Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More things You Can See at a Hospital

About ten days ago I spent a long evening at a hospital, and came back to report. This evening I was there again, for an even longer evening. This time however I had my laptop with me, and can inform you that not only does Shaarei Zedek hospital have free WIFI access in its main building: so does Haddassah. So that's where I read the Mead article recommended in the previous post, and the post itself was written and put up from deep in the bowels of the local ER.

The things you can do with technology these days: 50 billion dollar ponzi schemes, blogging from the weirdest places - as a matter of fact, you can even combine them, as one of the e-mails that came in while we were sitting around contained an excel sheet with a list of doomed philanthropic projects killed by the Madoff.

The ER is divided by an imaginary line right down its middle. On the right are the patients cared for by Sheehan, if I correctly caught her name, a cheerful young woman with the full head cover of a religious Muslim woman. The left side of the line was capably run by Arkadi, apparently a Russian fellow tho without any accent I could hear, chiefly noticable for his proud tatoos all over his forearms. At one point Arkadi explained to an elderly woman who wished to take her husband home already that the ER is the place where they deal with urgent medicine, so it's a place where you have to wait a lot.

Last time I wrote about logistics and politics. Having done that already, here are some quick sketches of the folks; the point being to give some real-life impressions to those of our readers who think this is a place populated with fascistic colonialists or what have you.

So there was the young Arab woman, accompanying an elder woman; the young one was exceptional for her flashy pumps that looked straight from a Las Vegas show. There was the 60-ish man, apparently sort of homeless, who spent the afternoon making as if he was dying, but once he knew he'd be spending the night and meeting a social worker the next morning, he made a startling recuperation, transforming from a dramatically dying patient to a merely kvetching one. He spoke Hebrew with the staff for mundane things, but whenever he needed to be detailed he switched to English; late in the evening we realized his mother tongue is probably German. Or some other, but also German.

At one point a doctor poring over some report asked the room in general what a particular word meant; five different voices from five different directions, two of them patients, all told him it was Russian for nausea. This aggravated an old woman who was lying in a bed speaking English with her Phillipine caretaker: she launched into a speech about how her late husband had been one of the pioneers of ensuring that Modern Hebrew had medical terms for all possible needs, and why were they now reverting to Russian? Later in the evening I chatted with her son, a man in his mid-50s, who told us his father had actually been a physician, not a linguist, but that indeed he had been on a commission that tried to inculcate Hebrew terms. The son, himself a member of the hospital's legal team, admitted ruefully that most doctors most of the time use Latin terminology, in spite of the efforts of his father and his generation.

Around the corner from where we were, so that I couldn't quite see what was going on, a middle aged couple was loudly griping that their child wasn't getting the full attention they felt he needed. Later, when I walked by, I saw that the "child" was in his mid-20s.

It's Hannuka, so there were at least three teams of Bratzlaver Hassids who came though the ER singing, dancing, and handing out sweets with missionary messages. A Brtatzlaver comforting an ill Arab with words about how God wants us all to be happy and positive is not the kind of thing the Guardian will ever tell you about. Or Haaretz, for that matter. Of course, these Bratzlaver characters don't serve in the army, as we all know, except that one of the five of them was wearing his reservist uniform. He was the one who urged a chocolate doughnut on me, by the way, commenting that while the calories and oil might not be the doctor's order, Hannuka over-rides such pettiness.

Later on a Shas-type fellow with a large box of sufganiot (jam buns?) came by; the first person he came up to and made certain was supplied was Sheehan. About that time a young doctor was placing a call to the specialist upstairs. He started out describing a case in Hebrew, but about the middle of the way through they both switched to their preferred language, Arabic. When a very Ashkenazi-looking doctor tried out his Arabic, however, he was treated to quite a rash of ribbing. They told him that maybe by the time he makes full professor he'd be able to string together two sentences.

Eventually it was time to go home. This required some paperwork, obviously, for which I had to disturb two bored clerks who were agreeing that some Jim Carrey film they'd both recently seen was horrible. I didn't catch it's name, so now I can't go to any Jim Carrey films for fear of agreeing with them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now I know how to describe the gatherings of my family: "Basically, it is like an Israeli ER without the emergencies."

(About two dozens of different home countries, communication in a mix of the resulting mother tongues and, thanks to a variety of different religions, always a festive day to celebrate with good food. Which, by the way, might be a key to intercultural peace: It is rather difficult to argue when in postprandial coma.)