What Else Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Consider this an official announcement: I have been forced to amend my Daily Question, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ It is becoming clearer and clearer that what I should be asking is, What else could possibly go wrong? Why this dramatic shift of emphasis? Follow along and you’ll find out why.

Let’s go back to the morning of Sep. 6. There were a few things noticeably amiss in the world to upset my usual feeling that all’s well – almost – in the world. For one thing, huge chunks of the planet seemed to be on fire (as in the entire west coast of the U.S., with its skies turned orange, and the Amazon, with huge swaths of its rain forest eliminated) or would soon be again (as in Australia, another year of videos on Facebook of koalas and wombats rescued from a fiery hell). Here in The Land, there were no fires – except from the incendiary balloons sent our way from Gaza. It just felt as if we were standing permanently inside a steam bath.

COVID-19, anyone? We were hearing whispers from our less-than-competent government of the inevitability of another shutdown, probably putting the kibosh on anyone’s plans for Rosh Hashana and the days that follow. My news sources, heavily slanted to events in the New World, were equally depressing, given the fact that, in the country I came from, public health policy has unfortunately become a matter of partisan politics – as if the virus gives a hoot about where you stand on the Democratic-Republican divide.

Speaking of politics…… No, I won’t go there, it’s too depressing – here, there, anywhere, and you’ve had your fill of this distasteful subject; at least, I have.

But I still have my health! I am alive and well, virus-free, and so are my family, here and there. So, what’s not to like, even though the world around me is going to hell in a handbasket

On that fateful morning, Barbara and I were scheduled for appointments with an eye doctor here in Ma’ale Adumim. Routine stuff, nothing to fret about. In previous years, I had employed the services of an American ophthalmologist, one whom I trusted and who had diagnosed my dry-eye condition and prescribed stuff for it. But I had to travel all the way out to the clinic known as ‘Little Hadassah’ near the mifletsit to see him (if you don’t know what or where that is, don’t worry, it’s not important). This year? Can we find someone closer? It’s a long way to travel, if I don’t have to.

We wound up with the doctor who works here in town, with an Israeli name but a Russian accent – especially when talking to herself. I wonder, who is her fashion coordinator? Her combination of clothes seemed a tad eccentric, but there’s more to life than that.

She started with Barbara, who usually is the star attraction, having had various ocular issues over the years (all of which are on file on the Maccabi site). But my wife’s blue eyes haven’t changed, so there’s nothing to worry about. Then it was my turn, and lo and behold, there was a problem. Oh, was there a problem. It seems there’s bleeding in my optic nerve, and that’s not good. Wait a minute, I think I’ve just answered my question; now I know what else could possibly go wrong.

Presenting me with all the could-be’s and might-be’s in Russian-accented Hebrew didn’t help. (Remember I have an advanced degree in hypochondria.) The upshot was I needed a prescription for some eye medicine and lot of tests. The beauty of the system here is that a person’s medical records are in one file that can be accessed by anyone who needs to know. The ophthalmologist entered the prescription, and we picked it up at our friendly neighborhood pharmacy three minutes later. (Oh yes, I can keep dosing myself daily with Navi Blef for my dry eye condition, but that didn’t seem to be important this time around.)

For everything else, I needed to see our super-wonderful G.P, Channa Selmon, at Maccabi. Everything that the eye doctor had dutifully entered into the system was right there on Selmon’s computer screen for her to explain to us in her NJ, American accent. If I can’t explain it back to you, it’s not Dr. Selmon’s fault; I just don’t understand medical lingo. Here’s what I do understand: it could be a one-off, with nothing really wrong with me. That’s what happened a year and a half ago when I was hospitalized for pancreatitis, and there was never any reason why it happened. That’s what’s most likely; nothing to worry about. OR, it could be, as the optic nerve is connected to one’s brain, that something much worse is going on, and we’d better find out and do it pronto. So, reading the recommendations from the eye doctor, Doctor Selmon started printing out referrals left and right for more blood work, an EKG, a few different ultrasounds, a heart monitoring device, and a specialized eye test.

The bad news is that Barbara had to spend lots of time on the phone and the computer setting up appointment after appointment, and I would be spending an insane amount of time going hither and yon to these appointments. The good news is that we don’t have to take out a second mortgage to pay for all this. Unlike in The States, it’s all covered, with nominal amounts coming out of our bank account. So there’s that. Still, I’d have to travel hither and yon – when we’re being told to limit as much as possible where we’re going – for appointments whose specific purpose I can’t quite fathom. One such appointment took us to the Malcha Mall for an ultrasound.

Come back in ten years when the Light Rail system for Jerusalem might be completed. Then it will be a ten-minute ride to Malcha and the Teddy Stadium from the center of town. Now it’s a lot more of a shlep – except if you’re smart or lucky. Our local bus company schedules a few trips each day directly to the mall and then to Hadassah-Ein Kerem. There are never more than a handful of people making the journey, so if you ever want to have a bus all to yourself, this is the way to go. Barbara managed to make an appointment for a convenient time, allowing us to take the #129 bus for my appointment, have lunch in the mall, and catch the bus back home. Good work, dear!

The Malcha mall is chump change compared to the Garden State Plaza or any respectable mall in The States; still it’s big enough that you need to know your way around or you can get farblunget pretty fast. I sort of remembered that to get to Machon Lev, you have to go down the correct corridor to find the bank of elevators to the top floors where all the medical offices are. But which corridor, and what floor do you have to be on? After wandering around the mall for about twenty minutes and getting into a quasi-farblunget state (luckily, we had left ourselves extra time for such a situation), as a last resort, we called them up: We’re wandering around the mall; how do we get to where you are? You’ll probably never need to know, but just in case: You need to be on the third floor; find the American Eagle store; walk down that corridor; take the elevator to the fourth floor and go left. Easy.

When it was my turn to see the doctor who would be doing the ultrasound, he looked at the records on his computer and said, You were last here eight years ago. No wonder I didn’t remember where to go and why I didn’t recognize him. It’s unlikely that he remembered my face, but my innards? There was my old ultrasound to compare with the one he was about to take.

I’m used to these procedures, having had my share of them in the last several years. But as I was lying on the table with the doctor moving his device around, I began to hear a sloshing sound. Gevalt, that’s me. That’s what’s going on all the time inside me: vital organs functioning, blood circulating. Great! Just that I don’t need to be reminded of it. It’s like the cartoon character walking on thin air – until he realizes what is going on and he plummets to the ground. I don’t need to be reminded that I’m breathing and my heart is pumping; let it happen without my paying strict attention. Remember, I have advanced degrees in hypochondria.

The next group of tests (more blood work, an EKG, and wearing a device to monitor my heart rate) were both less stressful and closer to home: In the process, I became buddy-buddy with the young woman who sits at the entrance to the Maccabi clinic in our mall and asks questions like, Do you feel all right today? Have you been in contact with anyone who has the virus? After the second day in a row I was there, we just waved to each other.

There will be more tests like these to come, but so far nothing seems to be amiss. I wish I could say the same about the state of our country and the state of the world. Maybe everything out there is a one-off, an aberration with causes unknown, and everything will shortly revert to status quo ante, but every day I’m tending to doubt that more and more. There’s a whole lot of unwanted sloshing going on, the ante is being upped every day, and the question, ‘what else….’ is being answered, You’ll find out soon enough. I can hardly wait. I’ll have more to say on the subject, if you are patient.

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