Updated: Oct 21, 2021
I walked into the emergency room, past the registration, past the doctors and the nurses, and I just looked for a bed, and then I laid down on it. I knew that would get someone’s attention—or at least I hoped it would—I was in desperate need of medical attention. I learned a big lesson that day about the Israeli medical system. But I’ll finish that story in a minute.
First, let’s talk about said medical system. We have socialized medicine in Israel. But we also have, for some reason—without all the incentives that you would have in America, such as making a lot of money—the best doctors in the world. Some of them have left for greener pastures, but the majority of them feel dedicated to the land of Israel and the people of Israel, despite the fact that they could make more money in other countries.
Nevertheless, socialized medicine has many downfalls. The worst part is the long lines. And when I say long lines, I mean sometimes waiting six months for a procedure. Also, sometimes you don’t get the care that you need. Often they want to rush you in and rush you out.
In America, I never once felt that I was taking too much of a doctor’s time—even if I was. I always felt that the doctors were patient with me, no matter how many questions I asked. In Israel, if your situation is not serious, you feel like you’re being rushed in and rushed out so they can get to the next appointment.
So how did I end up just walking into an emergency room and lying down on a bed? For several months I have been struggling with sciatica. I just fought through it. I continued to exercise and ride my mountain bike. It got worse and worse, but it didn’t interfere with my life too much.
But one night, I found myself in bed and unable to sleep because of the pain. No matter what position I was in, I was in pain. If I needed something from the kitchen, I had about 45 seconds before the pain was unbearable, and I had to get back in bed. I think this was in 2005. Elana and the girls were all in America. For some reason, I have a problem asking for help. So I stayed up all night in pain. When I finally called Elana in the morning, I was on the verge of tears; these were tears of frustration. When she found out about my situation, she called her friend, and he rushed me to the emergency room.
They looked at me, gave me a shot, and sent me home. As I was standing in line to fill out the forms that were needed to discharge me, the pain got intense—45 seconds had passed! I realized that I was going to collapse if I did not find a place to lay down. I looked for a chair, but there was none. I held onto a small little piece of wood sticking out of the wall about an inch. That was not enough.
Finally, I just marched back into the emergency room past everyone and just found a bed and laid down. Someone came to me and asked me what in the world I was doing. I told him I was in no condition to go home, and they needed to do more. The next thing I knew, I got a “better” shot and was admitted to the hospital. I learned one of the most important lessons about medicine in Israel. The one who cries the loudest gets the most attention.
They admitted me to the hospital and did a CT scan or MRI. On Sunday, I got an epidural shot into my disk, which solved the problem for six months. When the pain came back, I knew I might need surgery, but in order to get their attention, I had to be very dramatic—remember most noise, most attention. It worked. I was admitted, and they determined I needed surgery.
Lesson number two is protectsia. Protectsia simply means you know someone. Whether it is getting a good job in the army or a table at a restaurant, every Israeli knows the importance of protectsia. If I didn’t have it, I would have had to wait six months for surgery. But Elana’s first cousin is the head nurse on the neurosurgery floor. Three weeks later, I was leaving the hospital.
So there is a little bit about Israel’s healthcare…and if you are wondering about my back? It didn’t get better. A couple of years later, I went to a chiropractor who strapped me up to a decompression machine 10 times over two weeks. I have not had any serious back issues once! That was 10 years ago!