Rav Hayim Leiter
Life As a Hospital
From the kitchen, the thud and subsequent cry I heard were uncharacteristic in our home. I ran to find our six-year-old on the landing, clutching his face. He had been running up the stone steps in socks and slipped. He not only hurt his shin, but he also landed squarely on his jaw. His wailing lasted much longer than usual, and we knew a visit to the local emergency center was in our immediate future.
The intake nurse wisely offered Ezra a basket of toys to choose from. He eventually took a basketball game.
The doctor checked his jaw and said she was pretty sure it was dislocated. We soon were on our way to the emergency room in Jerusalem for an X-ray. I’ve broken many bones in life but I couldn’t fathom what it was going to be like to have my son’s jaw put back in place. I prayed for the best.
“I want chocolate Bamba,” Ezra said through clenched teeth when we arrived at the hospital. He hadn’t moved his mouth much at all since the fall. Because Bamba basically dissolves in your mouth, I couldn’t have thought of a better snack. He clutched the bag as we searched for the X-ray department.
After multiple inquiries of people in scrubs, we made it to where we needed to be. I noticed we were surrounded by hospital beds with people from all walks of life lying and waiting. I wondered how long it would be until it was our turn.
The Bamba was opened and the basketball toy was brought out and the competition was on. My son and I took turns taking shots as he chewed his beloved snack. I was surprised at how much he was moving his jaw without complaining.
Midway through our game, I noticed our competition was the waiting room’s entertainment, even though the toy was too small for anyone else to see. An elderly woman in a Hijab blew us a kiss and said something in Arabic. Since Hebrew is the only other language I attempt to speak, I blew her a kiss back. Her smile radiated from ear to ear.
“Who’s this tzadik (righteous one)?” asked the Hareidi man in the next bed over. His voice was muffled from the oxygen he was receiving. “Ezra,” my son shyly replied. We proceeded to converse about where we were from in the ‘old country.’ When his X-rays were finished, we helped open the door so his wife could wheel him out of the area and wished him a Refuah Shleimah (complete healing).
Not long after it was our turn; Ezra was given a clean bill of health and we were on our way home. Some say his jaw realignment was a miracle. Others attribute it to the Bamba. Thankfully all that’s left of the accident is a royal ‘shiner’ on his chin.
As we finally made our way out of the hospital in the late hours of the night, hand in hand, Ezra asked, “Do you think the man in the bed is better?” “Unfortunately, it usually takes longer than that,” I told him. “But we can pray for him.” He liked that idea.
There are so many social tensions here in Israel –– from the judicial reforms, to the bill shortening army exemption for the Ultra Orthodox, to debates over letting the Arab community participate in a joint Yom HaZikron program.
But in the hospital setting, none of that mattered. We are all one people seeking a common goal –– a clean bill of health.
Every time I have the unfortunate luck of visiting one of our medical centers, I’m reminded of how amazing these places are. Sometimes the patients are Arab and the doctors are Jewish. But other times, especially on Shabbat, it’s the opposite. All I know is that we need to bring this model out of the emergency rooms and into the rest of the country.
May we all soon find a common goal to work towards and put our disagreements behind us.
This first appeared here