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After a heart attack in the midst of Covid-19

When everything seems so out of sync and surreal, it feels good to just stop for a minute and laugh! In a previous life I lived in Israel and I still have family and friends there. Last week The Times of Israel published a piece that a friend of mine wrote about his release from the hospital after a heart attack in the midst of Covid-19. I’ve translated a portion of it from Hebrew to English and am sharing it here because it made me laugh, even in times like these. His name is – Hedi Ben-Amar and this is his story. 

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Picking me up from the Shi-Lev Medical Center in Sheba Hospital, where I spent several days recovering from my recent heart attack, my wife came to take me home. I am still not allowed to drive, and here is the place to note that due to the above mentioned heart attack I depend entirely on the good will and grace of my beloved wife to drive me from place to place. Quickly it became clear to me that the term “drive me from place to place” is purely a theoretical matter, which has no bearing on reality, and that my wife has no intention of driving me anywhere, for any reason whatsoever. “Are you CRAZY?” she said. “In your situation you want to be outside? What do you want? To get infected with Corona?”

“No,” I said, “but on the way home I need to stop at a toy store to buy a ball for the exercises they taught in rehab. Without a ball, I can’t do the exercises.”

“TOY STORE???” Exclaimed my wife Hannia , may her life be blessed. “Didn’t you hear on the news about what happened at the Red Pirate toy store?”

“No,” I said, “in the ICU all I heard were beeps from the ECG machine. What happened at the Red Pirate toy store?” She proceeded to tell me about Victim No. 37, an employee of the store, who continued to go to work, unaware that he was infected with the virus which means that he was serving customers when it was right there in his body, pumping through his veins for God knows how long before he was diagnosed and put in quarantine.

This event that my wife told me about taught me two things: One, two weeks ago, when I went into intensive care with a heart attack, most people I knew had surnames and first names, whereas now there was a change in the matter and I learned that names are entirely 1990s. Now people are called “Victim No. 49,” or “Suspected Corona No. 321,” or “Not Yet Victim No.103, But This is a Temporary Condition,” and so on. It turns out that no one is not suspect.

“What’s our number?” I asked Hannia so that if we met someone I didn’t know I would be able to introduce myself. Apparently Hannia and I still don’t have numbers, and for a moment I felt deprived but Hannia explained to me that it was considered a good thing.

On the way home we stopped at the bank to make a deposit, it turns out that we still have to eat just like before the Coronavirus. This means you have to buy groceries and prepare food from them, and for that we have to make a deposit in one of those vending machines on the bank wall. Since this is a relatively complex technical operation, it means that you have to insert a card into the slot and push the check into the right place, and because of the technical complexity of the matter I took the task! Or in other words – I abandoned my well being to the mercy of fate. Check in hand, I stepped out of the car to perform the task, but to my surprise, as soon as I was about to leave the car, Hannia pulled out a pair of blue surgical gloves and handed them to me. It turns out that, if in the past you had to be a surgeon going into complex brain surgery to wear silicone gloves and a mask, today it’s enough to try and use an ATM machine. I suddenly felt important.

“Wait.” Hannia said. “There are people near the ATM.”

“There are two people there,” I told her. “What’s the problem?”

“Let them finish,” Hania said. “We need to keep at least six feet between people, let’s make it twelve to be on the safe side.”

“That’s it, they’re done,” she said. “You can go now.”

And suddenly I began to understand what Jean-Paul Sartre meant by “Hell is other people.” And if other people are not really hell, they are surely the gateway to it.

Including those two malicious people who were in front of us at the ATM.

On the drive home I thought about the zombie movies I’ve seen in my lifetime – now every person who walks anywhere near me looks like a zombie with bleeding teeth and long sharp fingernails. They want to feast on my blood, turn me into one of them. Only instead of sucking my blood they are trying to infect me with the Coronavirus. My job is to get away and stay alive

Today it’s hard to know who is your enemy! I once thought Yishai was a friend and now when he invites me to have a whiskey with him in the evening I see it in his eyes that he is plotting to infect me with Corona and my neighbor Eran who lives in the house next to mine, I always thought of him as my friend – now I look at him, his eyes red with the devils fever and invisible flames of viral spittle on his lips.    

But they are not the worst. Oh no, the worst are those I’ve always trusted and loved more than all else, my children and (most dangerous when they are small, what will be when they grow up?) my grandchildren.   

Submitted by Libby Rooney
Globe Resident

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