Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Long Day

Fear can make your body do many things. It can make your brain work faster, your legs run harder or your ears more sharp. Or sometimes, it can make everything—your ears, your eyes, your body and your mind—shut down completely. That is what happened to me.

On Tuesday, April 23, the doctors decided that I was well enough to go home the next day. Fantastic! I was elated. On Wednesday April 24, I woke up and realized that elation was the last thing I should feel. The appropriate feeling was panic, and lots of it. That morning, for the first time it really hit me: I, Gila Weiss, had been seriously injured in a suicide bombing. Not somebody else—ME—and I was supposed to deal with it. I had to deal with doctors. I had to deal with National Insurance. I could not even leave my house alone; but I had to figure out how to buy groceries, fill prescriptions and get to and from the hospital. For that matter, groceries, prescriptions and cabs require money, and I could not work. Yet another thing to deal with! I had to do all this half deaf and mostly blind. I had to do all this in Israel and in Hebrew, which were to me still essentially a foreign country and a foreign language, respectively. Worst of all, I had to do all this all alone. My father had left on Monday night.

Clearly, this was impossible. To do this in the United States, in English and in familiar territory, would have been like learning to walk a tightrope. To do this here and under these circumstances was learning to cross a tightrope on a unicycle, backwards and with a wedgie. I absolutely, positively, could not do this. Nononono. I was not going to do this. My body, agreeable as ever despite its injuries, immediately went into full “not-going-to-do-this” mode and shut down. It was as though I had taken four heavy-duty cold tablets. My already limited sight and hearing got even worse, my entire body was tired and ached, and I felt more tired than I had ever felt in my life.

Barbara, my social worker, tried to boost my spirits and confidence while walking me through the steps involved in getting discharged and moving to treatment on an outpatient basis. She sat next to my bed and spoke quietly to me. "Really, you will be fine. It will not be that bad. We will help you." Unfortunately, she did so while rounds were still going on. From across the room, one of the doctors (undoubtedly getting revenge for my incessant questions) turned around and screamed at me. "What is wrong with you? You had had your turn, and now you are disturbing everyone!" That was the last straw. While Barbara went off to give the doctor a piece of her (very pissed-off) mind, I pulled the curtain around my bed, curled up with my teddy bear and burst into tears. Throughout my hospital stay, there had been a certain element of trying to be the perfect patient, the perfect victim of terror (do not ask me why—I am an accountant, not a shrink). And now, on top of everything, I had done something terribly wrong! I was bothering the doctors! Not only was I supposed to do things I clearly could not do, but I was also a selfish, worthless brat. Now the nurses joined my social worker in trying to cheer me up. One by one, they came by my bed and told me not to cry. Zeh beseder-it’s okay. You did not do anything wrong. The doctor was wrong; he should have seen that you were speaking with your social worker. Nothing helped. I felt wretched.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, my friends arrived to save the day. Barbara gave up on trying to tell me what needed to be done and told my friends instead. Debbie dealt with admissions, Valeria packed my bags and Nomi handled everything else. A volunteer from Sela, an organization which aids immigrants in crisis, showed up and made sure I had cash to cover immediate costs. At Nomi's request, the department nurses put together a collection of medical supplies to get me through the first day or two. All the while, I lay in bed, in a daze.

By the early afternoon the discharge work was complete and I was free to go. Debbie and Valeria came back to my room to collect me. They bundled me into a cab and whisked me off to Nomi’s where I was to spend my first couple days of freedom. Once there, I ate something and went right back to sleep. In the evening, friends came to visit. I sat there as though drugged. I could barely hear a word they said; it was as though everything was coming from far away. All the while, my mind was in a state of panic. How could I do this on my own? What was I going to do? My friends were a bit freaked out at my depressed state; up to this point I had presented an unfailingly cheerful countenance. Was this to be the new Gila? They left after a very short visit. I went to bed early.

Sometime in the night, somehow, the fear left me. I work up in the morning and the paralysis was simply gone. From that point on, I managed.


Baila said...

This sounds like how I felt when chemotherapy was finished and I was only going to see my doctor in three months. I was terrified. Somehow as long as you are in treatment (or for you in the hospital), its a comfort, as bad as it is, and as much as you want to move on to the next step of recovery. Your reaction was probably very normal, and healthy. I mean, how long can you be cheerful and funny in your situation?

I always say, its important to have our little breakdowns (both for the huge crises and the little ones), as long as we can pick up the pieces the next day and move on.

And you did.

Anonymous said...

Gila, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I live in Israel, and for me and people like me especially, a diary like yours serves to strengthen us even as you strengthen yourself.

I admire you, Gila - and wish you continued recovery, health, and happiness.

Jack Steiner said...

I find your stories to be quite intriguing.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Thank G-d for friends.

tnspr569 said...

Indeed, friends are true blessings.

Sometimes we surprise ourselves, especially in the most impossible of circumstances.

Your courage and determination are inspiring.

TeacherLady said...

I would have been in the fetal position whimpering or staring for an eternity in your position. I could only hope I'd have a fraction of your courage and integrity.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and read all the posts - you are such a great writer (can't believe you're an accountant - didn't know that accountants can do words as well as numbers...)

Anonymous said...

I was crying as I read this.

Your strength is inspiring. Keep on writing.