You have often heard me say that our bodies start by whispering, and when we don’t pay attention, they start shouting at us. Then we have no choice but to seek medical care. Just the other day I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain. There was no whispering, there was no leading up to “Hey let’s take care of ourselves and pay attention and seek pre-emptive care.” I had been doing just that. I exercise daily, eat a very healthy diet, and treat myself with Acupuncture often. Nevertheless, my body had its own ideas. Figuring I would ignore the pain and it would resolve, I went into the office and treated many patients. As an avid diagnostician I was pretty convinced at this point that my appendix was not happy, to say the least. As appendicitis does, it literally came out of nowhere. It was at this point that I stopped eating or drinking anything knowing I may end up in surgery, and this would be necessary for general anesthesia. I somehow managed to rise above the pain and finish treating all patients scheduled until lunch. I am not sure how I managed to play a role of normalcy, while practically keeling over in pain- but it was hardly noticed. At that point in time my receptionist, aware of what was going on, was very helpful in canceling the afternoon full lineup of scheduled patients. This was shocking to many, as it is a rare occurrence that I cancel patients. Not knowing for sure what was going on, she was vague in her explanation that I had a family emergency. My patients were very understanding.
It was at this time that my role flipped. I stopped being the Dr. and became the patient. Having a good understanding of how overloaded our emergency rooms are these days, there was no way I was driving into a hospital with a stomachache. I called Hatzalah, our volunteer ambulance service. They were so kind and based upon my symptoms immediately agreed that they suspected an appendicitis. At this point I was running a low-grade fever and my blood pressure- always normal, was becoming elevated from the pain. They treated me with tremendous respect. Of course, we had a great conversation about Acupuncture, and they even tried avoiding bumps en-route to the hospital which would aggravate the tremendous pain I was in. While my husband followed the ambulance, because of COVID-19 protocols, he was not allowed to be with me and I quickly called him and told him to go home. There was no point in his staying in the parking lot waiting for hours. It really gave me pause as to what everyone has been through this year during these trying times when they were not permitted to have a family member by their side in the hospital. Here I was, a pretty healthy patient whose pain while unrelenting, was still manageable. I was able to speak up for myself and was slightly mobile. Still the idea of the testing and unknown of what was awaiting was terrifying. Minutes in pain felt like hours, hours like days. The constant bloodwork and tests to rule out other things was exhausting. Finally, I was given a full pitcher to drink that would allow the CT scan with contrast to illuminate the appendix and surrounding organs for definitive results. I was rolled back to my room in the ER from the scanning room, and immediately a nurse told me off the record that it was definitely my appendix, and the surgeons on call would be notified urgently. As a Dr. who knows too much, as a Dr. who treats individuals recovering from just these types of scenarios, I knew I was in a game against time. At this point the pain had begun over 15 hours prior. My fear was not the pain. My fear was my appendix rupturing. The different surgical intervention in a simple appendectomy, as opposed to the follow up care for a rupture is night and day. Comparatively, it is recovery of a few days as opposed to many months. I knew I needed to have surgery as fast as possible. At this point the pain which had never subsided, was beginning to spread to other areas, and becoming even more intense. Struggling alone with my thoughts, I decided to make a call.
I am not someone to call in favors. It’s not my nature. I am a pretty private person and prefer to be the one on the other side of things. However, suffering in pain alone in the ER and facing what sounded like I wouldn’t be able to get on the surgical schedule until the first thing the next morning, I was desperate. Let me back up and say that I knew Rabbi Baruch Ber Bender before he was famous. I knew Rabbi Bender before he pioneered Achiezer, the amazing community support organization that has done so much, for so many, in their most trying times especially over this past year. Rabbi Bender has always been someone who inculcates an individual’s welfare above his own. He did this well before he dreamt of the need for Achiezer, and therefore it never came as a surprise to me that he would not only start an organization of this nature, but see it reach the heights and tremendous influence it has achieved in such a short time. Rabbi Bender has been under tremendous strain this year. He always does his best to help each and every individual. Sometimes things aren’t possible to facilitate and he takes it hard with deference all the while knowing he has tried his best. I called his cell phone and he answered “Hey Deb what’s up?”. It was that simple. I quickly apprised Rabbi Bender of where I was holding, and how I felt that the rupture was imminent and I was terrified of waiting for surgery. When I explained that I had NPO, nothing by mouth since early that morning, and opted to be transported by Hatzalah, we both laughed when he told me I knew too much. He was able to get the surgeon to agree to put me on the schedule first thing in the morning. I simply said it’s not enough, I am terrified that if it ruptures, the countless people who are relying on me will have nowhere else to turn. I simply cannot afford to take the chance of having months of recovery ahead and leaving my own patients without coverage. We hung up with him saying he would see what he could do. Within seconds someone came in for transport. I was shocked to be told we were headed straight to the operating room. The best part was not having an opportunity to be nervous about surgery, as it was literally minutes from finding out, to being put under general anesthesia and the surgery beginning.
I hope I don’t get Rabbi Bender in trouble writing about this because I know he accomplished the impossible. I know that I am lucky. I am beyond grateful for his assistance, and the support of this incredible organization but mostly for Rabbi Bender as an individual who will literally do whatever it takes to help.
I am grateful and blessed to be back home recovering. Acupuncture and proper nutrition will help ensure an even faster recovery. Other than walking, I am unable to exercise for a few weeks but am confident I will get back there.
I far prefer being on the other side of things. I would rather be the Dr. than the patient. It is my passion to help people heal and enjoy life with optimal wellness. Sometimes being on the other side of things can actually help refresh my understanding of what it is my patients go through whether they are experiencing a life-threatening illness, or surgeries or acute illnesses such as this one. The human experience can never be mitigated and it is an essential and integral part in my being there for my patients. I look forward to going back to the office and once again helping patients heal with newly found vitality and humility.