Heart to Heart
December 22, 2022
Bikur Cholim: At the Heart of the Community
“Did you call Bikur Cholim? I’m sure they can help.”
How many times have Lakewood residents uttered or heard those words? How many hearts have found respite in knowing that they have a heart to share their burden with in their most trying moments? How much confusion has been cleared, red tape cut, and desperation assuaged in the wake of that fateful phone call?
Welcome to LRBC, where every service is delivered from heart to heart.
Back in 1991, Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim’s heart sprung to life, addressing one of the most critical and obvious of needs: guiding and supporting patients in their most heart-stopping moments.
Their credo is simple yet life-changing: if a patient needs it, they are on it.
It’s been 32 years, the equivalent of lev, heart. And indeed, it’s been over three decades of pure heart.
Sometimes, it’s the big things: A wound care nurse. A fully stocked pantry. A high-profile meeting.
But often, it’s the little touches from heart to heart: A mocha latte. the Circle magazine. A surprise visit.
As one need is filled, another arises—that’s the nature of the beast of medical needs. And, keeping their watchful finger on the pulse of our community, the indefatigable staff at LRBC create movements, flatten obstacles, and accomplish the impossible.
Because the giant heart of LRBC never stops pumping life-giving oxygen to its thousands of beneficiaries. It can’t; it cares too much.
From black to white
Just ask Batya Feigenbaum, an indomitable woman who considers LRBC to be the bastion she can rely on when all else seems lost. A paraplegic from birth, Batya is an inspiration to all who witness her independence, her spirit, and her joie de vivre. Originally from Toronto, she currently spreads her sunshine at The Special Children’s Center of Lakewood.
“Last year, I contracted a stomach bug which left me unable to keep food down. I was so weak, I couldn’t put on my brace to stand up—which meant I could barely get around,” Batya shares. “After a visit to the ER, I went to Jersey Shore Medical Center, where they took a CT scan to ascertain whether there was any obstruction in my stomach.”
The results were clear and devastating: Batya had developed an infection which would require surgery and a long, drawn-out recovery process.
“It was Shabbos, and the surgeon—whose bedside manner was less than pleasant—bluntly informed me that I needed surgery immediately, after which I would not be able to wear my brace for six months. For me, this was the bleakest news. Without my brace, I can’t function. And as someone who tries to not let my handicap limit my lifestyle, I couldn’t bear the thought.”
But the surgeon wasn’t giving her much choice.
Being new to Lakewood, she didn’t know anything about the New Jersey health-care system. What next?
“Luckily, on Motza’ei Shabbos, my nephew put me in touch with a Bikur Cholim hospital liaison. From that moment, the entire picture changed from black to white. If it sounds dramatic, it was. It was like an entire load was lifted off my shoulders, and I knew that someone who truly cared and truly knew was in charge.”
The liaison got the initial steps in motion for a new surgeon. A volunteer showed up with the right food and all the right touches. LRBC mobilized to treat Batya like the VIP she is.
“Of course, the competence was key here. But it went so much further than that. This was true, deep caring.”
When Batya’s niece and roommate got engaged in the midst of the crisis, she resigned herself to missing the l’chaim. But Bikur Cholim wouldn’t allow that to happen. Their handicap-accessible van picked her up, and volunteers wheeled her up the stairs and into the simchah.
When Batya’s nutrition was low and she had to drink Ensure but couldn’t tolerate the dairy kind and couldn’t find the right vegan version, a bag with just the right product magically appeared at her door.
When her insurance only covered a wound care nurse once a day, LRBC provided one a second time each day—at a time that was convenient for Batya.
But it goes deeper than that. As anyone who has experienced or been privy to a stressful medical situation knows, patients and their families are left feeling incredibly vulnerable. And too often, when well-meaning individuals step in to help, they take the proverbial bull by the horns, leaving the protagonist feeling alone and confused.
But not LRBC. They care too much to do that.
“I never, not once in this entire saga, was made to feel like a helpless spectator. I was a friend, a partner, an intelligent adult whose opinion mattered. And that, for me, was more valuable than anything else,” Batya concludes.
A circle of giving
In truth, that’s signature LRBC: a caring heart, reviving worn spirits and injecting a modicum of stability in a very volatile circumstance while intuiting both the physical and emotional needs of the patient.
And what fuels this mammoth heart?
LRBC supports the community, and the community supports them.
Lakewood is a community that has kindness deeply woven into its fabric; thankfully, LRBC knows it can count on the circle of giving to keep turning.
Six hundred calls a day. Thousands of queries—and behind each one, a racing heart.
Will the Friendship House be kosher for Pesach? Yes.
Will there be a van to Monmouth Medical Center this morning? Yes.
Can we get an appointment with Dr. Smith before the holiday? Yes.
Is there someone who can research this clinical trial? Yes.
How big is a human heart?
The size of a fist. And the size of a community.
Join the force. Be there. Take heart.
Because behind every medical journey is LRBC, and behind LRBC is you.
By the numbers
This year, the LRBC kitchen cooked 300,682 meals, provided Shabbos meals for 2,463 families,and gave out Yom Tov meals to over 500 families.
LRBC’s advocacy department helped thousands of patients this year, interacting with hundreds of doctors in over 30 hospitals.
Through the SOAR program, LRBC provided support for more than 200 women who experienced losses.
Medical equipment gemach
This year, the Lev Sarah Tzartal Gemach loaned 5,654 pieces of equipment to 2,152 individuals.
Health at home
The LRBC team of 60 medically trained professionals performed 1,293 blood draws and over 350 specialty visits to patients at home this year.
This year, LRBC volunteers drove 2,560 people to over 500 different destinations. While transporting people to their medical appointments, 230,209 miles have been driven.
This year, 3,742 people have stayed in a Friendship House. LRBC currently maintains 137 beds in 62 rooms in 7 locations: Cleveland Friendship House, Columbia Friendship House, Jersey Shore Friendship House, Lakewood Friendship House, Manhattan Friendship House, Mayo Clinic Friendship House, and Toms River LRBC House.