Monday, April 20, 2009

A Story That Touches The Heart

Sometimes, you just read about something or someone- and it hits you, right there. It jars a window to your soul, opening your eyes to something you never felt before. I felt that today, reading this article about Dr. Rahamim Melamed-Cohen at

If you don't know who Dr. Melamed- Cohen is, well, he is one of the most inspiring people that I've ever read about. Dr. Melamed-Cohen was diagnosed with ALS- commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, when he was 57 years old. The doctors gave him 5 years to live. They told him that the disease would eventually claim all of his body, starting with paralysing his limbs, then making him unable to eat, and unable to breathe. Dr. Melamed-Cohen, a famous educator by trade, did not give in to the prediction.

He lives today, 12 years later, and is terminally ill, fed by a feeding tube, on a respirator, and communicates only via his eye movements. He has a special computer that interprets his eye movements into typed communication, much like Stephen Hawking, the famous mathemetician and physicist. However, he says that these years "are the most beautiful and happiest years of my life." He publishes books, teaches his students, writes his blog, creates artwork, spends time with his family and friends. His students visit him almost every day of the week. He still administers a Yeshiva that his father began, writes music, and he gives to everyone he meets.

He may not be able to move- but his open heart and mind are trying to give to everyone he meets. He is encouraging to others with problems, wishing them to have Simcha- happiness. He says, "DON'T DESPAIR, BE OPTIMISTIC, AND WORK ON SIMCHAH [JOY] IN YOUR HEART. NO MATTER WHAT YOU'RE LACKING, THINK OF WHAT'S POSSIBLE TO DO IN YOUR PRESENT SITUATION."

He debated with a famous doctor, Dr. Noam Reches, head of Israel's Medical Ethics Committee, who as the article states:

A searing segment of the film, "Heroes Against Their Will," shows Dr. Melamed-Cohen debating Dr. Noam Reches, the chairman of the Israel Medical Ethics Committee and a leading proponent of euthanasia, who himself has "pulled the plug" on request. Dr. Reches looks at the wheelchair-bound Dr. Melamed-Cohen, with the respirator tube connected to the tracheotomy in his neck, and says, "You can't feed yourself. You can't hug the people you love... If I were in your position, I'd want out."
Dr. Melamed-Cohen responds, "These are the most beautiful and happiest years of my life."
"Some other ALS patients when they were fully conscious asked to end their lives," Dr. Reches continues. "They didn't want to reach your situation of complete dependence on others."
Dr. Melamed-Cohen gazes at Dr. Reches and declares, "Believe me, my life is no less interesting than yours."

I admire you, Dr. Melamed-Cohen. Thank you for sharing your story.
Dr. Melamed-Cohen invites any interested reader of Sara Yoheved Rigler's article
to correspond with him at his email address:
Other articles on Dr. Melamed-Cohen: Rabbi Rutman
Jerusalem Post, Yad Sarah, and Dr. Melamed's Blog


tembow said...

wow! i've got chills

Something Different said...

I read about him once, maybe in mishpacha? It is truly an inspiration.

nmf #7 said...

TB and SD- yup, I was so privileged to read about him! Really a unique and special person