I needed to go in asap.
Quickly coordinating with my boss for special access to a top doctor at Lenox Hill (and after my boss paid out of his own pocket, I wasn’t supposed to hear this but overheard). I was finally on the way to one of Manhattan’s fine hospitals.
Again, my neighbor Hatzalah member stepped up and transported me with the Monsey Hatzalah truck.
Finally after a bumpy ride in the back of the ambulance and a dose of City traffic we made it.
As instructed, immediately upon our arrival to the ER we invoked the name of this top doctor of who I was now officially his patient and I was to say that he was my primary doctor.
It worked. I felt right away that although I was in an isolation zone in the ER due to Covid I wasn’t being ignored. Things started to move fairly quickly considering how slow things usually are in an emergency room.
The one thing that needed to happen before I was admitted to the hospital proper was a positive Covid test.
Boy, was that test brutal. When one has oxygen running up the nose it becomes sensitive and dry. So when the lovely nurse stuck the test up both nostrils it broke me physically and emotionally.
Physically as it caused me to bleed heavily and emotionally that was my breaking point and I’m not embarrassed to admit that at that point I actually broke down and wept.
It was a very healthy experience. That overflow of emotion was waiting to happen and just what I needed. It gave a sense of energy and purpose and something told me that it’s gonna turn out okay.
Immediately following my positive test results and a confirmation of my pneumonia I was given the first dose of Remdesivir and a stronger steroid called Dexamethasone.
Aside from that I was finally hooked up to IV to get the necessary fluids into my body.
What I learned to appreciate in the hospital was that the doctors, who were all residents of the top doctor I was under, were all super nice but more importantly they were honest and blunt.
So here’s where an impasse came to be.
They were at first all confident that they’d give me the 5 day regimen of Remdesivir and that would do the trick.
It turns out that that first dose I got would also be my last dose of the drug.
It turned out that my liver enzymes were highly elevated. The Remdesivir is a drug that also affects the liver and can only be taken safely when the liver is in good shape.
The Remdesivir route was cut short.
I was still on the steroids which the doctors assured me that in an of itself is an absolute lifesaver.
But treatment for the actual virus would have to be put on hold until the next morning when they’ll reconvene and see what other route to go.
Here I was at the hospital with a crystal clear picture of my situation, again thanks to the openness of the kind doctors and I was at ease.
At this point, as usual in our close knit Jewish community the word spread like wildfire that I was in the hospital.
Although I’m on the quiet side I didn’t mind. It was easier to let go than to hide the situation.
It turned out to be a blessing. So many people prayed. I mean so many people. Full schools andclasses said Tehillim for me. Neighborhood children spent copious hours doing chesed and saying tehillim as well. A Kolel in Eretz Yisroel dedicated a day of it’s prayers and studies in my merit. Even without me knowing at that time Klal Yisroel was storming the heavens for this pity of a 29 year old husband and father of 3 in the hospital for Covid.
The next day the head doctor together with a bunch of his residents piled into my room to discuss the situation. They had stopped my antibiotics cold turkey, taking the approach that it was useless due to the fact that it was a viral infection and not a bacterial infection.
Now the question was what to due about the Covid as mentioned before. The words plasma and antibodies were familiar to me but I was told from early on that the real benefit of this treatment was believed by many doctors to only be beneficial in the first few days of symptoms since once the virus has progressed many believe that a person already has a certain amount of plasma themselves and conjoining plasma from someone else won’t be beneficial.
But this top doctor was willing to take the plunge and give me plasma. He and his residents were pretty honest and blunt that they have no clue about this whole thing and that people are doing it and some are seeing positive results from it.
I was asked to sign a document allowing for the plasma transfusion and so I dutifully signed.
A few minutes later the doctor was so kind to bring me ‘extra’ reading material about plasma and the risks but assured me that if I was his brother he would tell me to take it no question about it.
Now, this hesitation on the part of the doctors started getting at me. They were being too honest with me. I appreciated that but I wanted to wait.
I called my trusted boss and discussed it with him. He was admittedly also unfamiliar with the plasma process and began reading online the exact paper I was given to indulge myself in. He agreed that it doesn’t hurt to wait a day.
I immediately called for the nurse to get back the doctor asap.
She asked why and I explained that I wanted to hold off on the treatment. She said she’ll call the doctor but that she didn’t expect the doctor would let me have my way.
At that point the real miracle began to unfold.
Until that point I was on constant oxygen. It was a big burden when needing to relieve myself to get hooked up to a portable oxygen tank.
At this point I desperately needed to go (which was a relief in itself, if you know what I mean) and I didn’t have the patience to wait for the whole back and forth with the nurse to connect me with a portable tank.
In the spur of the moment I did the unthinkable, I simply took off my oxygen and went to the bathroom.
I was nervous, very nervous that is. But I pushed myself.
I quickly ran back and put it back on and breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Back on the oxygen, I started contemplating trying it again.
A couple of hours later at approximately 2:30 pm on Wednesday afternoon I did it. I needed to go relieve myself once again and this time I proudly took off my oxygen. I was in no rush to put it back on and I made it into a game with myself to see how long I can push it off.
I wasn’t too afraid because I knew it was right there for me should I need it again.
After I was off oxygen for about 45 minutes to an hour, finally the doctor I had summoned earlier in the day made his way to my room.
He asked what’s up? And I respectfully told him that I was just having 2nd thoughts about the treatment and I wanted to know his advice on perhaps waiting a day? At that point he finally noticed that I was off oxygen and he was very surprised! Wow he said, together with the fact that you’re off oxygen for right now and you’re in good spirits I’m willing to agree with you and hold off on the plasma until tomorrow.
That’s all I needed to hear. I was elated!
I was set that I am going to try my hardest to stay off the oxygen and perhaps by some miracle they would even allow me to leave.
I knew and felt it in my bones that I was witnessing a miracle unfold.
In terms of the hospital they had no intention of sending me home for another 5 days to a week. That I know for sure. The thing is that once I knew that they themselves weren’t sure what to do I knew I had to get out of there.
They were great and the service was great.
But staying in a hospital for no reason is not healthy and can very well be dangerous as well.
I made sure to be upbeat whenever the nurses or doctors came in and managed by the mercy of God to stay off oxygen.
Once the evening came I was ready to go back onto the oxygen. I didn’t feel I was ready to go to sleep without it.
But of all people the nurse who was attending to me convinced me otherwise, she was very supportive and assured me that I’m doing well and that I should keep it up.
Well, she should be blessed because when the top doctor came in the next morning he was dumbfounded by amazement.
He was so taken aback that he asked me point blank, we’re ready to go home aren’t we?
I smiled from ear to ear and said I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think I experienced a miracle overnight. He seemed to agree.
And so began 10 hour procedure of discharging me.
They were hesitant to let me go so fast but a doctors order is to be followed.
At that point I was so laser focused on getting out and convincing myself how good I feel that I wasn’t listening to my body to slow down.
Thankfully as soon as I got out I was given a healthy earful from my boss and others to not just go hop skip and dory on my merry way. I came to learn right away that I wasn’t yet out of the woods and that I must take it slow and easy, rest up and of course finish the lifesaving steroids the doctors sent home with me.
All in all I experienced a miraculous recovery with no concrete explanation and without doing a treatment I wasn’t comfortable with.
Thank You Hashem for being so kind and merciful to your low servant Elozar the son of Yocheved.
I hope to make you proud.