Today was amazing.
Of course, there were the downsides. I got lost in Jerusalem with my group because I thought I knew where I was going and actually didn't. I missed lunch (more on why later). I have more reading to do than I will ever be able to get though. And I managed to prove several times over that despite my dance and theatrical training, grace a virtue I have yet to fully possess.
But now for the amazing upsides--the parts that made every down moment worth it.
Today I volunteered for two hours at the Red Cresent Women's Hospital, just down the street from the center. I was signed up to be a nurse's aid. There were four of us doing the same thing--Ellen, Annie (my roommate) and Abi. I had been led to believe that would involve something secretarial, but those rumors were very much untrue. We were split up into different wards--Ellen in Labor and Delivery, Annie in Post-natal, and Abi in Surgery. I was put straight into the neonatal unit--a small room not much bigger than my bedroom at home, lined with normal basinets on one side and pre-me incubators on the others. I couldn't do a whole lot, as BYU liability concerns prevented me from touching anything that lives and breathes while within the confines of the hospital. In other words, I couldn't hold the babies when they cried--all I could do was rock their basinets back and forth until the supervising nurse could take care of them. I found other ways to satisfy my yearning maternal instincts. When the little ones fussed I pushed their basinets back and forth, singing softy and crooning gently in Arabic: "Marhaba, binti! Inti kuwaisa, nam..." Or, on English, "Hello, my girl... you're alright, yes you are..." etc. Three out of four neonatal babies (all girls) were one half of a set of twins (the other halves being big enough to go home). Two little girls lay in the incubators. One was four weeks early and so small I was afraid that a touch might break her frail little form. None of the babies had names--and they wouldn't get one until their family took them home. I gave them my own so I could remember them all.
On the whole I rocked and consoled and chatted around with the nurses and tried to feel useful for the first hour. My time was cut short when a particularly bossy nurse bustled in and informed me that I couldn't be in here with the premature babies and would have to leave right now. So I left right then. Another of the four nurse's assistant girls had drifted in a while before and she left with me. Ellen and I found Annie standing around in the hallway feeling useless and we all migrated downstairs together.
While downstairs the other girls were put to work making beds and carrying some things to the food prep area. Meanwhile, I took vital stats. I put on blood pressure cuffs and pulse moniters and gave the women thermometers to hold in their mouths. The nurse in charge of me did the actual recording, but I got to interact with the patients some. I was so glad to know Arabic--I carried on some small conversations with the ladies, who seemed very pleased to be able to speak with me in their own language.
Part way between one patient and another, my nurse came in to inform me that the doctor in charge of us all had invited me to come join Abi in the Surgical ward to stand in on a C-section. I consented at once. I was taken to a room where I took off my clothes and dressed in green scrubs and a hairnet and mask. I was admitted to the surgery room and stood along the wall with Abi. I came in while they were working on starting the epidural. It took a few tries to get it in. The poor woman looked like she was in pain--one nurse was there just to give her someone to hold and be with to make the pain easier to stand. They got it started in a few minutes and began the procedure. I won't go into detail for the sake of those who would rather not know what goes on while they are under anesthetics. Each time an incision was made, I had to remind myself that the woman couldn't feel anything--but I still winced to think how much she would feel it later. The nurses and surgeons were quick and efficient, however--they got into the uterus with no trouble and carefully removed the breeched baby. It was a little girls with a whole lot of hair--and we got to be there to hear her first cry. We left as they were suturing things up again. As we went into the changing room and removed our masks, the same look of amazement showed on Abby's face as must have been on mine. It was an unbelievable experience--I don't think either of us will ever forget it. I feel very fortunate indeed.
That afternoon I went into the city to change out some shekels for dollars (which I will then change into lira when we get to Turkey). We went into the old city and I bought my first-every schwarma. It cost me 17 NIS (New Israeli Shekels--that's the full name), but it was worth every last one. I think I have a new favorite food--right up there with gelato and my mom's white chicken chilli. I'm in love.
One thing I forgot to mention. September 11th was this week--two days ago, in fact. I forgot altogether until Israel class that morning, when one of the girls asked Professor Yardin if we could have a moment of silence out of respect for the day. He agreed at once, and we did so. I thought of my family's trip to the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero in New York. It was a beautiful place. I sang Amazing Grace by one of the pools and wept a little as I remembered the terror of the day--I was only in fourth grade at the time, but I will never forget the way I felt watching the footage of the planes colliding with the towers over and over again on the news. The memorial was so peaceful, though--and I was grateful to know that there was a place here to remember something better than fear. At the end of our moment of silence, Professor Yardin reverently gave us a Jewish saying that I think summed up the day perfectly: "May the names of all those who perished be a blessing to those who love them." May it be so indeed.
Ma'asalama and Shalom!