Monday, May 25, 2020

Each day we learn of more people in the community who are suffering from the widespread Coronavirus, sending many to area hospitals where some are being put on ventilators. Bergenfield resident Michael Goldsmith, Moshe Eliezer haLevi ben Esther Tzipora, has been intubated since March 20, at Hackensack University Medical Center. His wife, Elana, wants to share his story with the community.

Michael began to feel sick in early March, shortly after Purim. Elana explained that weeks ago when her husband first became ill his doctors were not certain it was Covid-19. They tested him and told him to quarantine at home while he awaited results. Days later he was confirmed positive and his symptoms had worsened, sending him to Hackensack Hospital where doctors determined his oxygen levels were alarmingly low. After much consideration, they told Michael that intubating him would allow his body to rest and hopefully recover from the virus.

Michael’s doctors thought he would benefit from Remdesivir, a drug believed to help with Covid-19, and told Elana that once intubated he would qualify for the treatment. The paperwork was immediately processed, yet to their disbelief, Michael was declined.

Gilead Sciences, makers of Remdesivir, changed the "compassionate use" program guidelines and despite the fact that Michael initially qualified, under the new policies he no longer would. "Compassionate use" is now designated for pregnant women and those under 18 years of age. The next option was to apply for the drug through a clinical trial which had yet to begin at Hackensack Hospital, all the while Michael’s condition was getting worse instead of better.

They received a small glimpse of hope, said Elana, when Michael’s paperwork for the clinical trial was approved, but it was soon dismissed when the fine print indicated that a patient could only qualify if intubated for four days or less, a criteria that Michael’s circumstances had already exceeded, at the time by just two days. 

Elana has spent the last couple of weeks exhausting every outlet available to try to obtain the experimental drug treatment for her husband. She has connected with various elected officials and others close to the White House, including Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, all of whom she says have been trying to help. A physicians petition, which many have been circulating on social media, has collected 1,100 signatures and had been sent to Washington, urging President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act, with regard to Gilead Sciences, providing more patients access to the experimental drug. 

Elana believes her husband is part of an increasing number of people who have fallen through the cracks. “There are thousands of people who are not extended the drug under the "compassionate use" criteria and they don’t qualify for clinical trials, yet their condition is deteriorating,” she added.

A kindergarten teacher at Yavneh Academy, Elana says the support and generosity of community members, friends, neighbors and colleagues has been overwhelming. People are continually providing help to her and her two children, Joey, 9 and Sophie, 6, delivering basic necessities and offering moral support. BMOB (Beis Medrash of Bergenfield) had a trampoline assembled in her backyard for her kids to use, which was especially helpful while quarantining.

“My Yavneh family and the amazing parents of my kindergarten students have provided me and my family with an incredible amount of chesed,” said Elana. The community outreach has been astounding. “I never thought I would be in this position,” she lamented, adding that since Michael got sick she has learned firsthand how dedicated the community is to one another.

Elana is also incredibly grateful to the staff at Hackensack Hospital who have gone above and beyond to help her during this difficult time. The rules that surround Covid-19 treatments make routine requirements all the more tricky, she explained. Just handling necessary paperwork while she was quarantining presented a fair share of challenges. Nonetheless, the staff at the hospital made sure it got done, sending someone to Elana’s home in Bergenfield whenever necessary to deliver or pick up documents to be processed.

The distance Covid-19 has created between Michael and his family has been extremely taxing on Elana and the kids. To bridge the gap, Michael’s doctors have allowed her to send messages which they play for Michael and have even let her use Facetime so that she can see him. “Joey recently lost a tooth and desperately wanted to share the news with his father,” Elana said. Thanks to the compassion and support of the hospital staff, Joey was able to share his big moment in a video he recorded for Michael.

The Coronavirus does not discriminate in who it chooses to infect. Elana said her husband was a healthy, 34-year-old man with no underlying conditions who is now fighting for his life. The last few weeks have been painfully challenging for the Goldsmith family. Elana shared that amid the chaos, the support and encouragement from the community has provided them a renewed sense of hope.