A New Day

Posted on January 4th, 2012

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Last night I came home from the hospital and tried to write an update. But I was exhausted and depressed and had nothing really significant to say. Since the surgery, Stella has been in a great deal of pain, both physical and (as I could tell from her usually smiling face) — mental. She was utterly despondent and nothing I could say or do would cheer her up. The nurses made her go from the bed to a chair which she hated because of the pain of sitting up. As soon as she could, she got back into the bed and closed her eyes in a morphine induced sleep.

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I felt completely helpless and so I tried a few times to find some optimistic things to tell you, her Army, and I just couldn’t. I fell asleep with my laptop open on my pillow filled with sad words.

BUT — around 4:00 AM I woke up and checked my e-mail and saw a message from a friend who had spent the night with Stella at the hospital. And that message instantly lifted my mood. I want to share a portion with you:

My hours with Stella today were better than I expected.  She seemed to improve over the course or the evening, sat in the chair twice for about 20 minutes each time, used her spirometer fairly regularly and was happy to receive frequent leg and foot massages. We had numerous short, verbal exchanges and she smiled quite a number of times.

She was in and out of the bed for prolonged periods of time and with little help, shifting positions, and trying to sleep- all with no extra pain coverage. She told me a few times that she’s not in that much discomfort, and while yes, she is still getting a baseline drip and has the epidural, I firmly believe she is being STOIC STELLA. Just the NG tube alone is pretty horrible and did not hear her utter one word of complaint the entire time I was there. Hmph.

As expected, Stella is very determined to get through this and is taking like a warrior. I think Stella will be feeling much better once the tubes start coming out and her body starts to recover from the shock of surgery.

I am back with her this morning and the change since yesterday is dramatic. She has her “game face” on and fully accepts that she has to do some things that are not so comfortable to get better. We just took a walk in the hallway together, with the nurses all giving us big smiles as we walked by. If we could bottle her determination, we could all be Olympic Champions.

Her foot is smiling

She is not yet up to e-mailing, but after this post I am going to read her some of the e-mails and Facebook Posts, so don’t hesitate to write. She is also not up to visitors. Sorry but she would rather see you all when she can have normal conversations and not have tubes sticking out of her. She did not want me to take a regular picture so you will have to make do with the stunning portrait on the right until she feels more herself.

Chesed Meals

Now, I want to explain something that is very important to me.

As many of you are aware, I have decided not to request Chesed meals from the Yishuv at this time. This is not, G-d forbid, that I don’t appreciate everyone’s strong desire to help us. Knowing that so many people care and want to help has played a major role in getting us this far. So don’t think that we take for granted all the offers.

BUT — I do not want my children to think of themselves as helpless victims. I want them all to know that they have the ability to step up and help the family. My kids can make a pot of pasta as well as anyone. But doing so is very empowering. I would rather eat something that one of my kids made for me that may be a tad overcooked or bland than the best gourmet meals on the planet. Sure, we do have days when we can’t manage it. But isn’t that what pizza and burgers are for?

I do not want to dismiss all of your offers out of hand because there IS something you can do to help (and it may even include chesed meals.)

I need to embarrass our closest friends to tell you this, but I see no other way to go about it.  So here goes.

Stella and I have known Josh and Romi Sussman for years. We lived across the street from each other in Potomac, have had similar spiritual journeys, raised kids together, and talked about, planned, and eventualy made Aliya to the same place. We have spent countless Shabbat meals together, just joking around.

But while friendships during good times are fun, it’s during not so good times when you really need them.

From the day that Stella first went to the emergency room, they have been supporting our every need. They have sat with us in the Doctor’s office when we were told that Stella had almost no chance, and they were there when we were told that she did indeed have a chance. I encourage you to read Romi’s account of those days.

Why am I telling you this? Because unlike us, the Sussmans do have little kids at home, lots of them (dozens I think.)  They work, take care of their kids, and have somehow found a way to be here for us physically, emotionally and any other sort of way you can think of.

So if I do have a request for you it is this. If they need it, help the Sussmans out. They may need someone to pick a kid up or watch kids at night. They may come back from shlepping me around exhausted and emotionally drained and don’t want to cook. Instead of filling our freezer with meals that we may never get around to eating, call them and ask if you can make them a meal.

I know it may feel better to cook a meal for a family going  through a crisis, but we need the Sussmans to be taken care of so that they can take care of us. (Just make sure to e-mail them so that their actual needs can be met.) Stella and I would feel especially grateful if you did so.

As always, thank you for your time, your prayers, and your love.

Since everyone is asking, let me just conclude by telling you that the surgery was the most “radical” option. They removed Stella’s stomach, spleen, gall bladder, and a bunch of other stuff. They also took out a few pints of melted Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

Yarden Frankl, Sha’ari Zedek, Jerusalem

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  1. rutimizrachi says:

    “They also took out a few pints of melted Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.” Thank you for the smile at the end. It is your sense of humor under fire — as much as Stella’s courage — that has gotten the rest of us through this mess.

  2. Yitzchak Van Leeuwen says:

    I second that…

  3. Miriam Poch says:

    We are all there for you. Keep fighting. We will keep praying. Lots of love and hope. Miriam.

  4. Nava Feldman says:

    Yossie and his friends at mitzpech yericho have been learning and davening for Stella–much sweeter than even Ben & Jerry’s (and fewer calories too)!

  5. Miriam Poch says:

    How do I change the flag next to my name. I am not in the US.

  6. Suzanne Lieberman says:

    Just keep reminding yourselves that we are all in this together. The outpouring of love and concern around the world is amazing. Thank you, internet!

  7. Judith Mamou says:

    We keep on praying for Stella’s full recovery. May God answer positively to our prayers, you’re always in our thoughts

  8. Raizi says:

    Glad to hear Stella’s making progress. We all wish you a speedy and complete recovery. Will you eventually be allowed to eat Ben & jerry’s again?
    Sure hope so. Oh, & love the sock. Stella, you’re the only one I know that can make a fashion statement under the circumstances.
    Hang in there. Hugs & tefilot! Raizi

  9. suzette tanen says:

    A beautiful post as always. I’ve found that doing something for someone else even though you are the one having a hard time (or in your case asking for help for someone else) has had a karmic effect and brings me to things I’ve never even dreamed of!

  10. Shulie Bergman says:

    Stella is in our tefillos everyday.
    May she have a speedy recovery

  11. libby anfinsen says:

    A sigh of relief from me Stella and Jordan inasmuch as all your brave efforts have brought you to here, and it is a good place~! May the tough job of recuperation move smoothly and with minimal pain. Libby

  12. elana says:

    Hey Frankl-Millers – I love you so much and was sad and happy all at the same time to read this post. I hate thinking about all the pain Stella is suffering, and at the same time, she continues to inspire all of us. My deepest wishes for a full and speedy recovery to you all. Please know that the Frankl-Millers back in the US are all praying for you and sending love your way. Elana

  13. Ruth Baars says:

    Been davening for Stella everyday.
    So happy to see your post today. With smiles, Ruth

  14. Stephanie Frumkin says:

    Refuah shelaima, Stella! So happy to hear the surgery is over and you’re recovering. Please G-d, it should go smoothly and as easily as possible. Thinking of you and your family and continuing to daven for you.
    Take care,
    Stephanie and Dan

  15. Thanks Ruth

  16. Jules Feldman says:

    Refuah Shleima Stella .
    It was nice meeting you last week .
    Pity we did not have a chance then for a real chat.
    Be Strong both of you
    Jules and Nitsan

  17. Paul Goldstein says:

    It may be Stella’s Army, but Yarden, you’re the general. Without your constant outpouring of love and non-stop support, Stella’s rough road would have been considerably more difficult. Yasher koach to you for what you’ve done and for who you are. Make sure Stella reads this, Yarden! And again, a refuah shalema to your aishes chail.

  18. Adina Gewirtz says:

    Refuah Sheleimah!

  19. David Bernstein says:

    May we continue to share in good news! B”eH the recovery will continue
    and the Ben and Jerry’s (and other) should plague you no more!
    Might I suggest Haagen Daaz? Hatzlacha and Bracha!
    Keep the good news coming!

  20. Dena Kaufmann says:

    Anyone who has had the privilege of knowing the two of you , not just as individuals but as a couple , could only conclude that your partnership was surely made by the Almighty. Through all the good times and now the difficult, yours is a love affiar worthy of a book and a movie. Jordan, I have always admired your love of life, your sensitivity and your strength. That coupled with your amazing ability to communicate your thoughts and your ideas in writing and verbally has given all of us a window into this very difficult, public yet intimate time. Stella, I have always admired your….. well everything. While the many miracles that have gotten you both to this point has been compelling and inspirational – your love story has always been one for the ages.

  21. Sarah says:

    Dear Stella & Jordan –

    Emil & I are so happy to hear that the Stella weathered the surgery (never a given!) and is on the road to recovery. When we didn’t hear any news on Sunday . . . or Monday . . . or Tuesday . . . I was really getting worried that no news was bad news. Fortunately, Daniel E. had good news from s/o in Potomac and was able to ease my mind.

    Wishing you a smooth, speedy and complete recovery,

    …….. Sarah

  22. rachel himelstein says:

    taking each stage as it comes and thankful for every moment of progress however small and however difficult. keeping us all aware of how blessed we are to have you in our lives.

  23. tzipporah rudensky says:

    on our lifes journey painful things happen. .the response to difficulties becomes a catylst for change…it affects our thinking and our behavior…we are all connected..what happens to your family touches all of us…the pain,the joy of hope,the caring and resultant introspection of being sameach b’chelko posits brightly in our mind…stella .IS..our shining star,and so are you yarden…you have taken us into your hearts and shown us so many facets and ways of being when confronted with seemingly unsurmountable mountains…b’ezrat hashem all will be well…we have taken you into our hearts and into our prayers…much love and thank you for this tikun olam

  24. Samara says:

    Yarden ,I think you are just as amazing as Stella, of course, in a different way. Your idea of expecting the kids to step up is really commendable. So for now, we will not be bringing by any meals, but I’ve said it before and I’ll tell you again. They can come over and join us for a meal and some fun in our home, whenever they wish. Our doors are open always.

    To Stella, Huge Hugs (Gently though). We are praying for you, rooting for you every minute of the day. I went to watch the girls at Taikwondo for a few minutes today. Rivka was smiling, and man can she kick! Yeddidya better watch out!

    Looking forward to having Yedidya for Shabbat!

  25. Iris says:

    i’ve never been so happy to see a sock. What a beautiful sock cause it’s Stella’s–great post, great sentiments. Stella, we are all your cheerleaders-(even though the guys may look dorky in the outfits)–what a relief to see the post-we can all breath a little now and i pray that your pain will lessen day by day.

  26. Phyllis and Harold says:

    We agree it was a big relief to read this post after several days of no news. You’ve spoiled us! But of course take as much time as you need. Our thoughts of you and prayers for your refuah sheleima don’t stop. Our warmest wishes to all the family.

  27. dassi says:

    So glad Stella is on the mend. Taking it day by day (and when necessary hour by hour or minute by minute) can make coping easier. And it helps you to really notice progress when it comes! And Yarden, your suggestions of how best to help are duly noted (you may not realize that sometimes you and Stella are so alike). We are sending lots of love and praying for more good news. Lots of love from the Jacobsons

  28. noa choritz says:

    Yay for the Sussman’s! What you wrote about helping them help you is so true – a couple years ago we had some crazy family stuff happen (in the span of 3 days one sister burried a child and sat shiva while another sister got married) and I was the one who was holding everything together…a couple of our closest friends offered to do things for my family (picking up kids, dinners, babysitting) which freed me up to do the things my sisters needed….was far more helpful! Also, in terms of Stella’s pain (I see a bunch of people wrote this) but as a nurse, IME days 3 and 6 are the worst pain-wise from abdominal surgeries. Stay strong and get through those days!

  29. Russ Chittum says:


    Pull up her stock to the knee for photos, otherwise there are communities that will riot… I am thankful that tefila and Stella’s olympic style have paid off to this point. Keep winning.