My Story: What I did last Pessah

Last Saturday I woke up at 6 a.m. with a pain in my chest that felt like a half a cinder block was stuck in my throat and wouldn't go down. The pain was unbearable. So I did what any normal person would do; I lay there whimpering.

April 12, 2007 11:15
last pessah image 88

last pessah image 88. (photo credit: )

So last Saturday I woke up at 6 a.m. with a pain in my chest that felt like a half a cinder block was stuck in my throat and wouldn't go down. The pain was unbearable. So I did what any normal person would do; I lay there whimpering. Ever since I told my ex-wife Lea that if anything ever happened to me she could have my car and kill the cats, she calls four times a day. At nine the first call came. She knew something was wrong because all I could do was grunt. So she immediately came running over. My daughter Keren, 22, came with her and while Lea blocked my view Keren went through my pants pockets looking for loose change and credit cards. Saturday in Israel means everyone you know is in a parallel universe and won't answer their phones. She finally got through to our gynecologist friend who said go to the emergency room. But he says that if you have a pebble in your shoe, so I refused. Forty phone calls later we got an MD who does emergency work. When I described the symptoms he said take Maalox. It was Saturday, the only thing open was in east Jerusalem. It was dangerous. So naturally I sent Keren because she took a course in conflict resolution. She came back in an hour with 25 liters of Maalox. I drank about a liter of the stuff and 30 seconds later I was on the bathroom floor spewing minty chalk all over. Finally I agreed to go to the emergency room. Keren drove while Lea organized my CV, letters of recommendation, my nomination for the Israel Prize, a picture album of me with various ministers and sports figures and of course her report cards from law school. At the ER the clerks weren't so much blas as in a state of suspended animation. After waving around a subpoena Lea had manufactured in the car, they finally let me check in. First a nurse came and asked me a number of rude questions. As soon as she put the blood pressure cuff on my arm, I got nauseous again. She shoved a waste basket at me with her foot and kept writing. The BP was 1090 over 870. When I suggest she take the BP again she said, no it's fine. Then they escorted me to a cubicle and tell me to lie down on a... it wasn't a bed and it wasn't a gurney. It was like those board slabs they used during the Black Death when the guy with the wagon came through your neighborhood singing "bring out your dead." Then Dr. Personality showed up. This was the most expressionless guy I ever met. I'm sure he became a doctor for the free lunch at Hadassah. He did an EKG and Dr. Lea started arguing with him about whether my ST wave was elevated or not. They attached an IV and let me lie there. In the meantime, my internationally famous liver specialist had called Dr. Personality and made some suggestions about tests. Whenever an IV bag was finished, I had to trundle off to the bathroom and empty out. About eight bags later it was 10 p.m. and I was still in agony. Daughters Talia, 23, and Yaeli, 20, had come to the hospital hearing it's their last chance to become my favorite child. They took turns reading The Princess Bride out loud not so much for me but because it amused them. At this point I was delirious with pain. I was pretty sure I saw the Grim Reaper move past my curtain but it might have been a clerk going on a break from being inanimate. Finally a physician showed up with an injection of Pethidin, which is what they gave Lea after 38 hours of labor with Talia. In about 10 minutes, the pain started to subside and I drifted off into a comatose state. At 1 a.m. a nurse came to wake me up and said they finally found me a bed upstairs. They wheeled me into the bowels of the hospital and onto a giant dumbwaiter. When we came out on the seventh floor, I saw a flashing neon sign that said Liver Transplant Department. This didn't look good but I was too weak to complain. At 6:30 a.m. a nice woman in a white coat woke me up and did a complete case history. She was very nice and seemed concerned. I never saw her again. It turned out she was just visiting someone in the hospital and had a pencil and a clip board. When I looked around I saw I was in a room with three cadavers who looked as if they would become organ donors in about 10 minutes. They were a designer color I have never seen before. Imagine you cut open an eggplant and leave it out in the sun for three days and then beat it with a bicycle chain. At 8 a.m. they came for blood. At about 10 a.m. a gaggle of doctors entered. One of them started presenting my case and the senior guy was doing a lot of nodding. I interrupted and asked if they could do this in English and senior guy said, "Of course, in just a minute." He never spoke a word of English to me. He spoke to the others for about 20 minutes explaining why this was clearly a drug-induced episode from the interferon treatment for hepatitis C and the others were all nodding their heads, and then with impeccable timing a nurse came in and handed him the results of the morning blood tests. It took him 10 seconds to say, "You see, it's not the drugs; it's the gall bladder." International liver specialist came down a while later and explained that it was either an ulcer, stomach cancer, gall bladder or acute pancreatitis. And apparently I didn't get to choose which. But there was good news too. My hemoglobin had moved up from deceased to moribund. Now I could leave the hospital, which the doctor said was a good idea because it was Erev Pessah and I probably wouldn't enjoy the same high level of care in the following days. In the meantime, international guy was using his influence to get me an MRI - April 27... 2023. Suddenly there was a cancellation and I could have the test Wednesday night. Lea leaped into action, accosting doctors in the hallway, breaking into meetings, shoving papers at people with stampers, threatening clerks, forging signatures and lying to the nurses that the doctor would be here momentarily to release me. In the history of Hadassah no one has ever been released faster. Once we were in the parking lot I released our hostages and we went home. Wednesday night we had to go back for the MRI. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, it's like stuffing 200 kilos of cow flop in a 100-kilo bag. They jam you into a plastic tube a supermodel would find tight and then they tell you to hold your breath. Suddenly I realized the earphones were playing "Ave Maria" and I was thinking what if I died and it turned out God hates Jews just like everyone else. Yesterday the International Guy called to say since I'm not dead yet, I should start my hepatitis treatment again. but cheer up, it's only 40 more weeks. How was your Pessah?

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