NEW YORK (Chabad.org/Menachem Posner) – After spending months in a coma, followed by a difficult and intense period of in-patient rehabilitation, Rabbi Yehuda (Yudi) Dukes finally returned to his home in Cedarhurst, N.Y. today, 242 days after he was admitted in critical condition to the NYU Langone Medical Center with a life-threatening case of coronavirus.
The ups and downs of the 38-year-old rabbi’s medical journey will one day be the stuff of medical journals and researchers looking to piece together the hectic early days of the pandemic as doctors and nurses struggled to treat a virus they barely understood.
But more than anything else, Dukes says, the miracle of his continued recovery is a testament to faith, his faith, that of his wife Sarah, and that of the international community of Jews and non-Jews who have prayed for his recovery.
Already from his hospital bed, between blood checks, procedures, social visits, and therapy sessions, he has been working his phone and his iPad, directing JNet, the Chabad organization he heads, that connects people for weekly sessions of over-the-phone Torah-study sessions.
As his journey home was dogged by setback after setback, including two incidents of sepsis caused by his damaged bile ducts and the prospect of needing a liver transplant in the next few weeks, it sometimes seemed as if he was destined to live in the hospital indefinitely.
“It’s amazing and actually a little scary to think that I will soon be in my own living room, surrounded by my own sefarim (holy books) and my kids’ toys,” says Dukes, a father of six, who had not had any significant medical issues prior to contracting the virus. “It’s going to be an adjustment for me, for all of us, but this is exactly what I have been praying for from the moment I woke up in NYU early this summer.”
“One of the many things I have learned over the course of this experience has been to be grateful. I am grateful that I can breathe on my own. I am grateful for the medical care I have received. I am grateful to our amazing community, who has supported us in so many ways. I am grateful to the Rebbe and my Chassidic education, which has given me the lens to view this all as an opportunity for growth and to help others. Most of all, I am grateful for my wife, who has held our family together through this ordeal.”
His return home was a triumphant moment for the volunteers of Hatzalah EMS, who drove thousands of their community members to emergency rooms all over the tri-state area over the Passover season, when the virus ravaged New York’s Orthodox enclaves.
Today, bringing home one of the longest-lasting corona hospitalizations, they revel in recognizing the lifesaving results of their work.
Even before arriving at the Dukes home, the ambulance made a stop at the Ohel, the resting place of the Rebbe, where the rabbi, his wife, and two eldest children stopped to give thanks and pray for continued healing.