Eight years ago on a spring Shabbos morning, my wife said she was not feeling well. An hour later she was in the ICU paralyzed from the neck down. That day turned our world upside down. I was introduced to Chai Lifeline, which I had thought was simply a nice organization that gives sick kids gifts and takes them to Disney World, but over the next few months, I had realized how wrong I was. Chai Lifeline became a huge part of our lives.
It wasn’t only the day-to-day services that were so important for me and my family. It was the case manager that made all the difference. Knowing that there was someone available for us at any time for literally anything—from the smallest to the largest issues, not just on a practical level but on an emotional level as well—was a gamechanger. As things got better over the next couple of years, I was asked to speak about Chai Lifeline. Even though public speaking is not my forte, I pushed myself to do it to ensure that others had what I didn’t: an awareness of how Chai Lifeline could be there for them in the event of illness in the family and the scope of Chai Lifeline’s services. Then in 2017, I was recruited to work as a case manager in Chai Lifeline.
My day-to-day is centered around getting to know and helping families. When a child is diagnosed,the entire family is impacted, and my job is to gently and slowly build relationships with families, intuit their needs and then ensure that they receive the support they need. As a case manager, I am the point of contact for all sorts of help both emotional and physical. Whether it’s sitting quietly with a parent as they process, providing a listening ear during difficult conversations, serving as a liaison to schools and doctors, or ensuring that families are provided with big sisters and brothers, meals, transportation, respite in the hospital, or any assistance necessary… there is always something happening.
Being able to connect with families and provide a measure of relief during some of the most difficult days is incredibly meaningful. Attending a family’s simcha and witnessing their special moments after being privy to their personal struggles is another level of joy entirely. Watching everyday small moments, which for children battling illness are the really big milestones, like a kid riding a bike after he struggled to learn to take a few steps or walking through their front door after months in the hospital, is truly inspiring.