Jerusalem. For the past few days I have been in an out of health. I woke up in a state of serious gastrointestonal discomfort on Tuesday evening. The discomfort quickly became a state of high fever and cold sweats, which then developed into several hours of intensive bodily dysfunction. By the time I reached the doctor the following afternoon, I could barely hold myself together long enough to explain the situation and beg him to fix me immediately. Dehydrated as all hell, I was well on my way to certain death. (At least, this is how it felt at the time.)
Without taking my temperature or checking my vital signs, my American born Israeli doctor surmised that my dehydration was reaching a point of serious concern, he ordered that I spend the next 4 hours, perched uncomfortably on a dirty table in the nurses' station. As cold liquid dripped into my left arm, I shivered uncontrollably under the first amount of air conditioning my body has seen in approximately 3 years. Meanwhile, the head nurse in charge of me made it a point to be completely contrary no matter what I said or did. In her dirty wig and stained stockings (which denotes that she is an observant Orthodox Jewish woman), she seemed to speak "Brooklyn" to me before she spoke American English. She cackled as she referred to my veins as her "pretty little playground". Two even more illuminating highlights of my interactions with her were as follows:
1. When I asked for a blanket, she snapped, "Oh, first you throw up and now you're cold? Are you shy? Why didn't you ask for one sooner?"
2. Still freezing under the vent, I asked for a second blanket, and she offered, "What do you think you own the place now? I guess you're my little princess for the day."
Of course, if I have possessed one tenth of my normal amount of energy, I would have readily played on her banter and let her embarrass herself until she realized how utterly cruel and inhumane she was being to me. I knew right away that she took her power in the fact that sick and weak people were reliant on her care. If I had been well, I would have pointed this out to her in a tactful way. And if she put up more resistance, I might have made some comment about the role that her belief in G-d may play in how she cares for others. But, of course, I just sat there in stony silence, letting the room spin in the hope that I would rise up and find my way out of it sooner or later, which, of course, I did.
As the hours dragged on, water dripped into me, but nothing came out. The doctor arrived again to suggest that I drink some juice. He told the nurses to see that I have something to drink immediately. Yet, from what I gathered as they spoke about me in Hebrew was that they would have to get money from me to go and get some juice from a vending machine outside. Apparently, doctor's offices in Israel are not stocked with juice like every facility--right down to the most ghetto place in America. I sighed and feigned linguistic ignorance until another hour passed and I found enough energy to pull Nurse Dirty Wig aside and tell her to do-her-job-and-get-me-my-friggin'-juice-here's-20-shekels. The juice arrive 2 minutes later with change. Funny how the power dynamic changed as I found the ability to stare her down again.
Yes, one thing I have learned about Israel: If you don't demand, you don't get. Demand-eth, and the juice arriveth. Another thing I have learned about Israel is that it is not a place for the weak. And yet, even more audacious is the fact that the minute you rise up against injustice, the perpetrator always backs down in respect. Ultimately, Nurse Dirty Wig and I found our truce when she realized that I could understand her Hebrew, and I would eat her for breakfast tomorrow if she wasn't more compassionate.
I was finally sent home, and collapsed into a deep sleep for the next 14 hours. I awoke with nausea and no appetite, and have remained this way since. The fever has subsided, but the pain and cramming in my abdomen can be sharp, rolling, and even gripping at moments. I am unable to determine how much weight I have lost from this. My stomach still hurts. I can keep things down now, but still have no energy.
I am certain that I will never complain about the US health care system again. Ok, who are we kidding? I won't complain...for a while. But a free box of juice for my troubles would definitely shut me up for sure.