It seems that almost every week, there’s a different drama surrounding this blog. A technological glitch is the most common cause for excitement but there are others, too. This week’s was the worst though: it was getting very late and I still didn’t like what I wrote. What made the piece ultimately unacceptable was that I wasn’t able to portray my feelings accurately, so I knew I couldn’t post it. Thank G-d, I remembered an article I wrote over twenty years ago about our daughter Elkie (when we were still calling her by her English name, “Nell”). It was published in L’Chaim Magazine and is now on Chabad.org.
I still like it and thought it was worth sharing.
When our daughter Nell was five years old, a door slammed on her toe and nearly sliced the tip of it off. We were in the country for the weekend with Rabbi Yisroel and Blumi Rosenfeld. Their children and our children had been playing upstairs. The adults had been enjoying a relaxing Shabbos lunch when, one by one, each of the children marched down with the news that Nell had hurt her toe. At first, we weren’t concerned, knowing how children love to report even the slightest mishap. But when my husband and Rabbi Rosenfeld saw her sock bright red with blood, it was clear that she had to get to a hospital. The fact that it was Shabbos did not change anything – this was an emergency and Jewish law permits the violation of Shabbos in such cases.
An ambulance took us to the local hospital, where the doctor informed us that the surgery required to repair the toe was beyond his expertise. A second ambulance then took us to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where a resident performed the delicate task of resewing the tip of her toe, sixty per cent of which had been severed. To protect the toe while it healed, he put a cast on her foot which she would wear for four weeks. The next day we called Dr. Mark Sperling, Chairman of Pediatrics at Children’s, who put us in touch with Dr. Morey Moreland.
Because of the delicate nature of the injury (and the not-so-delicate nature of our impatient patient) when the four weeks had passed and it was time to remove the cast, Dr. Moreland wanted to do so under anesthesia. This could best be done in a hospital, he explained, with Nell being treated as an outpatient. When we agreed, he told us he wanted to schedule the surgery for 11 a.m. the next day. But when he told us not to feed her anything after 10:30 p.m. that night, we became concerned about the timing. Nell had come down with a nasty flu–the kind that “plenty of liquids” helps, and we didn’t want to make her any unhappier than we had to.
Dr. Moreland felt that, despite the flu, the cast should be removed right away so that he could perform any necessary surgery while she was already “under.” He was fairly optimistic that the skin had reattached and that additional surgery would not be required, but he did not want to wait any longer to see.
Nervous but hopeful, my husband and I followed the doctor’s instructions. We arrived at the hospital promptly at 10 a.m. to fill out the paperwork. By 2 p.m. they still hadn’t called us for surgery. Nellie still hadn’t had anything to eat or drink, and she still had a fever. (Meanwhile, neither my husband nor I shared her endurance and we took turns sneaking away for some sustenance.) When her name was finally called just after 2:30 p.m., the nurses took us to their desk and told us what the sequence of events would be. Nell would be anesthetized in the operating room, the cast would be removed, any necessary procedures would be performed and she would then be taken to the “post-op” room to recuperate. She would be quite thirsty, they said, so they would give her a popsicle. We questioned whether or not it was kosher and the nurses assured us that other parents of patients had made similar inquiries and that the popsicles were fine. Not having seen this product’s kosher symbol ourselves, we were a bit uncomfortable, but we told ourselves that it was probably, in fact, fine. And besides, we rationalized, even if the frosty treat wasn’t up to our “standards” of kashrus, these were extenuating circumstances. After all, Nell was just five years old, and she had the flu, and if a popsicle would make her happy after almost a day in the hospital without anything to eat or drink how bad could it be? We kissed our little girl good-bye and waited with our Psalms in hand to be called once again.
Just after 5 p.m., the nurses called our name and told us that Nellie was awake in the post-op room. The re-sewn piece had taken, thank G-d, and she was doing fine. But before we went in to see her, the nurses wanted to tell us something that had happened. When they offered her a popsicle, she asked to see the wrapper to see if it was kosher. She didn’t see a symbol she recognized, so she told the nurses she just wanted water instead.
The nurses couldn’t believe it. After nearly 20 hours with nothing to eat or drink, despite surgery and the flu, this little five-year-old didn’t want to take any chances with her kashrus. The popsicle was not worth it.
My husband and I were also amazed. Sure we had pointed out various kosher symbols on food products in our home and she had learned in school how important it is to be conscientious about eating kosher food. But her pure, unquestioning commitment had to have come from somewhere deep within.
And that commitment has always been a lesson for me. As I’ve watched that little toe grow into a big toe, I am reminded to be grateful to G-d for everything, and to ask Him not only for physical health, but for spiritual health as well.