Recap: Shoshana and Penina are reading a journal that Ilana showed them. In the story, Aharon is going with his Uncle Nathan to help someone who may have appendicitis. Aharon’s uncle wants him to become a doctor. Aharon wants to please his uncle who raised him, so he feels torn because he’s not interested in medicine..
The weather in Vermont was mild for February. A cool breeze rifled through my hair, but the usual sting of icy air was absent.
I sat beside Uncle Nathan in front of the carriage. Mrs. Slotkin was seated inside the carriage. The horse clip-clopped at a quick pace. We passed spruce and pines blanketed in snow.
“If the pain is on the right side, it could be the appendix. Then, time is of the essence to get there before it bursts.” Uncle Nathan was sharing his medical opinion. I was honored that he spoke to me like his medical assistant. If only I had a talent in this area. The thought of blood and pain just made me feel sick. I thought about poor Yosef. He was only 11. I knew him from school. I hoped it wasn’t an appendix. That could be serious.
We pulled up to a neat brick house. Mrs. Slotkin shot out of the carriage and we followed her inside. I heard Yosef screaming in the next room. A fire crackled in the grate. There were dinner utensils and bowls of food out on the table. It looked like a meal had been interrupted.
Uncle Nathan headed into the bedroom. I hesitated. He waved at me to follow.
I didn’t want to see Yosef in pain. I was shaking.
Yosef’s father sat on the bed, putting a cool compress on his forehead.
Yosef was squirming in pain. “Make it stop!” He screamed.
“He’s got fever, Leah,” Mr. Slotkin said to his wife. His forehead was creased with worry.
Mrs. Slotkin rushed over to feel his head.
Uncle Nathan moved over to the bed. “Let me examine the patient. You can stand over there. He motioned the parents to stand at the foot of the bed.
My uncle knew how to take charge of the situation and keep everyone calm. I felt my heart hammering against my chest.
“Yosef, it’s Dr. Walker. I’m here to try to help you feel better. I want you to let me touch your belly so we can see where the pain is coming from.”
Yosef was tossing and turning. Uncle Nathan asked his father to help hold him down and then he asked me to help. “Each of you hold an arm so I can examine him.”
I held his arm. It was burning hot. His eyes were open but he didn’t seem to see me. He moaned while my uncle prodded his stomach.
He touched the right side and his scream pierced the air. Uncle Nathan turned to me.
Beads of sweat stood out on Uncle Nathan’s forehead, but his voice was calm and soothing. “We will need to get him to the hospital. The problem is I don’t know if we can get him there before it bursts. I’m thinking we may just have to perform the surgery here.”
“Surgery!” Mrs. Slotkin paled and looked like she might faint.
I was feeling queasy myself. I didn’t want to watch a surgery on anyone, especially not on someone I knew. I started davening softly. “Hashem, please, please heal Yosef.”
“Boil some water in a big pot,” Uncle Nathan spoke authoritatively. I need to scrub up. Do you have soap in the next room I can use? It’s proven that washing hands can reduce infection.”
Mr. Slotkin headed to the other room and his wife told him to follow her. Yosef was still tossing and turning and screaming. I wished there was something I could do besides standing here staring. I started reciting T’hilim by heart.
“Ouch. It hurts so much!” he screamed.
I felt so bad for him. I couldn’t imagine having such searing pain and then having surgery in my home. This was awful!
Uncle Nathan came back into the room carrying a sheet.
He whispered to me, “I have some chloroform in my bag. It’s in a large bottle. Please bring it to me.”
I hurried over to his bag and searched for the bottle. My hand was shaking. I found various bottles, but I couldn’t find the one he wanted. How incompetent was I? I kept searching and then, baruch Hashem, I found it. It was marked with large letters and I brought it to my uncle.
“Yosef, this will make you sleepy. Just breathe it in,” my uncle said.
Yosef squirmed and tried to duck away from it but his father and I held him down.
My uncle placed the cloth with chloroform over his mouth and nose. “Breath it in,” he said in a soft calm voice. “Breath it in.”
Soon his whole body relaxed and he was breathing evenly. My uncle removed the cloth. Then he turned to me. “You will help hold him down with his father while I perform the appendectomy. He must be held very still. It is critical that he stays still. Do you understand?” He was looking at me.
I nodded. My neck muscles tightened.
“Mrs. Slotkin, I need you to sterilize my surgical equipment. He handed her some sharp-looking implements.
She stifled a cry and took the implements.
“I want you to watch this,” my uncle said. “This is an excellent training for you. G-d willing, it should go well. Please daven.”
I bit my lower lip. Watching a surgery was the last thing I wanted to do.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber