Joan Talkowsky

Joan Talkowsky, 65

Tel Aviv, Israel

Medical Condition: Heart Block 
Medical Therapy: Pacemaker
Charity: Physicians for Human Rights – Israel

Rocking a baby to sleep is a small but powerful thing for Joan Talkowsky, who received a pacemaker in 2008 after being diagnosed with heart block, which made her tire easily, unable to walk a few steps without resting. A long-time volunteer with the children of asylum seekers and foreign workers in Israel, she has seen the effects of small acts of love on people we might not otherwise meet in our daily lives.

Joan's Story

"I have second degree heart block and I have had a pacemaker since 2002. My condition was actually discovered because of volunteering. I was about to start a volunteer program in 2002 at New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry University Hospital for "boarder babies," infants placed in protective care after being born with drugs in their system.

"The week before starting, I was feeling breathless, fatigued, and unable to take a few steps without resting. I actually thought I might have walking pneumonia. How would I hold new-born infants in my arms if I were sick? I went to my doctor and she immediately sent me to the emergency room and several days later I ended up with a pacemaker!

"In 2008, I left the United States, moving back to Israel. Since then, I have been volunteering, currently offering my volunteer translating services to Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, an organization that assists in providing medical care for underserved and unserved populations in Israel. Because of the wonderful medical care I have received in my life, I realize the importance of equal care as a basic human right.

"Tikkun olam" in the Jewish religion means "repairing the world." It’s a precept I have adopted for life, doing something to help others, to make the world a bit better. And while I guess I may still be alive without my pacemaker, I would pretty much be a full-time "couch potato." I realize what a miracle medical technology is in allowing people with conditions which would have been life-threatening or fatal in the past to continue with life as normal and to be able to continue living and contributing to society."

Joan's words of inspiration

"Take one little step out of your immediate circle."

"Having a medical device heightened my realization of how human life is a delicate, vulnerable thing and a sense of responsibility for more than our immediate families and friends can lend meaning to the life one has been given. I have learned in my volunteer experiences that taking a step outside my immediate circle, even if the step has been a small one in scale, has drawn the rest of the world a little closer."


Physicians for Human Rights – Israel strives to promote a more fair and inclusive society in which the right to health is applied equally for all in Israel.

*Not everyone who receives this therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story. Talk with your doctor to determine if this type of therapy is right for you.