Just barely interesting

I twisted something in my ankle again this week as I was walking back from the sea, still basking in the afterglow of Saturday afternoons since moving to the coast. I felt/heard the familiar snap, crackle, pop as my orientation went from vertical to horizontal in the blink of an eye. And slowly a crowd of onlookers shouting advice which my daughter helpfully translated, making her sound like a schizophrenic drill sergeant.

“Get up and walk on it! No, sit down and rest! Get some ice! Call an ambulance! Buy me Uno!”

I was certain the last demand had not been a translation, since she had been asking for us to buy the game for weeks. We had made a valiant effort, i.e., I had gone to the toy store in the mall with the elderly guard who likes to wand butts a little too aggressively, but only cute ones (no, he doesn’t wand me). The store didn’t carry the original Uno. However the clerk had been excited to tell me that they did have “Uno EXTREME!” I didn’t like the way his eyes gleamed as he led me to the game section.

“It’s just like Uno, but with flying cards,” he said. I thought I had heard him wrong.

“No, really. It comes with a little gearbox that throws the cards in the air.”

I took a look at the price tag. It was the equivalent of 60 dollars. I checked later. In America, the game is $28. I still can’t get unsweetened Kool Aid here, but they have imported a game that does what my four year old can do, and doubled the price. Moses wept.

I crawled back to my apartment to wait out the hours until I could see an orthopedist, who, after I estimated that the exact same thing had happened maybe 30 or 40 times before, sent me off for an MRI. The MRI technician had a trainee, and after looking at my foot for a minute or two, the senior technician started pointing things out to the junior tech in staccato Hebrew, which I had no hope of understanding. But as soon as I saw that I was being used as a training case, I relaxed, because I knew nothing could be that wrong. I have a long history of the medical community finding my body to be interesting in a boring kind of way.

I remember the first time I heard one medical professional turn to another and say “Come here! You’ve gotta take a look at this!” I was 18, and I had decided to join the Army. After passing a battery of tests and physical checks, the final station (well, for women, anyway) was a visit to the OB/GYN. I lay there with my feet in stirrups, my legs splayed before an Army doctor, worrying that my uterus was about to stop me from serving my country. After some poking and prodding, the doctor handed control of the speculum to an intern.

“She’s got a tipped uterus. See how it tilts backwards?”

The intern nodded, and was dismissed with a dismissive wave. The doctor finished up and said I was free to go.

“Um, what about the tipped uterus thing?” I asked nervously.

“Oh, that?! It’s nothing. It’s just a different congenital (I wonder if he laughed to himself when he said that… I would have) presentation. We like to make sure that our doctors see as many examples of what’s normal as possible.”

I was reassured, and kind of pleased. I was different, but not in a way that was dangerous to my health. In the end, however, my uterus did keep me from serving my country, since, despite high test scores, and several years of foreign language study spanning French, German, Spanish, and Latin in highschool, the Army only offered me a position as a secretary, which I declined.

That was the beginning of my becoming a chronic low level example case. Weird moles, teething at 35 (not my wisdom teeth, I still haven’t had those think about coming out yet), being able to lick my elbow. The last one’s not true. Although I do have a friend who can lick her elbow, and I am incredibly jealous. If I could do that, I’d never leave the house.

Last year, one of my daughters failed her school eye test, and since it was also time for me to replace my glasses, I took her with me to the optometry school at Hadassah College, for a thorough (and cheap) eye exam. About 100 minutes in, I noticed a line of students waiting in the entrance of the exam room.

“Come here, everyone!” exclaimed the supervising optometrist. “We have a special treat today! This mother and daughter both have a condition called persistent pupillary membrane, where tissue that typically atrophies shortly after birth remains. It’s not usually dangerous, but I want you all to have a look so that if you see it again, you’ll be able to tell it from a true problem.”

The medical students divvied up between my daughter and me, shining lights in our eyes and nodding sagely. At the end, we were given our prescriptions and we went back home. On the bus, my daughter turned to me and asked why all of the doctors had wanted to see her eyes.

I sighed, and replied, “Honey, welcome to the world of the just barely interesting. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.”

About the Author
Malynnda Littky made aliyah to Israel with her family in 2007 from Oak Park, Michigan. Her recent stay in Paris, enjoying both medical tourism and her new status as the trophy wife of a research economist, has renewed her love for Israel, despite arriving just in time to enjoy several weeks of lockdown.