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Aviva Ghatan

By Sherry Sontag

This space in IF’s July healthcare issue was supposed to be filled by an article written by Sherry Sontag about the very personal struggle a family was going through and winning with their sister, mother, daughter, wife and friend, Aviva Ghatan. Sherry and the world lost Aviva on June 21. This is Sherry Sontag’s obituary as published in the Jewish Press for her beloved sister.

he orthodox Jewish Community of Ocean Parkway lost its heart on June 21 when Aviva Ghatan died at 41 years old.

Aviva, who was married to Dr. Yedidiah Ghatan, died after a five month full-pitch battle to overcome injuries she suffered last February during the birth of her sixth child. It was a fight that only Aviva could have waged, a fight that was a mirror of the love she had for this baby, for her five other children, for her husband, her parents, her sisters and her brother and for everyone around her. It was a fight that showed the incredible love of life that marked every single day that Aviva lived.

For close to 20 years, Aviva was the unofficial mayor of Ocean Parkway as well as its most prolific matchmaker. Her home was open to anyone who needed her. She ran her home and her husband’s medical office, but her true career was doing mitzvahs.

When Aviva heard of a family that had been burned out of their home, she opened her doors and took them in for several months. When she heard of women who were overcome with responsibilities of a new baby or of an illness or anything else, she took on the older children, and they stayed with her and her own for as long as they needed to be there. She did that over and over again.
      Aviva made sure that young men and women found one another so that two by two they could create the kind of family she so treasured herself. She made sure that children who needed place to meet, to play or to rehearse for school events had a place to do just that, because she made her home the center of school and social activities. When she heard that a group was trying to create a school for learning disabled children, she opened her doors to their first fund raisers.

Everyone knew that Aviva’s house was where the doctor lived and even more important, everyone knew it was where she lived. At Aviva’s house there was help, there was rest, there was support and there was love any time of the day or night.

Her husband Yedidiah worked hand in hand with her in her efforts to create miracles. Even so, he says that Aviva brought out the best in him. Indeed she brought out the best in everyone around her. Men, women, even Rabbis’ all say how she deeply inspired them to always do just a little bit more, to be little bit better, to try a little harder. She was a whirlwind of energy all of it directed to making this world more beautiful.

Anyone who knew Aviva knew her with a child in her arms. She carried her own endlessly, keeping them close. When they were too big to be carried she built a home centered around children so her own and their friends were always nearby. She was above all else an incredible mother.

When Aviva first entered the hospital in February it was to try, against all odds, to save her baby who was threatened with a severely premature birth. It was a battle she won. It was only in the aftermath of that victory that she lost herself to severe brain and physical injuries.

Still she fought on. This time, her battle was waged with her husband, her children, her mother, her father, her sisters and sister in law, her brother and brother in law and an army of friends by her side. Daily the march to bring Aviva back and bring Aviva home crowded hospital corridors often to the amazement of her doctors and nurses who had never seen so many people come for so many months to help one human being. It never slowed down.

It was with love and with fight that Aviva, her family and her friends, willed her to wake up when her doctors swore that she never could. Weeks more of fight and she began to speak, just enough to let everyone know that she wanted her family more than anything. Months more of work, and she began to sit up, stand, and even walk a bit, all to the amazement of her physicians and her nurses.

Aviva lived her last days as she lived her life, surrounded, by her family and friends, loving and even feeding her baby, fighting for one more day, one more hour, one more moment. She never gave up.

Aviva is survived by her husband Yedidiah Ghatan, her children Shifra Tova, Shoshana Bracha, Shira Devora, Ariella Haddassah, Zachariah Asher and baby Yehuda. She is also survived by her parents Marvin and Sandy Sontag, her sisters Lauren Sontag Davitz and Sherry Sontag, and her brother Avi Sontag. Finally she is survived by a community of dozens who fought for her life, hundreds who attended her funeral and thousands whose lives will be poorer for her absence.

A fund has been set up in her name to help patients suffering brain injury get the care that they so desperately need at the International Brain Research Foundation,, 740 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

"After all, submarining has always been a game of Blind Man's Bluff."
-- a top submarine admiral

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