By: Kelly Jemal Massry

Back in 1993, a desperate family turned to Medstar for help after doctors were no longer offering hope to their gravely ill mother. Medstar got involved,  advising and assisting the family to transfer their mother to another hospital ICU that made all the difference.  Thank Gd,  the mother not only  made it through the crisis, but lived another ten years. Today, this family and numerous others with similar stories continue to look to Medstar for guidance with all kinds of medical issues ranging from straightforward to exceedingly complex.

This is the uniqueness of Medstar, our community’s full service portal to everything medical. For decades, this branch of Sephardic Bikur Holim has been advocating for community members, empowering them with knowledge and ensuring that they receive the best medical care. The staff at Medstar makes it their business to understand how the medical establishment works and then relay that invaluable information to the patient. Using the extensive connections they have made over the years with prestigious hospitals, the organization is cued in to inside information about the best physicians, the brightest stars the medical field has to offer. But Medstar doesn’t believe that giving the names of physicians is enough. They offer their expertise to guide patients throughout the processand work towards guaranteeing the best possible outcome. Medstar does the research and then speaks with those who know the physicians’ work firsthand. And only once they feel entirely comfortable with their choice do they present the information to the patient.

Medstar frames the patient as a “consumer of healthcare” – one who has the right to examine his options and make educated choices about treatment. Medical care is best performed when the patient and doctor collaborate and work together as partners. To this end, Medstar advises patients how to advocate for themselves during the process of medical treatment.

Medstar has been vouched for by trusted community members and top medical personnel. “They are always at the forefront of the best medical information,” says Dr. Stanley Schrem of NYU Langone Medical Center. “With a team of expert medical advisors, they make well-informed decisions that guarantee you receive the best referral for your needs.” And Rabbi David Ozeiry says, “Medstar responds promptly to the most complex of cases, creating solutions no one else has thought of. No other organization offers such a vast array of services.” Medstar is there through it all. It is no wonder they receive over 10,000 calls a year.

Its latest addition is a Cancer Center on premises, fully equipped with a conference room for patients and their families, a boutique and salon, a library, and other amenities. In addition to medical referrals, consultations with patients and families, and a day spa offering the cancer patient a much-needed “escape,” Medstar has included a unique program called “Caring Connections,” which connects cancer patients with cancer survivors who have been through similar circumstances. The relationship forged with the survivor instills hope and offers patients a “holding hand” from someone who understands their pain and concerns through firsthand experience.

Constantly researching ways to help patients in dealing with illness, Medstar has recently created a unique binder chock full of information and customized to an individual’s particular illness. Entitled The Roadmap to Wellness Workbook,  the book seeks to help patients get through their medical journey as smoothly as possible. This organizer was designed in order to offer a helping hand and perhaps some degree of control during a trying and often overwhelming time. Medstar hopes the medical workbook will prove to be a useful organizational tool and a helpful guide as patients navigate their way along their road to recovery.

The binder provides information on how to communicate with doctors, what questions to ask, how to get medical records, how to keep a medical history, and how to obtain one’s essential insurance information. A special section has also been included to help one prepare for a hospital stay, if needed. Organizational tools, like medication charts and calendars, are also included.

Another invaluable service Medstar has created is an informative website at Medstarmedical.org, which includes a treasure trove of medical information available not just in New York, but around the world. With keen foresight, Medstar took into account places community members might travel to – from New Jersey and Florida to Paris and Brazil – and provided them with hospital contacts, U.S. embassy addresses, 24-hour pharmacies, kosher restaurants, Hatzallahs, and Chabads. For example, an expectant father whose wife is in labor might desperately need to find a local Synagogue, a Shabbat meal, or a place to stay near the hospital. Or someone traveling in Europe may suddenly need some medical attention. Where do they turn to? Medstar is always there via telephone or internet to support and guide patients and their families through their frightening ordeal.

With decades of experience behind them, Medstar has evolved and adapted to accommodate just about every medical contingency you can think of. For those who have already experienced the benefits of Medstar’s assistance, theorganizationrepresents a clear manifestation of Hashem’s providence and evidence that He provides the cure even before the disease. It’s not hard to imagine why a person equipped with the optimism and knowledge that Medstar provides has a better chance of triumphing over his or her illness.

Medstar relies on community volunteers to maintain and develop the unique support system they have created. Volunteers of all ages passionately give of their time and selves, many offering their professional services such as make-up application, wig styling, and massage therapy in the Cancer Center. Medstar is always in need of these special people who are willing to share their time, skills and love with those who need it. If you are considering donating your time to help patients, please contact Medstar to explore the vast array of rewarding volunteer opportunities.

All cases brought to Medstar’s attention are strictly confidential. Whether you know someone in the community affected by illness or if you have been affected yourself, call Medstar at (718) 787-1800 to see how they can help.