In the summer of 1968, while I was studying at the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Montreal, a fellow student and close friend of mine was appointed to be a teacher in the Lubavitch School in Boston, Massachusetts. In order to make the move, he asked me for my assistance. More than eager to help my friend, I agreed. We packed his family into the car and made the five-hour drive from Montreal to Boston. But, for me, the trip didn’t end there, as I needed to return to Montreal. Shortly after I returned to Montreal, I travelled to Chicago make to participate in a friend’s wedding. Upon my return to Montreal I decided to make the six-hour trek to Upstate New York to visit my younger brother who was working at a summer camp there.
I arrived late at night, and having driven close to 2,500 miles in a few days’ time, I was beyond exhausted. Too tired to look for my brother, I found his room and just collapsed on his bed. When he finally returned having no idea that I was there, he flipped on the light and woke me up. But when I opened my eyes, the indescribable happened – I felt as if a knife had sliced through my eyes; the pain was excruciating. I tried to go back to sleep but, of course, this was impossible and, as soon as morning arrived, I ran to the store to buy some Visine eye drops. They didn’t help at all. So, in great pain and having no choice, I got back home to Newark, New Jersey, where my mother arranged an appointment for me with an optician.
After examining my eye, the optician said, “I am sorry, but this is out of my league. I am going to refer you to an eye doctor by the name of Dr. Plain.”
Dr. Plain happened to be a Jewish doctor, although he struck me as someone who was uninformed of anything Jewish. He looked at my eye, spent several minutes examining it and then broke the news to me as gently as he could: “As a result of sleep deprivation, the pressure built up in your eye, and the cornea – tissue covering the eye – ruptured. Unless we perform a cornea transplant, you will lose your eye.”
In the meantime, he put a pressure patch on my eye to reduce the swelling and ease the pain. And he immediately arranged an appointment for me with a premiere eye surgeon in New York.
At that time there were only two doctors in America who performed such operations – a doctor in Texas and Dr. Kostoviaro in Manhattan – so Dr. Plain had to use all of his influence to squeeze me ahead of some two hundred people on the waiting list. However, he succeeded, and I was examined by Dr. Kostoviaro and his assistants. They concluded that surgery was necessary but, I would have to wait some time for a donor to become available. (more…)