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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Strange Hospitality


The easiest part of being with Mom in the hospital was wheeling her bed into surgery. The before and after were so difficult, and if I try to explain why, I’m not sure I could do justice to the strange dislocation we felt.

 

Just to recap, Mom had a cancerous skin tumor on her leg that needed to be removed.

 

Mom arrived on a stretcher in an ambulance the day before surgery and was quickly transferred to the plastic surgery ward in the main hospital building. A lovely, lively nurse did the intake from her bedside, a small cubicle in a room we shared with another patient. Dad and I had agreed that I would stay the night, being the younger and (hopefully) fittest of the two of us. So, I hung out with them for a while, then left for the afternoon. I got a little work done and returned with dinner for the two of us. Mom ate the hospital dinner.

 

Mom’s moods changed so rapidly. She was angry, scared, happy, engaging, and distant, all in a matter of moments. I kept reminding the nursing staff that we had to change her diapers, but on several occasions, the wait to get them into the room meant that Mom’s bedding and hospital gown were wet (or worse). Often, I was the second set of hands helping to change her, and I learned how to push her onto her side to facilitate the change more easily.

 

Another thing I learned: It’s important to place a rubber pad under Mom but above the sheet. Not only does it keep the sheet dry, but it allows you to pull Mom up in the bed when she’s slipped down. Even with the bed elevated, it was difficult to serve her water because the angle was off and she kept swatting my hand away. I was nervous she’d spill the water all over herself which would require another change.

 

Dad left at about 8:00 p.m. I somehow managed to get Mom to swallow her night pills, and then I figured we’d settle down. Ha ha ha! Let me tell you about the visitor “beds” in the wards. They are glorified Lazy-Boy chairs that open almost to a horizontal position. The problem is that you have to balance yourself carefully on the chair, shifting your weight just so, because otherwise the chair collapses on you and returns to a sitting position. Each time I tried getting comfortable, I felt like I was playing a balancing game. Mom fell asleep pretty quickly, but just as I was finally drifting off, probably close to 10:00 p.m., the nurses came in to announce that Mom had to have a chest x-ray.

 

Oh, wow, what an experience. A hospital porter wheeled Mom’s bed through a confusing maze of corridors and elevators to bring us to the x-ray rooms. Many people were waiting, both from the wards and emergency room arrivals. I noticed other bed-bound patients, one mumbling something over and over in what I finally realized was English. “Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to me?” she intoned. Yep, another dementia patient.

 

Mom was awake by now, and I did my best to keep her comfortable and calm. Finally, it was our turn. I reluctantly watched her bed being wheeled into the dark room without me and prayed she’d be fine. It turns out that if you’re over a certain age, they check your chest and lungs pre-surgery to make sure you’re healthy.

 

Then back through the labyrinth of brightly lit hallways, back to settling down—again—for the night, back to balancing myself on the crazy collapsible chair.

 

The nurses started rounds at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m.

 

Dad arrived by 8:00 a.m. for an 8:30 a.m. surgery appointment. And then we waited.

 

Mom was wheeled into surgery at 12:15 p.m. Dad and I got a quick bite at one of the local cafés, and when I knew Mom was safely out of surgery I went home to collapse.

 

The best news was that the surgeon used skin flaps instead of a graft, which meant Mom would heal faster.

 

I had high hopes of leaving the hospital the day of the surgery, but we were told we’d have to stay another night. I relieved Dad at about 6:00 p.m., when he went home to decompress, and I settled in for another fun night.

 

Practice makes perfect on those funky chairs. I slept for about 5 hours straight, and we weren’t woken up until 5:45 a.m. Luxury!

 

The surgery was successful, and Mom was back in her nursing home by 12:30 p.m., 48 hours after arriving at the hospital. My focus was on her, on our surroundings, on keeping her as serene as possible. We sang a lot of songs and nursery rhymes and had nonsensical conversations. It was the longest amount of time I’d been with Mom since she moved into a facility more than five years ago. Mom sleeps a tremendous amount. I also noticed that she rubs herself a lot. This is a sign of nervousness and discomfort, but she also did it in her sleep. When nurses arrived to take her blood pressure, they wanted to engage her as they do for most patients. I had to convince them that it was easier to let her sleep. We even managed to put the painful port into her arm when she was half asleep.

 

And, what can I tell you about our remarkable local Soroka Hospital? On that first fateful day of our endless October, the staff treated 680 patients, including 120 who were critically wounded during the initial 16 hours of October 7. (Read Time’s poignant article.)

 

There are two worlds simultaneously being lived in Soroka Hospital. One is the ongoing medical needs of civilians (like my mom) who receive the competent and kind ministrations of the staff here. The other is the war, where in the grand lobby, the piano is played with soulful music next to a display of photos of the staff and relatives of staff who have been taken from us, the all-night coffee stand, the families crowded into waiting rooms, the soldiers coming to visit their comrades, the call to the departments to receive a soldier coming out of surgery, the full-to-bursting rehabilitation wards.

 

We were a small part of that tapestry on those two crazy days. I wandered downstairs several times to remind myself there was still a war on, and to be comforted by the healing I knew was going on all around me. I also cherished a late-night visit by a dear friend, who, when he saw Mom sleeping peacefully in her hospital bed, somehow conveyed to me that the dutiful love I was giving her was worth every discomfort.

 

Mom is in good health. The first follow-up with the surgeon was positive, and we have the next and last one in five weeks.

 

May God watch over all of us and heal our wounds. 

 

 

Winter is a time for thick soups and dishes with extra carbohydrates. When I make cholent for Shabbat, I often add a vegetarian kishka as an extra treat. Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew that is simmered overnight for 12 hours or more, and eaten for lunch on Shabbat. Traditionally kishka is stuffed intestine with a filling made from a combination of meat and flour. I do away with the meat and add an array of fresh vegetables instead.

 

Sarah’s Veggie Kishka

This is a recipe I received many years ago from my fabulous friend, Sarah. I love the piquant taste of the celery. It reminds me to be thankful for every bite of life.

 

3 large celery stalks with leaves, chopped

2-3 carrots, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

½ cup oil

1 cup flour

½ Tbsp paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Chop vegetables roughly then toss in a food processor. Pulse until veggies are minced. Add oil, flour, and spices and process until mixed. On a flat surface, lay down a square of foil covered by a smaller square of baking paper. Place about ¼ of the mixture on the edge of the baking paper and roll into a small cylinder. Twist ends of foil closed. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. Place foil rolls in a pan and cook on 350° F / 180° C for 1 hour. If serving with cholent, place baked foil rolls on top of cholent and cook additionally until served on Shabbat.

 

 

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