Sunday, 5 October 2014
Yom Kippur in A&E
Yom Kippur was a bit different this year as my husband's appendix started bursting half-way through Kol Nidre. The good news was that he was ready to be operated on as he'd been fasting anyway. The bad news was that there was no one around to operate him as we were in a super chaotic A&E with plastic bottles of stale pee left in the corner to ferment, and nurses asking him if he could remember how much morphine he'd been given as they were worried about overdosing.
When I went off to find a nurse for more morphine, I spotted a young Hasidic couple. The Hasidim always seem to exist in some parallel world, certainly some parallel time, with their big hats and beards and shiny black coats and, for the women, wigs and headscarves. But we were all in A&E, and all going through the same experience of dealing with the A&E chaos on an empty stomach, so I wished them a loud and cheerful Shana Tova. They stared at me as if a Martian had just opened her mouth and started speaking Hebrew.
On my way back from the nurse, they had overcome their initial shock, and after confirming that I was Jewish, started to share their woes with me. The woman was pregnant, had started bleeding a little, was waiting for someone to confirm that the baby was okay.
"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. "You must be so worried. Is this your first pregnancy?"
"No," she said, "My seventh."
By the time we had covered each of her pregnancies, births, and various other child-related subjects, my head was spinning a bit and I also remembered that poor Dan was sitting there in his cubicle, craving more morphine. The Hasidim decided that they should wish him a happy new year and generally cheer him up a bit, so they came along as well. Dan looked very happy to see me, and very surprised to see I'd brought two Hasidim with me.
Their baby was fine in the end, and they went back to Stamford Hill and their own little universe. Dan and I stayed - it took another 24 hours until they eventually whipped out his bursting appendix. We missed all the other Yom Kippur services. But somehow a hospital seemed a pretty suitable setting for atonement. After all, it's not often that you get to fast with the Hasidim.
(Note: apparently 15,000 Hasidim live in Stamford Hill! Europe's largest Hasidic community.)