Eyal Sherman was born in Syracuse, New York, May 3rd, 1981. Until he was four and a half years old, life was pretty good. He was more or less your typical toddler. He loved baseball, Scooby Doo and Heathcliffe, doing large jig-saw puzzles, and painting.
Eyal was always big for his age. His father, Rabbi Charles Sherman and mother, Leah, would joke that he could play middle linebacker for the New York Giants. His hair was strawberry blond, and his eyes dark brown.
Every couple of months, Eyal would come down with some kind of respiratory illness, which made him very irritable and anxious. These bouts of illness, which his pediatrician would dismiss as just common colds that most kids got, became increasingly acute and frequent. He was hospitalized for several cases of pneumonia. And now, with hindsight, it was apparent that something was desperately wrong.
In February of 1986, Eyal was taken to the hospital. It was discovered that he had a tumor the size of a golf ball in the brain stem. His family was told he had only months, if not weeks, to live. A biopsy confirmed that position. Eyal was taken home and became progressively weakened. He needed a trache and huge dosages of steroids which bloated my appearance, and he lost the ability to walk.
His parents, in searching the world, discovered a physician at New York University, Dr. Fred Epstein, Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery, who at that time was doing surgery on the delicate area of the brain stem. In August of 1986, Eyal and his parents flew to New York University Hospital on an airplane called the Mercy Airlift (provided by a group of commercial airlines and born-again Christians, who donate their time and services to transport desperately ill kids).
Surgery took place, and a significant portion of the tumor was resected, but several days after the surgery, Eyal suffered a brain stem stroke. He was in a coma for three months, and emerged intellectually intact, but highly physically compromised. For the rest of his life, Eyal was on a ventilator 24 hours a day and was a total quadriplegic. His vocal cords were frozen, and he received nutrition and nourishment through a feeding tube.
And yet-with all these apparent disabilities, after spending just about two years in hospitals and institutions-through creative federal and state entitlement programs and private insurance, Eyal returned home. Nothing ever stopped him from living a full life. With his family’s large van, Eyal was the guest of Make-A-Wish Foundation in Disney World, and he traveled to Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, Cooperstown, the Thousand Islands, Boston Massachusetts, and New York City where he enjoyed Times Square and Broadway shows.
Eyal lived with his family at home and attended the Syracuse public school system. His passion was painting. where he would paint with a mouth stick, creating still life masterpieces, Muppet and Disney characters, and most special to him, flowers.
Eyal was also a member of the Challenger Baseball Team, played the drums with his mouth stick, and interfaced with a computer with the click of a button on his chin.
In June of 1994, Eyal celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on the pulpit of the synagogue, Temple Adath Yeshurun, where his father was the rabbi for 40 years. He graduated with a New York State Regents Diploma from Nottingham High School in 1999, and attended Syracuse University. It took Eyal ten years to graduate college with a bachelor in Fine Arts, as he attended school with his mother every single day.
Eyal was a huge basketball fan and, not only did he attend Syracuse University basketball games, but was often invited by Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim, to attend many of the practices. He was especially pleased to be one of their most enthusiastic fans as Syracuse went to the "Final Four,” in 2003 led by NBA superstar, Carmelo Anthony.
Eyal's own life story was such that he never saw problems as problems, but rather as challenges and opportunities. In 2015 Eyal moved to Philadelphia, PA with his parents, Rabbi Charles and Leah Sherman, where he took advantage of the rich culture, visiting the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Art Museum and the Barnes.
Eyal Sherman passed away on September 24th, 2017. In his memory, his family created Eyal’s Flowers-The Eyal Sherman Foundation, which raises funds to support the physically disabled, in both medical and non-medical causes. If you are interested in applying for a grant or know someone that Eyal’s Flower’s could help, please contact Rabbi Erez Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org