Before spiraling downward into the saga of my medical ailments, I’d like to start off on a positive note and share that it is officially my FIVE MONTH aka HALFWAY point of the year. I don’t know where the time has gone, and if it were up to me I would just push the pause button. To help us cope with this turning point in the program, MASA ITF Israel Experience organized a group Shabbaton with our sister city, Rishon LeZion, in Jerusalem.
We spent Friday morning learning an archaeological history of the Old City of Jerusalem (walking along the outer wall and not even entering the city itself) and got to splurge at the Machane Yehuda shuk for lunch. This meant schnitzel and Marzipan’s ruggalah (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I feel sorry for your taste buds). Along with two other PTKers, I helped lead the Kabbalat Shabbat and gave a little Dvar Torah on this week’s parsha and its relevance to our own journeys with MASA. The rest of the weekend was focused mainly on one thing: Reflection.
Friday night we expressed our feelings through skits and song, and Saturday we got down to the nitty-gritty “this is where you wanted to be, this is where you are, where will you go?” type of reflection. I found the exercise akin to having a rug pulled from beneath my feet. For me, I just can’t fathom that time has passed so fast and how some of my personal goals have fallen into the backburner while I immersed myself in the present. It felt more like a slap in the face wake-up call that if I just let life happen it will fly too fast. My biggest takeaway from this weekend is a new energy and revitalization to make these next five months count, and not only live in the present (my original goal), but live UP the present.
And what better way to channel this new reinvigoration? …. I got sick. And not the *cough cough sneeze* sick, but the real deal. I’m talking fever, aches, chills, and a strange dull pain on the right side of my stomach. After a day and half without getting up from bed and eating, I decided at 11:30 pm to go to the Terem Medical Clinic alone … in my state of delirium I didn’t really feel like bothering anyone, and half of me was convinced I was fine and just being a baby who needed to take more Advil. After a physical examination, my clinician at Terem told me to go to the hospital because it was very possible that I had appendicitis. All I needed was a CT and the problem would show itself… quite literally.
Hopping into a cab at 12:45 AM up the road to Beilinson Hospital in PTK, I walked myself to the front desk of the emergency room, found someone who spoke English, and explained my situation. I was shortly thereafter escorted to the chairs of the emergency room while I waited 45 minutes to be called to see the doctor. Here I got my IV and did some blood tests. Rather than bore you with an essay describing my own personal series of unfortunate events (yes, Lemony Snicket reference), I’m including a timeline below. Highlights? WAITING. So much WAITING.
1 AM: Arrive at Beilinson
2 AM: Sent to gynecology... on my own... a 10 min. walk outside in the pouring rain...
2-4 AM: Found wandering around crying by a stranger and escorted to get an ultrasound
4-5 AM: Back in emergency room chair
5-5:15 AM: Get sonogram and argue for CT scan before getting into surgery for appendicitis
5:15-9:30 AM: Wait for CT scan, given antibiotics and Iodine
10 AM: CT Scan
11:30 AM: Receive Diverticulitis diagnosis (repeat, not appendicitis- colon infection )
2:30 PM: Admitted to the hospital and receive bed
For those of you who really know me, reading this will not come as a surprise. Of course something like this would happen to me, it's just my pattern of life. Life was getting too good, so I needed a little hurdle. But I'll take it and let's just smile now and pretend that this made me a stronger person. However, before "getting over it" I’d like to take a minute here to blow of some steam and state my biggest criticisms of this whole inefficient process. If you're not in the mood to hear some blunt complaints (thank you to my new Israeli honesty), then you might just want to scroll to the bottom. Here we go, from the top!
- Urgency- there is none. For someone who was sent to the ER for potential appendicitis, the hospital certainly took their leisurely time to give me any attention…6 hours before the Sonogram to be exact. But hey, who’s counting?
- Assumptions- the doctors were ready to send me into surgery for appendicitis when my colon was infected. My favorite quote of the night comes from the sonogram doctor, who, when I was lying on the patient table and asked if he was sure I should let the surgeon operate for appendicitis, said, “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…” Call me a curious kid, or hey maybe even an obnoxious American, but I only find it common sense to be operated on for a condition that I am sure exists… The CT scan for SURE would show exactly where and what the problem is… so when I asked what the problem with getting a CT scan was—thinking it was a high cost or something—all he rebutted with was the fact that radiation is bad for the body and they would try to avoid it if they could. Excuse me for the rant, but isn’t going into surgery for something that might not even be a problem even WORSE? Or at least more traumatic on the body?... Apparently not…
- Lack of Attentiveness- My mantra of the whole hospital stay was essentially that I could die in there and no one would know for hours. Pushing the red emergency button on my bed wouldn’t illicit responses for a half an hour sometimes. Oh and while we’re here we can add lack of sympathy to the list. I was told once admitted that I couldn’t eat or drink for at least 24 hours to give my colon a break, after I hadn’t been eating or hydrating for the previous 2 days. I woke up in the middle of the night parched for water and after 30 minutes of begging they caved and brought me some water… in a syringe! Not even 1 ml of water. I almost jumped on her, but didn’t even have the energy to frown at her.
- Carelessness- Once admitted to my hospital bed, I asked my nurse for the antibiotics and pain killers I received earlier that morning before my CT scan. I was met with a blank stare. "Which medicine did you take again? Was it XXX? Or YYY?" I looked at her, in disbelief, and asked her to check the records, to which she replied that there were none. No one bothered to record the medicine they gave me earlier in the day, and the world will never know. I even had an incident where I went the whole day without seeing the doctor and, when I saw him for my nightly check-up at midnight, was told that he did in fact meet with me at 3 PM that day. Normally it'd be fine to blame a questionably sane patient, but I have four friends and my host teacher who can attest that I was indeed outside in the ward's lobby with visitors from 2-5 PM and that there was no possible way I had seen the doctor. I think my doctor is the one who needs to be admitted, because he literally lost his mind. Sorry doc.
Now that I am home and basically fine, I think that I can take a step back and be a tad more sympathetic: the Israeli hospital system is clearly very different from what I am accustomed to. Patients aren’t always in “the know” 100% of the time, Doctor visits and appointments are not reliable and follow a timely schedule, and the doctor/nurse to patient ratio is significantly higher. Clearly I wasn’t the sickest person in my ward, and understandably that did not merit me attention.
Dramatic story aside, I really REALLY ממש want to thank my whole PTK and Israeli family from the bottom of my heart for helping me through my toughest time in Israel so far. Between the tears, the pain, and the frustration, I was lucky enough to have a constant stream of visitors and love radiating all around me... even if none of it was from the hospital staff. Even the times I was physically alone, I never really felt alone because I knew that if I wanted, I could have 10 people by my side in the blink of an eye if only I had asked.
My friends came (bearing gifts!) even with their busy schedules, my host teacher came with a stack of English letters from my students (one of which even sent me her homework that she neglected to do the week before!!!!#SuccessfulTeachingMoment), my Madricha and program staff were by my side to help with logistics, and I had family coming to kick some Israeli tuchus for me when I really needed it. And for the hours of the night when everyone in my time zone was sleeping, I was inundated with messages from friends and family in the states. If that's not the definition of a support system, I dont' know what is.
Now all that's left is to wait for the feeling of a 400 lb. man sitting on my right side to ease, and for my colon inflammation to subside. I am on antibiotic pills, and just working on eating again and building up strength while avoiding discomfort. Since I've been home on Friday, I've successfully made it out for a cup of coffee and had a couple of walks to the grocery store down the street.
Only things up in the air and in question now are my diet and exercise capabilities. One doctor told me to cancel the Half Marathon (insert gasping tears here) and another doctor told me that I needed to give my colon a break and couldn't eat ANY fruits and vegetables for 6 weeks (insert BIGGER gasping tears here). I'm waiting for a second opinion once I get better in a week or so, but for now that means the marathon is off and I can't even eat pickles in my tuna salad or tomato sauce with my pasta. Just lots of cottage cheese, eggs, and carbo-loading for me for now I guess.
And when I'm feeling like all hope is lost, I guess I can just be grateful that I still have my appendix. Yet, with my luck, in about 3 or 4 months I'll actually have appendicitis...
So stay tuned friends and thanks for caring <3