The accident happened in the early morning of Tisha B’Av, 1982. As I opened my closet door to get ready to go to synagogue, I noticed an old stepladder and a carpet sweeper stashed there temporarily. We were in the midst of construction, and the plumber was running new pipes through my closet up to the attic. I stepped on the rickety ladder to take a look, and I slipped. The handle of the carpet sweeper went straight into my right eye. I screamed in excruciating pain. My wife, Sharon, came running. We realized the severity of the injury: I might, G-d forbid, have lost the vision in my eye.
We called our friend, Dr. Goldstein, an ophthalmologist in Long Beach, and fortunately we caught him before he left his house. “Meet me in my office at 8 o’clock, and I’ll have a look.”
Sharon drove us over, and after he examined me, Dr. Goldstein said, “Well, I’ve got good news – it seems like your globe, the eyeball, is intact, but it’s up in your head, and you injured the lower part of your eye muscle which controls the movement of your eyeball. I have to get you to an expert right away. A world renowned expert in eye muscles, Dr. Steven Feldon, happens to be at USC here in Los Angeles. We’ll get him to examine you.”
On the spot, Dr. Goldstein called Dr. Feldon at the Doheny Eye Institute. It normally takes months to get an appointment, and we heard him say, “No, no, no, this is an emergency. Dr. Feldon has to examine Dr. Lovitch today!”
Finally they said, “Okay, Okay, send him down.”
Dr. Feldon examined me, and after they took some tests, he said: “You have a major injury, and there’s nothing I can do for you right now. I want you to wear a patch over your eye, and come back in a month. We’ll check you again and see if there’s any improvement. We’ll see then what we have to do.”
Well, you can imagine how upset I was. Here I was, a young surgeon, just beginning my career, and I had only one good eye. It’s impossible to operate with one eye; you need stereoscopic vision in order to operate. I had to close my practice since I couldn’t schedule any surgeries.
We went home, and Rabbi Newman came to our house. He said, “I heard about your injury, and I have already called the Rebbe’s office on your behalf.”
A month later we went back to Dr. Feldon. He examined y eye, and said, “No improvement. I think we’ve given it enough time. I need to operate on your eye and see if there is anything I can fix.”
I called Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe’s secretary, and I got the Rebbe’s blessing. The operation was scheduled for the following week.
After the operation, Dr. Feldon told us, “I have good news and bad news.”