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"Sometimes you find faith when you don't have any."
With those words, 65-year-old Arthur Barnstein reflected on the nearly three decades that he has been receiving care at BWH, beginning with cardiac bypass surgery in 1995. His wife, Linda, has received care at BWH since suffering a brain hemorrhage in 2007.
Despite these health struggles, last weekend was a time for celebration for the couple. Among family and friends, the Barnsteins commemorated their 45th wedding anniversary, and they chose the Brigham as their venue for the important occasion.
The anniversary celebration, which filled Carrie Hall, was officiated by Rabbi Katy Allen, staff chaplain of BWH Chaplaincy Services, and included traditional prayers and blessings in Hebrew as well as songs performed by the Barnsteins' daughter. The couple's two children, Michelle and Michael; six grandchildren; cousins and friends shared memories. Linda and Arthur, who began dating in high school, recited Biblical verses of love and compassion to one another.
"The Brigham is very special to us," said Linda, in the days leading up to the celebration. "We chose to celebrate our 45th anniversary here because the hospital has saved both of our lives. It is a miracle we are both alive."
Beginning at age 39, Arthur experienced several small heart attacks and underwent heart surgery in 1995. With Linda's help, Arthur began a slow process of recovery, and in 2007, his BWH surgeons implanted a defibrillator. Around the same time, Linda experienced a brain hemorrhage and was rushed to BWH for emergency surgery. With her husband and family by her side, Linda also slowly recovered.
Last September, Arthur's physicians implanted a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, which serves as a bridge to transplant. When a blood clot formed in the LVAD during the 12-hour operation, the complicated procedure had to be performed a second time. Arthur, who retired years ago because of his heart condition, still awaits a heart transplant.
"They've been through a lot but are steadfast and determined," said Allen. "They have taken such joy in planning their celebration, which is about rejoicing in the midst of an uncertain time. They are also open and embracing of life, and they feel very connected to the Brigham. They are an inspiration in that way."
Allen noted the significance of the time period in which the Barnsteins' anniversary falls: between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
"Jewish tradition is filled with imagery about the Book of Life being open," said Allen. "It's a time to examine our lives and think about what we want for our future. There is poignancy in that Arthur is waiting for a heart. People who go through situations like the Barnsteins tend to become very aware of their mortality, and it is wonderful when people can become celebratory of their lives."
Arthur and Linda remain focused on hope and recovery. Of their anniversary celebration, Arthur said, "It is more than we could have possibly hoped for."