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A Letter of Gratitude as Rafi Meles Departs CHOP

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By Dina and Dovi Meles

With tremendous gratitude to the Almighty, we are so happy to share with all of you that Rafi’s surgery to remove his central line was successful and he will be discharged back home from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) tomorrow afternoon. We understand that there are still many unknowns in the months ahead and there are complications and risks that can arise post-transplant. But Rafi is going home two weeks earlier than expected, and that is significant.

As Rafi and Dina depart CHOP after five long weeks and return home to reunite with Dovi and the other kids, we want to take this time to pause and reflect and to express our deep hakarat hatov, our gratitude to a number of individuals and institutions who have been incredible supports and resources to us over the last few months.

To the dozens of members of Rafi’s expert care team at CHOP, from the attending physicians from oncology/transplant and immunology and genetics, to the nurse practitioners, registered nurses, dietitians, social workers, case managers, child life, art therapy, music therapy and the volunteers who cared for Rafi so deeply, we can never repay you. People come from all over the world to get care at CHOP, and we feel blessed to have been able to bring Rafi here and that we have such a gift of a hospital so close to home. He was cared for as if he was their own child.

Rafi’s medical team, led by world renowned experts, took great care of him from the day he arrived until the day of his discharge. We express tremendous gratitude to Dr. Sarah Henrickson at CHOP, who followed Rafi closely for years and found the potentially life-threatening genetic defect and then climbed mountains to verify this incredibly rare diagnosis—and held our hand through the transplant process. You are a gifted physician and we were lucky to have you as part of Rafi’s care team.

Thank you to Chai Lifeline of New Jersey/Pennsylvania and specifically to Yehoshua Brodsky and the skilled team assigned to CHOP, who provided case management, resources, support, information and yummy meals both in the hospital and at home. Very special thank you to the staff at RCCS Brooklyn, who have provided endless support to our family while Rafi was in the hospital. Your acts of pure kindness and chesed know no bounds.

We thank our home community of Cherry Hill for setting up meal trains to feed Dovi and the kids while Dina was busy at CHOP tending to Rafi. And, when Rafi expressed an interest in making sure that his hospital room would have Jewish books to read, Artscroll, Mesorah and Feldheim made sure to make that happen, kindly sending boxes of books to house in the days leading up to his admission and inviting Rafi to a private tour of their factory to see how Jewish books are printed.

Rav Hershel Schechter, shlita, who, from early on made himself available and accessible for fielding difficult halachic sheilot that no parent should ever have to ask, but who answered them directly, without judgment and with care and empathy. Rabbi Michael Davies and Rabbi Yehudah Willig, who made themselves available at all times to talk, and Rabbi Yona Reiss, who assisted us with Rafi’s name change process, a difficult and painstaking but important part of Rafis road to recovery. My former rebbe, Rabbi Shimon Max and Vivian Richmond at the Chofetz Chaim in Cherry Hill for volunteering to assist our family with the very time consuming task of managing the emergency chesed fund that was established, we cannot thank you enough.

We thank Dovi’s parents, whose world stopped when ours did as well. What was supposed to be the months following their retirement from long careers turned quickly into helping us day in and day out, especially while Dina and Rafi were away. They helped care for our other children over the last few weeks, taking them to doctors’ appointments, activities, driving them around, and having them over during the week and on Shabbos. We could not have done it without you.

We thank our entire family who supported us in ways that they were able to mostly from afar. A special thank you to Shmuel, Dina’s brother who became a direct donor to Akiva and drove down to south Jersey and donated blood in anticipation that Akiva may need it should he have to be transfused post-donation. Luckly, Akiva did not need to be transfused and Shmuel’s donated blood went on to help another patient in the hospital.

And, above all, we thank each and every one of you who davened and prayed for Rafi. This we feel was most important. All of you who stormed the gates of heaven with your tefilos and ensured that God would hear our collective cries that Rafi make it through this. If we have learned anything from this, we have learned the absolute power of communal prayer. We are well aware that people from across the United States, Canada and Israel were davening for Rafi (and Akiva), and we have been so moved and touched by this.

And, to the more than 800 individuals who contributed to Rafi’s fund, we thank you. These funds have already been put to good use to help cover costs as Dina has been out of work, bills needed to get paid and kids needed to be watched. We now shift focus to Rafi at home, and we know that funds raised will need to be used to provide Rafi home-based instruction, extracurricular activities and full-time babysitting this coming year. Your kind tzedaka has ensured us financial stability over the last five weeks and into the coming year so that we can focus on Rafi. Thank you.

To the Young Israel of East Brunswick and the Riverdale Jewish Center, both former shuls of ours, who both took on special targeted campaigns to raise funds for our family, we are moved and humbled by your deep care for our family. You are both very special shuls who care deeply about your community and consider your shul members family. A very special thank you to the leadership of the Jewish Press and the New Jersey Jewish Link, who helped spread the word by requests for communal tehillim for weeks on end. To Nachum Segal of the NSN, who shared Rafi’s story with all of his listeners. We are moved by all of your willingness and eagerness to help and support our family.

The months ahead won’t be easy, physically, emotionally or psychologically; we know that. But we are now more hopeful than ever that Rafi will recover from this, and he will go on to lead a very long and meaningful life, contributing to this world in ways that only Rafi can.

May God above, the true and ultimate healer, continue to bring a full refuah to Rafi—and to all of those who are in need of one!

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