08 Sep R’ Yehuda “Yudi” Dukes is Going to Rehab!
Rabbi Yehuda “Yudi” Dukes, the founder and director of JNet, the Jewish Learning Network, has spent
nearly half a year in critical condition due to complications from COVID-19. He endured four and a half
months on a ventilator, and experienced double lung failure, a tracheotomy, septic shocks, and countless
other life-threatening conditions throughout his hospitalization. The 38-year-old father of six from Long
Island, New York, is believed to be one of the longest-hospitalized coronavirus patients in the US. After 158
days, he finally left the ICU on Friday to begin rehab.
On Facebook this past weekend, R’ Yudi’s wife Sarah Spangenthal Dukes made 2 posts.
YUDI IS GOING TO REHAB
After almost half a year of being in critical condition from tremendous complications from covid- which included double lung failure, needing to be in an induced coma, a tracheotomy, 9 weeks on ECMO, 4.5 months on a ventilator, 4 chest tubes, pancreatitis, life-threatening infections in his blood and heart, sepsis, and septic shocks, a stroke, dangerous clot in his leg, micro brain hemorrhages, severe liver injury, transfusions, skin tears, surgery, dozens of procedures, bone fractures, chemotherapy, and SO MUCH MORE, Yudi shows the world what unity, prayer, positive thinking, and complete trust in G-d can accomplish. He is a true miracle and will soon be, with the help of aggressive PT, a WALKING miracle! For SO LONG we have been DREAMING of getting to this point in Yudi’s recovery where the doctors could even start talking about rehab- AND IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING!!! I am so proud of my husband’s perseverance, determination and commitment, and I consider it to be the biggest honor to be his wife! After 158 days, Yudi has officially fulfilled his mission in being in NYU’s Intensive Care Unit, and now has a special mission to accomplish in Rusk (NYU’s rehabilitation program) before coming home. Yudi will be getting aggressive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and swallow therapy to help get his body functional and strong again. He will also continue to be treated by a medical team while he continues to heal and recover. Yudi and I feel sad to leave his current medical team- the team who kept him alive for 23 weeks. The team who witnessed the miracle of Yudi’s recovery unfold first hand. We will forever be indebted to the medical staff at NYU Langone. But as sad as this departure is (there is definitely some separation anxiety!), Yudi leaving this medical team and beginning with a new one at Rusk is part of the miracle. So now, onward and upward! Please continue to pray for a FULL and COMPLETE recovery in body and mind for Chaim Schneur Zalman Yehuda ben Hinda Yocheved and may we very soon be DANCING with him as he leaves NYU for good! Next step- HOME!!!! Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov Ki Liolam Chasdo. L’chaim!!!
THE REBBE’S DOLLAR
Back in May, a very special woman reached out to me asking if she could come over. She had been praying nonstop for my husband’s recovery and felt very connected to him even though she never met him. She wanted to gift Yudi with a dollar she received personally from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, 32 years ago on Chai Elul- the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Elul. She chose to give him this specific dollar because of the date, Chai = Chaim for the new added name we gave to Yudi, and because of the blessings she received from the Rebbe together with the dollar, “Kesiva V’Chasima Tova” and “Besoros Tovos” (Loosely translated as “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”- which is what we wish each other during the month before Rosh Hashana- the Jewish New Year, and “There should be good news!”) She wanted Yudi to have these blessings. That night, Bruria Eisner brought the dollar to Yudi so he could have it in his room. Before putting it in his tefillin bag to keep it safe, I asked if she was comfortable putting it in his hand for a couple of minutes. Yudi is a devoted shliach and a chossid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and I felt like it was important for him to know and feel that the Rebbe was right there with him. At this point, things weren’t so stable. Yudi was on very high settings on the ECMO machine and ventilator. He was heavily sedated and was in a coma. But when Bruria put the dollar in Yudi’s hand, he immediately closed his fingers around it and held onto it tightly. Even in his unconscious state, Yudi knew this was from the Rebbe. (See photo of Yudi’s hand around the dollar from my post on May 20). Bruria tried taking the dollar to put it away, but Yudi would not let go of his grip. Bruria knew something powerful and special was happening, and decided to let Yudi hold onto the dollar for the night. She made sure all the nurses knew about it and they agreed to watch over it. The next day when Bruria returned, she saw he was still holding the dollar, just as tight. He didn’t want to let it go. She and the other nurses all thought it was a good idea to continue letting him hold it as long as he needed. For months afterwards this dollar stayed in Yudi’s hand. The nurses were careful to make sure he was always holding onto it, and they kept it safe. This dollar was Yudi’s lifeline, and they were all able to see it. This dollar has not left his side. Now that Yudi is awake, his dollar is taped securely right next to him on the bed, accessible to him at any time. And now to make this story even more incredible: someone pointed out to me that Chai Elul falls out TONIGHT which means Yudi was discharged from the ICU and into an acute rehabilitation center this past Friday afternoonthe eve of the Sabbath of Chai Elul!!! Yudi had these beautiful blessings all along- and now, months later, they are finally revealed. The Rebbe was making it clear that even though things seemed terrifying in the moment, everything was going to be ok. Yudi was going to be OK. And he would be “inscribed and sealed for a good year”. I want to wish EVERYONE a Kesiva V’chasima Tova L’Shana Tova Umesuka- You all played a part in this miracle and deserve a year filled with complete healthy, inner peace, and only revealed good! L’Chaim!!!! To CHAIM Schneur Zalman Yehuda ben Hinda Yocheved on this night of CHAI Elul, and to “besoros tovos” – “good news” and a happy, sweet life for us all!