Rafael was born with a life-threatening neurological disorder. He had multiple seizures through his early life. His parents constantly shuttled him from doctor to doctor. Every medical professional gave the same poor prognosis and told Rafael’s parents to prepare for the worst. One daring surgeon suggested experimental brain surgery. The surgery was successful and Rafael’s medical condition stabilized.
Despite the improvements, Rafael’s parents remained desperately worried. They tried hard to protect their son however they thought they could. They obsessively reminded him to take his medication and panicked every time he had a moment of weakness. Rafael was weighed down by their anxiety and constant worry. He retreated inside himself.
Although Rafael grew stronger and healthier, he still always seemed very young for his age. He became a quiet, insular adolescent with a chronic lack of confidence. Unable to speak to people, if pushed Rafael insisted that he had ‘nothing to say.’ He had no opinions, shared no desires or wants, showed no interest in what was going on around him, and held no ambitions. Rafael was entirely passive.
Rafael’s parents took him to see multiple therapists but nothing seemed to help. Finally, they brought their now 17-year old son to Kav L’Noar. The clinical team assessed him at intake. They decided that since conventional therapy had failed until this point, perhaps he would do better with a mentor.
Elad was chosen to be Rafael’s mentor. Elad had a rare humility and gentleness, combined with a quirky sense of fun. At first, they met a lot in cafes. It was horribly awkward for them both as Elad tried to make conversation with Rafael who found it impossible to respond.Things improved when Elad started inviting Rafael to do activities with him, including bowling and cooking. With less pressure to maintain a running conversation, these activities provided an opportunity for progress and growth in their relationship.
Open to Possibilities
After only four months of meetings, there was a breakthrough. Rafael shared that he liked helping animals. Surprisingly he even suggested that he might be able to volunteer at the Jerusalem Zoo next year. His mother reported that this was the first time in years that he had shown interest in doing anything. It was the first time that he had ever looked towards the future with hopeful anticipation.
Elad’s positive influence and consistent, sensitive and respectful interest towards him had opened Rafael’s eyes to the possibilities that lay before him. He was now willing to start working on himself in order to make them a reality.