Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life as a Poor Sad Victim of Terror ®

June 2002

Some of you might be curious as to what the life of an official Poor Sad Victim of Terror ® is like. What do we do? How do we find meaning in our shattered lives? I do not know how representative I am, but as I am probably the only Poor Sad Victim of Terror ® that most of you know, you will have to make do with me. My days have been spent: shopping, visiting every last doctor at Hadassah and giving mounds and mounds of paper to National Insurance. Come! Let me take you into my life!

(Feel free to sob openly at the pathos of it all).

True, unless one is buying a bathing suit, pathos is probably not the most applicable word. Nonetheless, shopping is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. Despite the amazing success of the one-and-only "Machane Yehuda Bombing Diet Plan", my time at the mall has not been spent clothes shopping, but rather it has been dedicated to a crazed search for a computer desk. It became my passion, my obsession, my version of the Holy Grail: to find the perfect computer desk.

I was ultimately successful, and I am now typing at my new desk. I must tell you, I cannot dress well to save my life (another reason for me not to spend too much time clothes shopping), but when it comes to picking computer desks, I rule. My desk fits perfectly into the one open corner in my room AND has shelves for my printer and scanner AND shelves for random crap AND room for my screen AND did I mention that it really is a perfect fit AND I am going to shut up now, because I don’t want you to be insane with jealousy. Though you should be.

And yet, there is a dark cloud to this silver lining. Despite this amazing success and my newfound happiness, my obsession troubles me. Call me superstitious, but the last two purchases that I got so mental over were my glasses and my leather Naot mini-boots. Both items were destroyed in the bombing. Coincidence? I think not. Clearly, something is going to befall my desk. More to the point, I am concerned that whatever befalls my desk will befall me as well. Granted, the chances of my bringing my desk to the bus stop are rather low (I am not allowed to lift over 10 kilos, and besides, where would I put my computer?), but that befalling something could come into the apartment. While I don’t expect a terrorist to barge in, it is theoretically possible, for example, for a car or other large, destructive object to come crashing through my window, and land on my desk. Or it would be theoretically possible, but for the minor details that my apartment is: 1) on the second floor, 2) in the back of the building and 3) faces a tree filled lot and not a road. So, in this case, “theoretically possible” has the same weight as it does in the sentence “It is theoretically possible that Bibi Netanyahu is actually a giant squid”.

Though, to be quite frank, that really would not surprise me either.

In what can only be described as an outstanding show of courage and strength, despite the deep, dark shadow of doom lurking over me and my desk, I have managed to stay focused on my recovery. In the process, I have accumulated an impressive collection of medical personnel. At this point, I am up to eleven different medical professionals working on various aspects of my case. If you factor in the fact that every time I go to Plastic Surgery I get a different doctor then the numbers are even higher. For my purposes, I tend to view the plastic surgeons as one person whose name and appearance go through radical changes, and whose memory of my case mysteriously vanishes after each visit. The humorous part of all this is that I am not in bad shape at all, and in fact I am well enough to work full time, but unfortunately, am so busy with doctors appointments that I do not have time, and am stuck at two hours work per day.

Why do I have so many doctors? In part, the volume is attributable to my having a large number of smaller, irritating problems, My jaw muscle is damaged, parts of my face are numb, I have lots and lots of shrapnel, my eardrums have big holes in them and so on. The rest of the increase is through a game popular with medical personnel: “Bounce”. The object of the game is to see patients without treating them.

Here is how it goes. You go to a doctor with a problem. The doctor evaluates the problem. The doctor’s goal is to figure out how NOT to treat you. Based on how creatively he does this, he earns points. The department with the most points gets a toaster. The scoring system is as follows:

5 points: The doctor says that your problem is untreatable, or that it may be treatable, but that success isn’t actually 100% guaranteed, and so he isn’t going to try. Then he tells you to go away. Doctors don’t get a lot of points for this one because it doesn’t really call for much creativity. In fact, according to my roommate, this is the standard operating procedure for Israeli doctors. She explained that doctors would much rather not treat you because treating you is more work than not treating you. (I do have to admit that there is a certain logic to that). In response, Israeli patients have learned to ignore the doctors, and just continue to make appointments. As Pnina put it, “doctors are State employees, and they have to see you”.

10 points: The doctor tells you that your problem is treatable, but not right now, and that you will have to wait some indeterminate amount of time before he does anything. The trick is coming up with a plausible reason for the problem not being treatable. “The body should be given a chance to heal itself” is plausible. “Elul is a bad month for medical procedures involving your kidneys because the spirit of the month can create negative vibes that hinder recovery” is not plausible, unless the patient is from California, or affiliated with one of the crunchier Hassidic sects (Breslev, Carlbach, etc).

20 points: The doctor refers you to another doctor and/or department.

On occasion, if s/he is tired or not feeling creative or just generally just not feeling up to playing, the doctor will just treat the problem. In that case s/he gets no points. Most of my doctors fall into the five and ten-point categories, but certain departments have racked up an impressive amount of 20 pointers during the course of my treatment. Plastic surgery is the most skilled by far, probably because I really am not quite sure what they are supposed to be doing in there anyway. Whenever I go, and it does not matter what I go there for, they tell me that cannot treat me for a year, and in any event, I should go to Dermatology or to a specialist within plastic surgery to discuss the issue further. Maxilofacialar is also proving to be a real contender—they referred me to two different doctors in one appointment alone. (I was there because of damage to my jaw, and the doctor ended up referring me to a specialist for treatment of a scar on my arm. I think he got bonus points for that). Departments who are more closely associated with a particular bodily organ just cannot compete.

All in all, my medical personnel are multiplying like rabbits. Every week, I think to myself: “this week we will actually solve medical problems and next week I will only have two appointments and will be able to work half-time”. By the end of the week, the two appointments for the upcoming week have somehow become five or six, and nothing is solved. To top it off, all of these appointments have to be paid for, which means I have to supply…

National Insurance gets copies of everything. So far, I have turned in the following:

  • Copy of my discharge letter, noting the treatment I would need in the future
  • Copy of my discharge letter, amended to include the minor point (forgotten by the physician) that I no longer have eardrums, and as such, treatment by an ENT would be advisable
  • Receipts for medical supplies, cabs to doctors’ appointments and prescriptions. All of these have to be neatly taped to pieces of paper and submitted with descriptions and a summary sheet showing amounts due by type and total amounts due. Or at least, I think they have to be. I cannot help myself; I am an anal-retentive CPA. If I were a real Israeli I would probably just toss the receipts into a plastic bag and drop the bag off at National Insurance with a note asking for money.
  • Letters from my doctor saying that I cannot work, or that I can only work part time.
  • Copy of my eyeglass prescription and the receipt for the glasses
  • A letter from my ophthalmologist, explicitly stating that I need glasses, because the fact I had surgery on both of my eyes, and had a test for eyeglasses and I am (based on the prescription) pretty much blind as a bat, is not sufficient support.
  • Referrals from doctors authorizing me to visit yet another department in the hospital.
  • Referrals from doctors authorizing me to visit private physical therapists not in the hospital. Why should Hadassah get all the fun?
  • Copies of every other piece of paper I receive from doctors and/or the hospital. I have no idea if National Insurance needs them—I send them just to be sure. What the hell.
  • “Hazmanot” (invitations) for each and every appointment I schedule at the hospital.

The last item is, by far, my favorite. The way it works is that I get printouts from the hospital when I schedule appointments. I then send in the printouts to National Insurance. National Insurance reviews the appointments, and sends me individual confirmations, stating that they will pay. Yes! For each and every appointment with each of the ten (10), no sorry, as of today that it now eleven (11) doctors I am seeing, I have to get a confirmation. You might wonder, what would happen if, say, I were to get up in the morning and realize that I never received the confirmation for the appointment I had in plastic surgery at 9:30? At first, my solution was to make a panicked call to my National Insurance social worker to beg her to have a confirmation sent. But now I am wiser and far, far, far more experienced in the Israeli medical system and I have discovered that I can just hand over my Macabbi health insurance card to the clerks and let them bill Macabbi. That way, Macabbi gets to hound National Insurance, thus saving me time and energy. I think this is a far better solution than my doing it.

My second favorite item is the receipts. Receipts rank high in my list because, theoretically, National Insurance is going to give me the money back. I have not seen any cash yet, but Eli, the National Insurance clerk assigned to my case, has assured me that I am getting much closer. As I mentioned, I was recently officially recognized me as a Poor Sad Victim of Terror ®. This is actually a good thing, because now my payment for the period of hospitalization and recuperation can be approved and will hit my account in a week and I will start getting reimbursed for expenses within two weeks. Granted, one has to take into account differences between the standard definition of the word “week”: seven days, and its definition according to National Insurance: “random period of time which generally starts out with a base of seven days and is then, in accordance to some formula known (or not known) only to National Insurance, increased in some number of intervals of ten days”. Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction.




Quietus Leo has just informed me that doctors really do play Bounce, but that they use the term "turf". "Bounce" is when the turf returns to its own department.

And you guys all thought I was being paranoid, didn't you? Vindication is MINE!


Baila said...

How do you do the R in the circle thingie?

I don't understand why you have to go through so much to get appointments. When I make appointments for my daughter, i go to the window at Hadassah, they swipe the card and I get an appointment.

Is it because of the R thingie.

Anonymous said...

Bad news Gila, I have a custom-made cilinder desk with features your computer desk-thing can never ever compete.
To make matters worse, I too do belong to the species State employee.

Gila said...

Baila--normal appointments I do with Macabbi. Just at that point, I was doing everything through Bituach Leumi.

The R in the circle---in word. If you write (R), autotext will convert it to the R in the circle thingy.

Kleine Maus--I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!


Unknown said...

What you call a "bounce" is actually a "turf", as described by Dr. Samuel Shem in his book: "The House of God". It is a satire of the internship year written in a Catch-22 style.
A "bounce" is when a "turfed" patient is referred back to the original physician or department.
Here you can read about the book and the "laws" of the House of God.
In my own experience I invented my own set of laws which can be seen here

Anonymous said...

If "bouncing" were a sport, I think it would be tennis, no? Or maybe volleyball.

Yeah, I think know why the docs play. Yes, it keeps them mind sharp. Yes, it's very Israeli. And yes -- the falafel delivery guy makes more money than doctors.

Unknown said...

And that is why, Ari, my dream is to someday be, a felafel delivery guy.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

ROTFLOL Gila I love your outlook on life and how you make it work.

Gimme more! Gimme more!

I am hopelessly addicted to your blog. :)

Shira Salamone said...

How the heck are you paying for all this, ahem, fine medical care when a) you're working only two hours a day and b) judging by what wrote (unless I missed something), you haven't been reimbursed since the attack? Alternatively, where did you find such patient doctors? :)

CPA's wife

Anonymous said...

I am quite jealous over your computer desk. I hope you have a chance to gloat between appointments. :)

Anonymous said...

if i understand correctly your perfect computer desk is over 5 yrs old now. i hope it fared better then your glasses and boots.

Anonymous said...

The comparision will be embarrassing for the local squid population.

Gila said...

Okay--long day at work. Will take a few minutes to answer the myriad of questions etc:

Medical care: Paid for by National Insurance and (at times) my national health insurance. The system here is different (read "better" )than the one in the US. Not perfect, but much better. Not only did I not pay anything for my care when I was injured, I have since had thyroid cancer--also free. Hellish. But free.

Working: This article was written nearly six years ago. By July 2002, I was working half time and by August or September, full time. In addition, while it did take some time for the benefits to kick in, I did start to receive monthly payments from National Insurance to help me out over the rough patch. I also received financial help from organizations (Sela, Operation Embrace, Jewish Agency, Ministry of Absorbtion)and various friends, which covered me until National Insurance kicked in. Plus, I had some savings. Financially, everything worked out fine.

Computer desk--is now 6 years old, sill going strong. (Just stood on it the other day to put in a lightbulb). And am typing at it (and gloating) right now.

Local squid population--got the photo--lovely desk, but mine is still better. :) Mine is a corner desk. And I can put loads of photos and other stuff up on top.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Gila: Are you still shelling out money and waiting to be paid by Biutach Leumi? (Or was this 6 years ago)

Where *any* of the doctors you encountered sympathetic/helpful/less bouncy?

Gila said...

1) Bituach Leumi paid me back long ago. The initial delay notwithstanding, the folks there were really fantastic. I really lucked out.

2) At this point, my bombing-related expenses are minimal--the odd cab fare when I go for a semi-annual eye appointment (when I am running late and cannot take the bus).

3) With the very rare exception, virtually all of my doctors were nice. I imagine that they wanted to make sure that everything was being taken care of properly. From my point of view, however, it was a bit frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I hope this isn't going to freak you out Gila. And I don't really like to be the bearer of bad news (and I only read the first half of the post) … but… I need to point out that it is tiny bit more than theoretically possible that something may actually fly through the air and land on your lovely computer desk.
I don't know if this is more or less likely than it turning out that Bibi Netanyahu is actually a giant squid. (But that may be politics which is off limits.)

Remember this is the country where we only pretend is anything like normal.

Gila said...


Hmmmm....see some of us are just a wee bit traumatized by the last war? :)

Anyway, I am a Tel Avivit. We just slurp down the lattes and assume that this stuff only happens elsewhere in the country.

At least until one of our friendly neighborhood terrorist organizations decides to make good on its threat to give us a membership to THAT club.

Oh least the desk has been around longer than the Naots.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking ( being a State employee I have to admit this procedure to go slow), at the moment I do only have the possibility to sleep during working-hours.
While being a falafel delivery guy there also is time for free food and to earn a fortune.
Where do I sign in?

If there might fall something out of the air my desk must be a safe hiding place, it is made of oak.

BBJ said...

“Elul is a bad month for medical procedures involving your kidneys because the spirit of the month can create negative vibes that hinder recovery” is not plausible, unless the patient is from California, or affiliated with one of the crunchier Hassidic sects (Breslev, Carlbach, etc).

I'm from California, and you just explain that actually, the kidney is the seat of repressed anxiety and sadnesses, and it's good to fix 'em up and clear 'em out as part of the cheshbon ha'nefesh the rest of you is undergoing. Waiting until Tishri will prevent you from getting the most out of the Yom Kippur process, since the repressed sadnesses will leak during Neilah.

Bibi could be a squid, it's true. For a while I was convinced that his wife was Suha Arafat. (Think about it. Both blonde, both aggressive, clearly infatuated with access to power through men, and have you ever SEEN them together in a photo? I thought not. Question, then--was Arafat also a squid? Much about Middle Eastern politics is getting clearer now. We're all being controlled by Suha/Sara and her squid minions. Squid squads?

I should stop now. Congratulations on the desk. Sit at it in good health.

Anonymous said...

Traumatized? Have you noticed?

Come to think of it when I was little we had a desk that we got from someone in the family that was the only thing left standing when a Tornado (or Hurricane I don't remember) hit their house. My parents loved it because it had interesting watermarks in the wood.
It was a good sturdy desk and you used to get to the books on the high shelves.
I think my parents sold it at a garage sale when we moved here. I wonder if it's still around. I wonder if it survived Katrina.
If anything happens you can try hiding under the desk.