(Introductory Note: Like many these days during these strange and unsettling days, I have spent perhaps a bit more time than usual in front of my computer and on my phone reading, watching and participating in online events, ranging from virtual minyanim to shiurim by rabbis from near and far, watching my children’s online classes, looking at coronavirus memes and scanning all kinds of social media posts. However, perhaps the most hard-hitting, impactful and positive post I read this week was by Etan Mirwis from Teaneck (and Houston) whose family I have known for years and who I have recently gotten to know a bit as we are both TABC parents and big basketball fans. I had heard on Sunday that he was sick with the coronavirus and was in the hospital but knew nothing more until I saw his first-ever Facebook post come across my feed. I was blown away. Dear readers, I believe you will be, too. Read on below for what he wrote in a state of profound happiness and mild euphoria on his smartphone keyboard.)
Etan Mirwis’s First Ever Facebook post:
I think this may actually be the first time I have ever “posted” something personal on social media. So what could be worthy of such a “public” disclosure? I feel compelled to share my personal Covid19 story as it is still developing. I hope it makes a difference in someone else’s life. I am typing from my hospital bed as we speak. If you don’t know I contracted the virus or that I am currently in the hospital please don’t feel bad... If you know me, I am very private and so don’t take it personally. On to my story.
I first noticed Covid-like symptoms Friday 3/20... it was just aches, so I simply took Tylenol. At night things were a bit harder with some night sweats but not much worse. I was working from home throughout the week on conference calls all day, and didn’t tell anyone about my illness. I didn’t say anything to my mother or my in-laws because my illness was low-grade and I was going to just get thru it. However, Wednesday night it got a bit worse, so I called my doctor. He said keep hydrated, continue with Tylenol, and he would drop me a finger pulse oximeter to keep track of my oxygen levels.
On Wednesday evening, when I took my first readings, they were in the normal range. Wednesday night, my oxygen level started to get a bit low, and by Thursday it started to dip even further. However, I managed to make it thru the night, and update my doctor Friday morning. He told me to go to the hospital, and get an EKG and chest X-ray. He said if I was okay they would send me home.
Needless to say, they admitted me immediately and not a moment too soon... my symptoms jumped off the chart... from Friday morning to Sunday morning they had me on ever increasing doses of heavy oxygen, meds, injections, steroids, IV’s and anything they could throw at me... nothing was working. I had COVID pneumonia in both my lungs, and the COVID was winning... the oxygen wasn’t sticking and my lungs were getting weaker. After my Sunday morning chest X-ray and labs, my nurse said the doctor was having me transferred from the COVID ward to the respiratory ward where they do intubation and put you on a ventilator.... it’s been 48 hours...
I left my family and didn’t even say goodbye...
So how, 24 hours later, are you hearing this information directly from me?
Instead of the continued dark downward spiral I was experiencing I felt a literal breath of change. You see, for two days, despite the highest infusions of oxygen I could not keep up my oxygen absorption levels. Mid-Sunday afternoon, as they were waiting for an available room to intubate me, I felt the O2 reacquaint itself within my lungs again for a split second. When you are breathing high doses of oxygen you are taking rapid breaths and your lungs don’t really fill... my lungs were pneumonia infected with COVID so the oxygen is literally battling the lungs to stop them from shutting down.
BTW there is NO WAY that it was a coincidence that my miraculous turnaround wasn’t directly related to all the praying that really just started when I was at my lowest moments...
You see, an army of tzadikim (righteous men and women) began praying Tehillim (Psalms) around the clock for my recovery and it’s still ongoing! My son set up a Whatsapp group on Saturday night and he asked for people to pray for his dad and then it grew to family, friends local and far away, and continues to grow. Nothing else can possibly explain it.
By this morning he created the 5th separate group as the prior groups of 300 filled up already. Over 1,000 people in 24 hours and they are posting which prayers they are saying... Mind you, at the time I have NO IDEA THIS IS GOING ON.... I didn’t find out about it until last night when for the first time since I got to the hospital and by extension since I contracted the virus... I had an improvement. It started with literally one breath... one strong deep breath into my lungs that came from the lips of those who continue to pray for me... I didn’t know it at the time...I felt the oxygen go straight from my mouth into my lungs... and then with great pain, relief, and excitement another... and then another.... I was able to sit up in a chair and continue expanding my lungs... by evening my fever which had peaked at 103 was completely gone. When my doctor called me, and I shared with him the news he said my news was the only good news he had had all day, from all his patients...
So here I am... not out of the woods... being picked and prodded and shoved all ungodly concoctions they have available... it’s not over, but if you had asked me Sunday, i would have said it was over, but with a different meaning...
If you were praying for me I thank you. If you actually read this I thank you... It’s selfless acts of caring for others which fixes the world... May you and your loved ones get thru this unscathed!
(Postscript: I spoke to both Etan and his wife, Valerie, on Tuesday night and he sent me a picture of himself—see above—and he also sent me the card that his daughter made for him (also pictured) and that helped him get through a very difficult Shabbos. Etan was able to speak but had to stop every minute or so in order to take a full breath, but he was upbeat and positive. He let me know that his doctor had no medical explanation for his turnaround.
Both Etan and Valerie asked me to relay to our readers that he is not fully recovered at all and still has a long road ahead of him but they do not want anyone to stop davening for him and the many others who are still sick. They also asked me to thank all of the medical staff at their hospital and his doctors, Dr. Joey Schatzkes and Dr. Doron Katz—both active and committed members of our community—who have been working tirelessly night and day to make sure that he, and many others, are getting the care they need. If you want to sign up for the Whatsapp Tehillim group, visit Etan’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/etan.mirwis.)
By Moshe Kinderlehrer, Co-publisher and Founder, Jewish Link BWC