Howie Goldschmidt

In Israel, the work week begins on Sunday

6:45 AM: Mazda 2 on the 443. Minarets to the left, minarets to the right. ECO99FM, Rock the Casbah

7:45: Coronary Care Unit rounds, many admissions over the holiday weekend. On a remote settlement, a Talmud scholar collapsed after dancing at a crowded noisy Purim party. His wife’s screams pierced the revelry and brought help. A volunteer from Hatzala had a defibrillator in his car. The Rabbi was successfully resuscitated. Another Purim miracle.

9:00:  Transesophageal echocardiogram procedure on a young woman from Hebron with 2 weeks of unexplained fever. Thankfully, I find no evidence of heart valve infection. Afterwards, I sit with my colleagues while we review and interpret echocardiograms on our work stations.

11:00: Visit with my friends Gregg  and Barbara (names changed) in their father’s hospital room. He is getting good medical care, but the lack of amenities in the budget strapped health care system is frustrating for the family. I sympathize.

Gregg  and Barbara made Aliyah from Teaneck to an ultra-orthodox neighborhood. In their new lives, they go by the names “Gershon and Brayndee”, so I joke that they are in the witness protection program. They brought Barbara’s widowed father with them on Aliyah. Sadly, he developed dementia shortly afterwards. Like many his age in Israel, he has a home health aide from the Philippines. The aides come to the hospital every day and sit with their charges, assisting with daily personal routines.

Since my arrival in mid-February, I have visited two other patients at Shaare Zedek whose children are our friends in Teaneck. I reassure the children that their parents are stable and that the treatment plan is appropriate. At this stage in my career, assuming a pastoral role is as satisfying as clinical expertise.

11:30: Lunch in main floor cafeteria, read NY Times/Times of Israel on my phone. Corrupt leadership in US and Israel. Compare and contrast.

11:45: Bedside teaching on internal medicine ward. The two residents both speak Hebrew with Russian accents. One wears Payess and a beard, the other is secular. Both are very sharp. I make suggestions on adjustment of medications to control a patient’s heart beat.

12:00: Gap in schedule due to cancelled procedures, so I visit nearby Mt. Herzl. See next week’s blog.

1:30: Medical Intensive Care Unit, where I teach bedside cardiac ultrasound to the three critical care fellows. They are accompanied by two German medical students, one from Hamburg (my mother’s birthplace) and the other from a small village in Saxony, former DDR. We pick a room at random and the fellows obtain permission to perform an echocardiogram for teaching purposes. The 96 year old Kippah-wearing patient interrupts my heavily accented and grammatically wanting Hebrew to change the conversation to English. We chat while I guide the young doctors as they explore his cardiac anatomy. He is from Newark, which he points out was the home of Nobel non-laureate Philip Roth. It also happens to be my birthplace. I ask his name. Wow!, he is Leon! Leon was my Father’s best friend until he and his family made Aliyah in 1980. He was a science teacher in the US and became a production chemist in Israel. His late wife was my mother’s best friend in the Hashomer Hadati (“The religious watchman”) Zionist youth organization in Manhattan. I had been too focused on the students to recognize him or ask his name from the outset. As Leon and I catch up on the last 30 years, the German students look on in amazement. Coincidences are commonplace among the ingathered exiles of the Jewish State. A few days later, I put my mother on the phone with Leon. After midnight in Queens, 7:30AM in Jerusalem. My father is already asleep.

2:30: “Introduction to Echocardiography”, teaching session with medical students on cardiology rotation. One of the students is visiting from Christ Church, New Zealand. I ponder the connection to the nearby Churches of the Nativity and Holy Sepulcher

3:30:  Back to Modiin on the 443. KAN88FM, The Byrds’ version of Turn, Turn, Turn. The words of Kohelet son of David, King in Jerusalem.

4:00 : Jog through Wadi Anaba. Lizards, worms, butterflies and pretty birds.

5:40 : Ezra (6) accompanies me to annual physical with Dr. Morris, whose office is four buildings away in our apartment complex. Ezra plays soccer in the courtyard while I wait.

The doctor is an Alpha Omega Alpha graduate of Albert Einstein medical school. While he examines me, we discuss the Israeli medical system, continuing our conversation from last year. He wistfully notes that after building a busy practice here over the last 15 years, he is earning almost what he was making when he left New York.

As a new immigrant, my first year of health care in the Maccabi HMO was entirely free. Going forward, it will cost $600 a year.

6PM: Having delivered her fourth boy the day after Purim (Mazal Tov, thank you), Alyssa is still in the maternity hotel, so Debbie picked up the three older boys from school. While Debbie gets dinner ready, I play catch on the porch (no Spaldeens or Pensie Pinkies in the local toy stores) with Eitan and Ezra. A neighbor’s daughter knocks on the door to borrow some ingredients for dinner. How nice to live in a 14 story building with lots of young families.

After dinner, we play board games. I simultaneously play chess with Eitan and Othello with Ezra. I am sufficiently distracted so that I can lose both games without trying.

9PM: Very limited TV options in our rented apartment. The only movie on basic cable is “The English Patient”. Debbie recalls that Elaine Benes hated the movie and was forced to watch it a second time by Peterman (episode#151). I think about the next blog until sleep overtakes me.

About the Author
Dr. Goldschmidt , a graduate of Columbia University, is an American cardiologist who resides in Teaneck, NJ and Atlantic Beach, NY. He is the proud grandfather of 4 Sabra boys who live in Modiin. He volunteers one month a year at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, teaching and practicing cardiology. He also serves on the board of The American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center
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