Lichai – Alive and Singing!
Feb 5, 2014
Four years ago, he was an ordinary teenager, a popular student in his last year of Amit Yeshiva High School in Beer Sheva. Today, at age 21, Lichai is a hero, struggling with unbelievable challenges and emerging victorious. For the past year, he has emerged as the foremost success story at the ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitative Village. In spite of his handicaps, he has begun attending the University, and recently recorded his first song professionally at a local studio. The words of his song give us a glimpse into his rich wellsprings of faith and courage: “Do not be broken, do not fear, hold tight to your faith… Not all is black… there is light at the end of the tunnel!”
Lichai was born completely healthy and lived a normal, typical life, drinking in the world with all his senses, learning, moving, growing. At age 17, after several months of unexplained illness, he was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor which gradually dominated his brain stem and deactivated a number of his central nerves. Samples of the growth were sent to hospitals all over the world, yet no one had a solution to offer for this rare tumor.
Within a short time, Lichai’s life turned into a nightmare. He lost most of his hearing, and soon after, his sight and mobility. “At first, I didn’t understand what lay ahead of me. I had no idea how serious the problem was. Sure, I was frightened, but I was positive that in a month or two, it would be behind me,” Lichai recalls that chilling time. ”When I finally grasped what was going on, at first, I had really grim thoughts – I couldn’t see myself living the rest of my life like this. Then I got hold of myself and said – Hey, if I want to get through this, I’ll need to be a really strong guy.”
One of the hardest parts for Lichai was losing his independence. When his legs stopped serving him, he was confined to a wheelchair and needed the help of his mother or a friend to get around. His hearing is seriously impaired, and he can see only blurry shapes; he cannot identify people by face. At one point in the illness, the growth pressing on his brain caused him to have involuntary reactions of various kinds.
The one thing Lichai had from the beginning was plenty of love and moral support. His family was and continues to be very involved – from his mother, who is at his side devotedly almost the entire day, down to his adoring two-year-old niece. As for his friends, Lichai says: “One of the best things that happened to me as a result of the tumor was that I learned how special my friends are and how much they are willing to do for me. “ During his months of illness in twelfth grade, his classmates and teachers came to visit regularly. Never for a moment did he feel forgotten. Even after graduation, when his classmates went on to their next stage of life, they continued to invite him to birthday celebrations and other landmark occasions, keeping him in the loop at all times.
After an extended period at Beit Levenstein, Lichai moved on to the ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran Rehabilitative Village, a facility known throughout the world as the paradigm of excellence in rehabilitative care. Over the past year, thanks to the high standard of care at ALEH and Lichai’s irrepressible self-motivation, he made significant progress towards independent functioning. He entered ALEH’s portals in a wheelchair, but has already achieved the ability to walk with a walker and is now working on advancing to crutches. Lichai learned to type on computer, mastered the use of signs to compensate for his sight impairment, and acquired skills for managing in the home. Along with physical therapy and practical skills, Lichai was couched in emotional supportive therapies that helped strengthen his self-image and cement his resolve to become all he can be. His progress represents a model of successful multidisciplinary rehabilitation.
Music was always Lichai’s love. After working with a speech therapist to improve the clarity of his speech, today Lichai is able to sing, and often appears in choirs at the Rehabilitative Village’s events as the star soloist. From the moment he became ill, he found solace in writing poetry and songs – to himself, to G-d, to his mother, to anyone. His songs glow with optimism and reflect his deep faith. “I see a lot of people in much better shape than me, who allow themselves to lapse into despair. I don’t understand it. If you believe that things will be good, you’ve already done half the journey to recovery. My faith in G-d and in a better tomorrow is what keeps my head above water. ‘Giving up’ is not in my lexicon.”
Several months ago, Lichai was thrilled to record his first song professionally. He first wrote it as a poem, which his teachers – who continue visiting him to this day – asked permission to print in the school newspaper. A student who was deeply moved by the poem composed music for the words, and Lichai’s dream was to get his inspiring song out to the public. Gabi Suisa, owner of a professional recording studio in Beer Sheva, heard about Lichai’s aspirations and jumped at the opportunity to help him make his dream a reality, refusing to take a penny for his efforts.
Anyone who meets Lichai, expecting to find a helpless, disabled, despondent individual, is astonished to find a cheerful young man with unstoppable faith and rare optimism – rare even for people whose lives have been far less challenging than his. Rather than needing support, Lichai is the one to support and inspire others. His life is one unbroken song of faith for all who know him.
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