Because I am so deeply moved by the outpouring of prayers and good wishes on my recent cataract surgery, I want to repost an essay that I originally published in The Jerusalem Post on March 3, 2013.
“Rabbi Fuchs to Have Open Heart Surgery,” read a late-June 1996 headline on the first page of the local news section of The Nashville Banner.
While I had neither hoped for nor wanted such publicity surrounding my surgery, the headline symbolizes the difference between the surgery I underwent at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville back then and the more complex open-heart surgery I underwent at the Cleveland Clinic on November 29, 2012.
In Nashville, because I was known in the community, my surgery to replace a congenitally defective aortic valve attracted more attention, advice, visits and support than I could ever imagine.
By contrast my surgery in 2012 was in Cleveland where I knew almost no one.
My Connecticut cardiologist encouraged me to have my much more complex 2012 procedure done in a major heart center where they do lots of these unusual procedures.” With his encouragement, we settled on the Cleveland Clinic.
It was a great choice.
The surgeon, Dr. Lars Svensson, is world-renowned, and the medical, nursing and technical care were all superb! The problem was that except for one incredibly wonderful and supportive family with whom we are very close and a couple of very gracious and concerned rabbis, we knew no one in Cleveland.
The love and care I continue to receive from my wife Vickie is priceless, and my three adult children all interrupted their very busy lives to fly in for the surgery from both coasts. But after a few precious days, my children – as they should have – flew back to their spouse, children and professional responsibilities.
Into the breach in a surprisingly meaningful way entered FACEBOOK.
When I travelled the world for an 18-month period as President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism – making 65 visits on five continents and living both in Israel and in New York City – I checked in on FACEBOOK only occasionally and posted even less frequently. Since my surgery, I have been a frequent contributor.
I repeat the words I posted from Cleveland two days before my operation with even more feeling than when I originally wrote them:
“FB friends, if ever you wonder whether the short messages of encouragement and support you are thinking about writing to people facing difficult challenges in the lives (illness, surgery, loss of a loved one or a job a few examples) do any good, trust me they do. My FB contacts have made the surgery I face Thursday and the events leading up to it much easier to deal with, and I am very grateful to each one of you who has reached out …”
One of the first things I did when I returned from intensive care after the operation was to post the following:
“Dear FB friends, it is still difficult for me to type, but I have read with deep gratitude (and will surely read again and again) each and every one of your messages to me. I cannot express how much they mean. Although I feel as weak as a kitten, your prayers, thoughts and good wishes have given me strength…”
It was strength I needed. People I knew in elementary and high school, college and grad school, in the three communities I served as rabbi and in my travels for the WUPJ have lifted me up. Some I knew intimately; some I had never met in real life. I have tried to pay it forward because lifting the spirits of another is a huge return on an investment as small as typing a few short words or even simply clicking “LIKE.”
As I anticipated my recent cataract procedures many people told me, “Oh, cataract surgery is nothing.” For me the thought of somebody cutting on my eyeballs was far from, “nothing.” Although it did not reach the level of my two open-heart procedures, my anxiety level was high. Once again, the support I received from people at every station and locale of my life was so comforting. Today, I repeat with more fervor than ever:
Clicking LIKE matters and encouraging comments matter even more!