I have a post here that’s been a few weeks in the making. I promised the main character of this post that s/he would not be identified, so I will preface this by saying that this post, about my friend “Jamie,” is totally OK. By much better, I mean s/he is doing well, is back to school, etc. Please don’t ask who Jamie is. And don’t post some comment if you know who Jamie is. I will delete it.
So, as I mentioned in my Shprockets post, I wanted to try to get out of the first session so that I could be with a friend in trouble. Jamie was pretty sick, and ended up going to Hadassah Ein Karem. Jamie was accompanied by an Israeli friend who speaks fluent English, and Jamie was admitted for a couple of days. This is the chronicle of lessons from a stay by proxy at HAK in Jerusalem, in October 2007.
I can divide my lessons learned into categories:
The People – There is a great cross-section of Israelis at the hospital. Jamie’s roommate was a Russian, and on the floor were religious, secular, and Conservative Jews. Some Arabs and a guy that I think was a Druze priest all wandered the floor. Russian Roommate’s wife was a caricature of herself – complete with too-tiny miniskirts, a terribly dyed mane of crunchy hair, an aversion to ceiling fans and a cell phone that rang incessantly with “Listen to your heart, when he’s calling for you…”
The Doctors – There is a pecking order like in any hospital in the states, from med student up to Professor. What is so amazing about the doctors is their ability to answer questions and give advice in a wide variety of languages. It’s impressive, it’s spectacular. Doctors come from South Africa, from England, from Haifa, from the States.
The Nurses – Ah, the nurses. Arabs nurses, Russian nurses, Jewish nurses. The Russian ones are brisk and quick, and they can get an IV working in 2 seconds. The Jewish nurses are nice and friendly. And the Arab nurses…some are cute, some are hot. Every Arab nurse was great…and we all developed a group-wide crush on the main Arab nurse. We adore her.
The Care – The care at HAK is different than in the states. I came prepared with ammunition / excuses to stay the whole night, to be there for Jamie, but nobody questioned me. In Israel, in the hospitals, they consider it sad and wrong if you don’t have somebody staying with you. The reclining chair wasn’t so fabulous, but it was fine. The reason they expect people to stay there is because the guests do work. Nurses don’t help patients to the bathroom, guests do. Guests are meant to find nurses to change IVs, to clean up after meals, to change sheets (sometimes), and to generally make sure that the patient is safe and secure.
The Meals – The meals are very Israeli. Each meal came with a plate of sliced cucumber and a tomato, some bread and then the main course. Only lunch is meat, as it is Israeli style to have a big lunch and a light breakfast and dinner. On Shabbat, though, even in the hospital, there are the three big meals, which means that Friday night dinner is meat.
The Jews – Unlike Coral Springs Medical Center, HAK is rife with Jews. Jews that are patients, Jews that are visitors and guests, Jews that are doctors (so far, this really does sound like CSMC), and Jews that are visiting for the sole purpose of visiting the sick.
Visiting the sick at HAK takes on all forms. People give out sandwiches and snacks to patients and guests, dedicated to the wedding of this and that person, as it’s important to do mitzvahs before / in honor of your wedding. There is the haredi (ulta-Orthodox) man who pokes his head into every room, saying simply “refuah shleima” (get well soon). Jamie thinks that this man was doing a good deed so that he could get in good with God, maybe so he can have a son. There is the Orthodox man from the states, circulating the floor, asking patients if they would like to put on tefillin (these are hard to explain to the non-Jews…they’re leather boxes that strap onto a person’s head and arm, and they’re worn during morning prayers). This guy was really special, helping patients place the tefillin correctly on the arm, and wrap it AROUND the IV port. His mitzvah is to help patients put on tefillin once a week, and he expressed his hopes to “never see you again.” On Friday afternoon, two men from Chabad stopped by, talked about the weekend’s Torah portion with the patients and gave challah for the blessing over the bread for Friday night dinner. They even offered patients special dinner of “real, haymishe food” (meaning super-Kosher) for that evening.
Friday night, I went in search of the real, haymishe food. I rolled down my leggings, put on a longer skirt, and threw on a really fabulous green Ramah Darom sweatshirt. With my hair in a messy orb on top of my head, I wandered to the first floor in search of services and dinner. After a little accident in following a haredi guy down the stairs (Reefs without traction + marble staircases + moving too fast = sore tushy + sore heel), I found another haredi guy to follow all the way to the shul in the -1 floor. The shul, as it turns out, has Chagall windows! I did not really blend in, but I still went into services and then waited for dinner with the whole haymishe crowd. I walked into the meal, looking for take-out, but they were gung-ho about shuffling me into the womens’ side of the meal (Really, separate seating at meals! I had no idea!), and I went back to the ladies responsible for take-out. (Jamie was tethered to an IV and it was too much effort to leave the room.) They gave me a great meal, including a little take-out container (like for soup) with grape juice for the blessing over the wine. The food was traditional Ashkenazic (Poland), complete with a terribly grey and gross-looking kugel (I’ll tell you a secret, those gross-looking kugels are always the tastiest…I love Ashkenazic food.)! It was a great dinner, and thankfully, it was a great end to a too-long stay in a hospital.
The Lessons - I learned a lot while visiting Jamie. Something that you learn very quickly in the hospital in Jerusalem is that everybody can work together. Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, it doesn't matter. What matters is your health. Israeli hospitals can demonstrate to people (if they will just look) that everybody can work toward a common goal of health and peace. HAK is a lab for tolerance and change for the better. Maybe everybody who's going to Annapolis can spend a day or so in the hospital here first? They'd get a whole new perspective?
HAK has their own scrubs and sheets (see pictures). There are many wonderful people who mean well, visiting sick people they don’t even know. The hospital is connected to a mall, which is brilliant, if you have to bring food or a present to the person you are visiting. I learned pretty high-level Hebrew words like “irui” (IV). And, best of all, Jamie is better. Much better.
The Pictures -
The insignia on the sheets
And, just in case you could forget that you were stuck in the hospital, here is "Hadassah Ein Karem" spelled out, nice and big, so you can see it right next to you on the bed at all times.