A Heart-Stopping Good

Harry Ashkenazi was a grandfather many times over when he was diagnosed with cancer. His first instinct was to call his rabbi.

“You’ll be okay, Harry,” Rabbi Ozeiry told him. “You know Raphael Cohen*?” Harry did—Raphael had been a few grades ahead of him at school, but he hadn’t seen him in over 50 years. “He had this exact diagnosis a few years ago. Today he’s completely fine. You don’t have to worry about it.”

Later in the day Harry went to daven Minchah in the Agudah Shul on Ave. L in Flatbush. And there, in the doorway of the shul, was Raphael Cohen.

When he called his children that night to let them know about the diagnosis, he was calm and measured. “Don’t worry,” he told them. “G-d has sent me a message that I will be okay.”

But that was not the end of the story.

A few weeks later, at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Harry drove down Kings Highway to his acupuncture appointment at the Bikur Cholim office. (His first chemotherapy session was scheduled for Wednesday, and acupuncture is used as way to counteract some of the chemotherapy side effects.) At the last minute, they had called to reschedule, and he wasn’t happy about it. Mondays were his day off, and his only chance to have a relaxed morning. Nevertheless, he parked, got out of his car, and rang the office doorbell, sweating in the summer heat. The receptionist buzzed him in.
He stepped across the threshold and collapsed.

“Cardiac arrest!” “Call 911!” “Hatzalah!” Harry heard none of it. He had lost consciousness. Almost instantaneously a Hatzalah ambulance screeched to the curb and two paramedics jumped out. “We were around the corner,” one of them said as the other began CPR.
After three minutes of chest compressions and rescue breathing, the city’s first responders from 911 arrived. The Hatzalah members, Yehuda and Dani, took turns pumping Harry’s heart, bearing down on his ribs until they cracked.

Four minutes.

Five minutes.

“No pulse,” Yehuda gasped, wiping his forehead. The 911 paramedics took over. Standing up, Dani and Yehuda recognized Harry from the neighborhood. They knew the Ashkenazi family, and watched helplessly as the paramedics labored on their neighbor.

In vain. Harry had been unconscious for a quarter of an hour. He had no pulse, his heart was not pumping. The paramedics covered his body with a sheet and prepared to leave.
“What are you doing?” Dani spluttered.

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