When Naomi Most was three months pregnant with her first child, she found out that her husband Eric had cancer. "He had been coughing for awhile, but he just assumed it was a cold," says Naomi. "When he finally went to the doctor, he was told it was nothing."
Then Eric began to have trouble breathing. "This time, the doctors said it was pneumonia, but I didn't trust the diagnosis," says Naomi, who had volunteered for a cancer hospital a year earlier and had seen patients with similar symptoms. She insisted on more tests. After a week of countless scans and x-rays, Eric was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
The first week, they spent over $500 in taxi fares traveling to and from the hospital.
From chemotherapy to radiation treatments to a bone marrow transplant, the Mosts have spent a lot of time in the hospital -- and traveling to and from the hospital. The first week alone, they spent over $500 in taxi fares. Then, through a friend, they learned about Darkei Miriam, a not-for-profit organization that provides cancer patients with transportation to hospitals in the greater Jerusalem area.
"We could not have gotten through this process without Darkei Miriam," says Naomi, who now has a 17-month-old son. "There are hundreds of volunteers who take turns driving people. They pick us up whenever we need, no matter what the time. They've also dropped my son off at daycare a few times. And it never feels like an imposition."
The generosity doesn't stop there. When Eric was in the hospital for a month getting a bone marrow transplant, people from Darkei Miriam visited him every single day. They've also taken the family on day-trips around Israel. "The reality is that you can't make my husband's cancer go away. But you can make the process easier -- and that's what Darkei Miriam tries to do," says Naomi.
Wisdom through Experience
The organization is named after Miriam Weingarten, a mother of 13 children who struggled with an aggressive form of breast cancer and passed away two years after she was diagnosed. The Weingarten family knew first-hand the emotional and financial trials of cancer, so they channeled their grief into helping others affected by the disease. Started in 2003, the organization is built on the belief that "No one is as wise as the one who is experienced."
Since its founding, the organization -- which now includes 450 volunteers -- has helped more than 10,000 people. Over 30,000 rides have been given. But that's just the beginning of the care: In the hospital, sick patients are visited twice a week. For children, there's a well-stocked library of 200 DVDs in the oncology ward. And sometimes, clowns stop by the rooms. To help families who are stuck in the hospital for hours, there are six "hospitality rooms" with an assortment of drinks and baked goods throughout the day. Before holidays, patients in need are given money vouchers and cash for everything from shoes to groceries. There is a saying that, "God doesn't ignore the prayers of many," so every month, there is a public prayer at the Western Wall for Darkei Miriam's patients.
"They went beyond the call of duty and I didn't even know them."
Hindy Flom learned about the organization the day she found out her husband had a brain tumor. "Whenever you called, they came. They were so eager to help that you almost felt like you were doing them a favor," says Hindy. When her husband, Rabbi Chaim Flom, became house-bound, the organization sent around a choir of young men to sing, dance, and liven up the home. "What my husband really wanted was to teach and share all that he had learned, so the only way he would agree to the singing was if he could give them a class. This exchange went on every week for three months until my husband grew too ill to continue."
Within five months of the diagnosis, Rabbi Flom succumbed to cancer. "The day he passed, I called Darkei Miriam to tell everyone about the funeral," says Hindy. "An hour later, volunteers showed up with chairs and everything we needed for sitting shiva -- without me even saying a word. And they also sent a van to take us to the funeral."
Hindy was so moved by her experience with Darkei Miriam that she rented a car for a month with the sole purpose of volunteering as a driver. "I knew I had to give back. Of all the people who reached out to us when my husband was sick, the people at Darkei Miriam did the most. They went beyond the call of duty and I didn't even know them," says Hindy. "What impressed me most about the Weingartens was that instead of being depressed after losing Miriam or feeling sorry for themselves, they went on and did something so big, something that's helped so many people."
You can also send donations directly to Darkei Miriam
9 Hartum Street
P.O. Box 58067 Jerusalem
Or call 050-414-7777 (from Israel) or 001-972-50-414-7777 (from America) for more information.