Fred of the Dead!

Whew, what a long strange trip it has been, and baruch Hashem I am blessed to be here writing this tonight for the Son of Sinai website, and let me explain why. Hashem taught me a lesson, one that was well-received on my end and I am ever grateful for having gotten and grown from it. 2023 has almost claimed my life, it took me to the brink, but it brought me back and made me better than before…let me explain.

To understand the full breadth of the lesson, you first have to allow me to take you back to September of 2022 when my back pain had finally ramped up and began taking its toll. I was diagnosed with DISH Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis,  with tons of bone spurs that formed bridges up and down my spinal cord, numerous bulging discs, several degenerative discs, and 3 curvatures in the spine itself. Before I knew it, I couldn’t walk without a rollator…

…I became depressed, after all, I had 30-plus years dedicated to the martial arts, and I loved running around with my kids and playing Nerf… poof, gone almost overnight…

I tried to fight the depression with humor but it grew darker and darker until I was unsure if I wanted to live anymore. I would stay up at night literally crying and nothing else, utterly broken and during the days I would literally do absolutely nothing unless I absolutely had to. I felt like my life was over…

…flash forward to February 1st, 2023… I am rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, puking all over, keeled over in the worse stomach pain I’d ever felt. I had cold chills, and sweats, and couldn’t stop myself from shaking like some sort of gross tickle-me-Fredmo doll. Every test is quickly run, IV fluids put in, and quickly they realize they are dealing with a case of sepsis and that I’d been battling it since the night before (but another hospital sent me home saying it was nothing).

I am immediately surrounded by doctors and nurses, my blood pressure is 60/40, and my skin is yellow; I am rushed for more tests and it shows that all of my organs but my heart and lungs are failing or in pre-failure.  One doctor said my body was a ticking time bomb; I had so many specialists, MRIs, they took so much blood I think they were selling it on the black market, CT scans, tubes down my throat several times, and vitals over and over and over again. I couldn’t eat, but I was voraciously thirsty, and on the second night, I wrote letters to my kids and wife I thankfully never got to give them in case I passed away. 

I was given a grave prognosis in the first few days and well, I was certain I would die and accepted it, and then…it didn’t happen and in fact, I started to get better. Eleven days I spent cooped up in the hospital getting treatments and tests, tests and treatments, and luckily, for my own sanity my wife kept me company during some of visiting hours. Once I went home, I had to schedule an appointment to have my gallbladder removed, and for about 20 days I had my vitals checked daily and a few times a week I had an at-home nurse. 

How did almost dying equate to Hashem teaching me a lesson? Well, it was out of the blue, struck fast and hard and even my doctors were saying that my body was poisoning my bloodstream, almost trying to destroy every part of me at once. Then it all started to get better; after I fought, after I wanted to live after I told Hashem I wanted to be a better husband and parent if I get out alive. After I struggled hoping I would pull through to see my kids and wife again, to go to synagogue again, to hear the songs and prayers sung around me and alongside/with me. 

I lived.

I was inspired, to be better, to do more, to be more, to find stuff…things to fill my life with that are fulfilling again. I for certain have become a better father and husband thanks to a book I am reading and rereading called “The Garden of Peace by Rabbi Shalom Arush,” which is invaluable. I am also preparing to go back to school next year to double major in English and History, which I hope to complete a doctoral program/associate professor. 

I have also picked up some new hobbies; music (learning guitar), fingerboarding, modern primitivism – (Pottery and clay sculpting, dance, drumming/percussion,  survival/bush crafting, warrior skills), working out, etcetera. 

I’ve also made some major lifestyle changes, for a long time we cut out sugar because I am diabetic, well we cut down on carbs, low fat, vegetarian, and only portion sizes, and I so far have gone from Feb 2023 – 318lbs May 2023 – 255lbs. I have not even started to work out because I have just today finished the doctor’s recommended time of healing from my gallbladder removal. I feel better than I have felt in decades, and other than losing my ability to walk much, everything else returned to normal, all of my organs, my diabetes is perfectly managed, my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol is good, my heart looks good, lungs too. 

My doctors have been amazed at my transformation, and have said that if I can keep lowering my weight and get it to normal ranges, I’d be in perfect health other than my spine issues. 

Perhaps a week after I returned home, I found out a good friend of mine in Bulgaria had sepsis at the same exact time as me, only he was not quite as lucky as I am. So, I am thankful, I am truly blessed, I was spared, my life was returned to my body and I was given a new outlook on everything, including my condition (aka not being able to walk). I saw that there was still so much more life to live and so many more experiences for me to have, as well as so many more mitzvot to perform. 

I am elated at life, every moment of it, every second that I get to experience it, and my new hobbies more than makeup for what I’d lost with my legs. Hashem taught me this lesson, and although it was terrifying for me and my family, it was much needed to sort of kick me in the keister to realize what I still have and can do. Baruch Hashem!!!