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Another day at the office

As soon as I walked into my office at 8:00 a.m., I knew my cup of coffee was going to be delayed. There were already three children waiting to be seen outside my door, despite the fact that I had not yet even logged onto the computer. A pediatrician routinely sees ear infections, coughs and sore throats. These were the type of quick visits I was hoping for to make my already busy schedule easier. I sent up a silent plea to Hashem to make the day go by without incident, as I could see it was going to be hectic. My first patient was a 13-year-old boy who woke up and noticed that his smile was lopsided. His right eye couldn’t fully close and that side of his face was partially paralyzed. It took me under a minute to diagnose the cause of his sudden facial paralysis as Bell’s palsy, but it took over 30 minutes to calm his hysterical mother who was concerned about his appearance and how it would affect his potential shidduch nine years in the future. The next patient was a three-year-old child with a rash all over his body that felt like sandpaper. As this is one of the clear signs of a streptococcal infection I performed a quick strep test, which immediately came back positive. I explained to the young boy’s grandmother who was accompanying him that he had scarlet fever as a result of strep, and that within 24 hours on oral antibiotics he would show a significant improvement. The grandmother, having been raised in the pre-penicillin era, was thrown into a state of panic at the mention of scarlet fever. As I handed her the prescription she interrupted me to ask which hospital he was going to be admitted to.

Slowly and clearly I explained that oral antibiotics were a sufficient treatment and that he would even be able to go to school the next morning. I was starting to feel the stress of all those patients waiting to be seen when my phone rang. The receptionist wanted to let me know that in addition to the throngs of children waiting to be seen, Magen David Adom had been called five minutes ago because there was a woman in the early stages of labor elsewhere in the clinic. This type of call usually doesn’t raise any red flags for me. I’m always informed when there’s a woman in labor on the premises in case she delivers so I can care for the newborn right after delivery. Ninety-nine percent of the time the woman is whisked off by ambulance without my ever seeing her. I had a premonition, though, that this time would be different. The next two patients had simple ear infections. I was growing hopeful that I would recover from my frenetic morning. Then the receptionist called back with an update on the woman in labor: Things were progressing very rapidly and she was going to have the baby imminently. MDA had arrived but thought it preferable that she deliver in a medical facility staffed by multiple physicians and nurses rather than somewhere on a highway in an ambulance with two paramedics. Ramat Beit Shemesh is not a hop, skip and jump away from any hospital. In the best case scenario it takes a full 25 minutes to get to Hadassah Ein Kerem.

On that particular morning we had two obstetricians, a dermatologist, an ophthalmologist, an internist and a pediatrician all under the same roof. As I quickly made my way over to the obstetrician I was amazed at how many people were in the waiting room. It was an eclectic group of about 35 individuals, ranging from a woman with tattoos on her upper arm to a chasidic gentleman with peiyos down to his shoulders. Once MDA made the decision that the woman would be giving birth right there, everyone realized that they were all going to be spending a good portion of their morning sitting and waiting. The woman in labor was a young lady having her second baby. She had arrived that day for a routine obstetrical exam in her final weeks of pregnancy and never imagined she would be delivering her baby during that visit. Baruch Hashem, her mother had come with her and was able to give her much needed moral support. Soon after I entered the makeshift delivery room, a healthy baby girl entered the world. The other doctors, nurses and I were all very emotional, some of us with tears in our eyes. It doesn’t matter how many deliveries I’ve attended; I’m always amazed at the open miracle Hashem performs with every birth. So many millions upon millions of things need to occur at just the right time in order for everything to be perfect, and He orchestrates it so beautifully thousands of times a day. After examining the newborn I went back to attend to the rest of my patients.

As I walked into the waiting room there was utter silence. Everyone was absorbed in his or her own personal prayers for the new mother and baby. The tension in the room was palpable. Finally a woman broke the silence and asked, “Nu, ben o bat?” to which I replied, “Bat—it’s a girl!” Everyone shouted “Mazal Tov!” Many of the women and even some of the men were crying. At that moment, the waiting room did not consist of many different types of Jews but of one people, am Yisrael. Beit Shemesh is a city in the middle of Israel that finds itself on the front page of The New York Times more often than some large European countries. Although probably not front-page material, the tefillos in that waiting room were a clear reflection of who we are and what we are made of. Regardless of our dress or level of observance we genuinely care for each other. Back in the exam room, I quietly thanked Hashem for all of His miracles and reassured myself that I would get through the day even without my cup of coffee. I’m not sure which gave me more of an adrenaline boost that morning, the birth of a healthy bas Yisrael or the tremendous achdus that my fellow residents of Beit Shemesh showed while waiting for her arrival.

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