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A Second Chance

"Hey Mum, I've hurt my hand: nothing serious, but they want to keep me in hospital overnight. Can you come to Afula?" My Golani soldier son sounded so cheerful that I didn't really worry - just caught the bus from Jerusalem.

I arrived at Afula hospital and enquired about Uri. Suddenly, I was surrounded by soldiers who sat me down and told me he had been shot and was now being operated on. It was an accident, a "stray bullet" from a fellow soldier who'd been cleaning his gun without the safety catch on – shooting his own hand, then ricocheting over to Uri, smashing his wrist and arm.

I felt far away, as though I was watching a film. They took me down to the operating theater where soldiers from his unit were waiting; someone handed me a bag full of bloody army clothes.

Finally he was in the recovery room. So white, so weak, but thank G-d, so alive. Hours later, up on the ward, his hand bandaged up, and the upper arm set with long protruding "spears" he was cheerful with post-traumatic bravado! It seemed that everyone around us had a relative who had been injured by a stray bullet! Later, fellow soldiers crowded round and all this support certainly helped us as well as him.

Within 24 hours we were transferred to Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, in an army ambulance. Not a fun ride! Uri was lying on one side, his massive bandage getting scarily redder, and on the opposite bunk sat the shooter, with his injured hand. He would be facing a serious court-martial and we kept imagining that he would suddenly manage to jump out of the ambulance and run away!

Uri was in hospital for a month of operations. The wound started to heal and he regained the use of his fingers.

After years of being a nurse, let me tell you that being on the other side is a totally different and humbling experience…I vowed never again to make someone wait for painkillers, never to say everything would be okay nor to repeat those hated words, "Don't worry."

I learned not to compare people's suffering…and to keep quiet when usually rational people said things like," You'll see – this is the best thing that could happen to him" or "Wow- you'll get loads of money!"

Uri was discharged and continued a long rehabilitation of intensive physiotherapy.

Then, another operation found the bone infected. He was sent home with 24-hour intravenous antibiotics that pumped non-stop for six weeks. Our dog was banished to the kennels for fear that a dog hair might fly into this super-sterile procedure. We definitely went a little crazy! Finally, it was the last treatment.

I felt indebted to the hospital and thanked G-d that we lived in a country which gives great medical care and a second chance at life. Rehabilitation is a long and frustrating road, full of hurdles. My quiet academic son showed me what real strength is. Although he was exempted on medical grounds from all army service, he insisted and returned to reserve duty as a driver.

We almost never talk about that year, but we all laughed when Uri was measured for his wedding suit, and the tailor wondered why one arm was longer than the other. We know Uri is one of the lucky ones. 

 

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

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