Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim
October 14, 2021
The Support Behind Every Medical Journey
An Insider’s View of Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim
June 17, 2019
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
“There’s something serious going on here. We need to find out what it is, fast,” Dr. Williams said, looking worried.
Leah*, the Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim volunteer, took charge of the situation immediately. “Okay. Doctor, how quickly can we get testing started? How long until we find out the results?”
The hum of voices faded into the background as Miriam* closed her eyes, a strange mix of panic and relief coursing through her. Finally, someone cared enough to take her seriously.
Miriam’s story started more than half a year ago, when she began experiencing worrying symptoms. Each doctor she went to brushed her off, telling her the symptoms were caused by fatigue and stress. With no one to advocate for her, she had no choice but to swallow her growing unease.
After several months of endless frustration and worry, one of her friends suggested she call Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim to help her find the right doctor to address her concerns.
As soon as Miriam spoke with the LRBC advocacy team, she felt like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Within days, they managed to book her an appointment with a top specialist who had a year-long waiting list. As soon as he saw her, Dr. Williams confirmed what Miriam had known all along: This wasn’t just fatigue. It was something more.
June 24, 2019
The test results were back, and their message was clear: Miriam had a rare but serious condition. Because it had been left untreated for so long, Miriam needed emergency surgery and an intense, months-long treatment plan. LRBC took charge, arranging for the top surgeon in the area to perform the operation.
As scary as the diagnosis was, Miriam felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Someone was there to help her, to guide her through the confusing world of doctors and diagnoses. She wasn’t dealing with her diagnosis alone.
Miriam is officially on the road to recovery. Looking back at the past two years of her life, she can hardly believe how LRBC was there for her and her family as she underwent surgery and treatment. Not only did they arrange her care team, surgeon, and treatments, they provided her with transportation to and from appointments, beautiful accommodations near the hospital, and a huge range of equipment to help her get around her house once she was discharged after surgery. They were also there for her family when she was out of commission, providing meals for them for months at a time, including Shabbosim and Yamim Tovim.
“The level of care, support, and dedication LRBC showed toward me and my family is absolutely mind-boggling,” Miriam relates emotionally. “I can honestly say that there is no way we could have managed to get through the last couple of years without Leah and the LRBC team. You saved my life—both literally and figuratively. I have no words to express how grateful I am to your incredible organization.”
Whatever it takes
Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim’s mission is to provide a support system for families experiencing a medical crisis, through a comprehensive network of services that facilitate recovery, alleviate stress, and help navigate complex decisions. The wide range of services come under six main divisions:Food Services, Patient Advocacy, Medical Transportation, Medical Equipment Gemach, Health at Home, and the Friendship House Hospitality Network.
“Our goal at LRBC is simple,” says Yehoshua Lapides, director of operations. “We do whatever we can to help ease the burden of patients experiencing medical crises. Whether it’s bringing the family fresh, homemade suppers or providing them with a place to stay near the hospital so they can recuperate after treatment, we do it all.”
Just a phone call
As a volunteer on the front lines of LRBC’s day-to-day operations, Yehoshua has seen time and again the difference one phone call can make.
“I wish people would realize that they don’t have to struggle through illness alone. Having a family member who is sick can take over the lives of an entire family. The LRBC team is ready and willing to help. For all those reading this, our Hanover Lifeline number is 732-905-3020. Call anytime, day or night, and there will be someone there who can help you. All you have to do is call—and we’ll take care of the rest.”
Chaim Klein* is another one of LRBC’s volunteers, involved in the Food Services Division. He’s in charge of overseeing food deliveries to hospital pantries and meal deliveries to families in and around Lakewood. Although he has countless incredible stories to tell, he recalls one incident that moved him to tears.
“It was Erev Yom Tov a few years ago, and things were really hectic. Suddenly, we realized that the Weiss family*, whose mother was in the hospital, was supposed to be receiving food for Yom Tov, but for some unknown reason, the food was never delivered. It was really close to shkiah, but I knew I had to do something. I jumped into the car, drove to a local takeout store, and packed a huge box full of everything they could possibly need. I pulled up in front of their house and knocked on the door. A teenage girl answered.
“When she heard I was from LRBC, her face lit up, and she led me into the house. The smell of food was noticeably absent, and the dining room table was covered with a white tablecloth—and nothing else. The oven was noticeably empty. They literally had nothing to eat for Yom Tov. As I drove away, I realized I was crying. Although my team at LRBC helps people on a daily basis, this was the first time I saw the true impact of Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim’s chessed. I don’t cry easily—but this incident moved me to tears.”
The power of advocacy
Many people don’t realize the extent of Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim’s capabilities when it comes to navigating medical decisions. The LRBC team are experts at harnessing the power of advocacy by creating relationships with medical professionals and hospitals.
“We’ve gotten to know the medical system very well, and a lot of things have gotten much, much better than in the past. We developed a program of patient advocacy long before it was widely popular, first going to one hospital and getting ourselves recognized as official patient advocates, and then doing the same in the next hospital. Slowly, we got to know the protocols and how the system works,” explains Rabbi Kaszirer, director of LRBC.
Whether it’s securing an emergency appointment with a top specialist, advocating for a patient’s rights, or communicating with the hospital management to ensure that the patient is receiving the best possible treatment, having LRBC to navigate the complexities of medical care is invaluable to many patients and their family members.
“There’s just this feeling of incredible relief when you realize there’s someone who understands the system and can help you figure it all out,” says R.N. from Lakewood. “There’s no way to describe what it feels like to realize you’re no longer alonein dealing with illness.”
One big family
The truth is, what Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim does for the community defies description. They become patients’ surrogate family, working literally around the clock to do what they can to help in every way possible, from providing kosher food in hospitals to accommodations to providing at-home health-care workers and everything in between. As Mrs. Friedman* told her husband when LRBC brought him home after a nearly fatal heart attack, “These people fought for your life like you were their brother.”
*Names and identifying details have been changed.
You can be a part of LRBC’s vital work on behalf of the patients of our community! Sign up for the LRBC Insider list to receive volunteer opportunities at lrbcol.org/volunteer.