It’s hard for most of us to imagine having a child with a life-threatening illness, but it’s a devastating situation that Valley residents Rachel and Roy Mordechai know all too well.
Their first daughter, Noa, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) at 2 months and received a heart transplant in June 2015 after 120 days of waiting in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU).
In late November 2016, Rachel gave birth to their second daughter, Maya, and the couple brought their seemingly healthy baby home from the hospital. Then, the unimaginable happened. In March 2017, Maya also was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. She’s currently on life support in the CVICU at Phoenix Children’s Hospital awaiting a heart transplant.
The Mordechais, who also have a 4-year-old son, have set up a GoFundMe account to help defray mounting medical expenses for Maya and for Noa, who is now 2½ years old and needs constant care, some of which isn’t covered by insurance. Examples of non-covered expenses include in-home nursing care, speech therapy, swallowing therapy and developmental therapy.
On the GoFundMe page, the Mordechais offer these words: “It is very difficult asking for help. We really don’t want people to see only what is wrong with Noa and Maya, but everything that is right and beautiful, too. We don’t want pity, only compassion. We hope you will help because you want to see Noa and Maya thrive and not because you think life is hard for us. It is hard, but we recognize everyone is fighting battles.”
The East Valley Jewish community and others have rallied around the Mordechais and have organized fundraising events to help the family.
On May 24, Chabad of the East Valley spiritual leader and director Rabbi Mendy Deitsch and his wife, co-director Shternie, hosted a hafrashat challah (challah-baking) event at Chabad’s center in Chandler. About 30 women attended the event, according to family friend and challah bake organizer Corrin Atlas.
“It was a very emotional, powerful and spiritual evening,” Atlas said.
Each woman made challah and received two candles to light on Shabbat.
The hafrashat challah is the first of many events in support of the family, Atlas said. Friends are organizing a round of hafrashat challah events in different Valley locations, where someone will tell the story of Noa and Maya and “we’ll talk about the meaning of saying ‘amen’ and the power of prayer,” she said.
The men are organizing Torah lessons and Tehillim readings, and in a few weeks, friends will hold a family-friendly fundraising walk. More events can be found on the “Support Noa and Maya” Facebook page.
“The entire community is getting together and helping, and are joined to support the family so they know we have their backs for whatever they need,” Atlas said.
While the Mordechais wait for a heart to become available for Maya, they must divide their time between the hospital and caring for the two children at home. As a result, they are unable to work.
“They’re amazing parents and we are all very proud of them for their strength,” Atlas said. “We want people to understand how delicate this situation is, how unbearable it is and how much the family really needs support, whether it’s spiritual by praying for them, taking good deeds upon ourselves or donating money.”