Dodging a Bullet
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Dodging a Bullet

Sep 3, 2012 at 10:41:00 PM

This week I read the horrific story of Thalidomide, a drug which pregnant women took during the late 1950s and early '60s to counter the nausea of "morning sickness."

Many children born to these mothers were too deformed to survive; those who did survive had a soaring rate of birth defects – most commonly stumps of arms and legs.

Today there is a whole group of armless survivors called "Thalidomide kids." They include an amazing guitar player who plays with his toes, and a filmmaker whose feature documentary on the disastrous side-effects of Thalidomide, "NoBody's Perfect," won the 2009 German Film Award for Best Documentary.

The drug was pulled from sale in 1961 after doctors linked it to birth defects.

Now – this week, 50 years later – the German pharmaceutical company Gruenenthal has finally apologized for the damage caused.

Also this week my mother told me that when she was pregnant with me (in 1960-61), the doctor suggested looking into the possibility of Thalidomide.

Thankfully, she refused.

Imagine what my life would be like, had my mother made a different decision.

Life is so complex, so fraught with perilous decisions at every turn.

Some people prosper, while others suffer.

We see "bad things" that happen to us, and may feel that our lot in life is unfair. Yet what about the many things in life that could have happened – the near-misses – that we don't even know about?

When put in this perspective, our own set of challenges becomes easier to bear. No, I didn't suffer the disaster of Thalidomide. But I do have my own set of challenges. And I embrace them, knowing that my life is closely guided by a loving and caring God.

Published: September 3, 2012


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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Anonymous, October 6, 2012 3:29 AM

Even if your mother had taken thalidomide and you had become a thalidomide baby how to you know that HaShem could meet this challenge of the pharmaceutical corporation only apologizing for their mistake years later by HaShem as a loving compassionate G-d getting you to rise to the challenge and doing something more wonderful in life than you have done so far and have been less blessed as a result of not having become a gifted thalidomide baby blessed to have some stumps perhaps and show that your soul still was able to make your body hold because HaShem is holy.

(1) Saul Pillai, September 5, 2012 1:01 AM

Thank you

Dear Rabbi Shraga, Thank you so much for this sharing. It’s so true what you wrote about the near misses in life and the things that could have happened. Makes me truly grateful for the many things that I in my human weakness and blindness have failed to see/understand. Also your last two sentences really touched me; “But I do have my own set of challenges. And I embrace them, knowing that my life is closely guided by a loving and caring G_d.”

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