Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Let There be Sight

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 6 August 2005.

Cataracts are a pretty common problem for people of a certain age. Normally, surgery to remove them is a fairly simple, out-patient procedure. But when someone with a less than straightforward medical history needs cataract surgery, things can get pretty complicated. Such was the case when my mother-in-law had the surgery performed on her right eye earlier this week.

With a combination of diabetes and heart disease in her medical file, my mother-in-law was not a typical candidate for cataract surgery. But the team of doctors who dealt with all the preparation for, and execution of, the surgery were nothing short of exceptional. It didn't hurt that my mother-in-law had the surgery performed at perhaps the very best hospital in Israel. Every aspect of her condition and the surgery was considered beforehand, including whether or not she should switch to a different form of some of her regular medications. She had several meetings with various doctors before the surgery, and was kept overnight for observation following the procedure. In particular, her surgeon Dr. Hadas Meshulam, was attentive and caring. She took her time with the surgery, and with answering any questions my mother-in-law had.

One of the amazing things about all of this is that my mother-in-law does not pay a fortune for private health care. She is on a regular, government-provided health care program. Kupat Cholim Clalit was founded in 1911, and with approximately half the population on its rolls, is the largest health care provider in Israel. With all the debate I had heard in America over the years about socialized medicine, I wasn't sure what to expect from the system when I first arrived here. But my previous experiences, plus this latest exposure, have left me favorably impressed. The only down side was that she had to wait quite a few months longer for the surgery than she would have if she'd paid privately.

It's bad enough when advancing years make doing things more difficult. Add to that a couple of serious, chronic illnesses, and it's hard to find much to enjoy. When, on top of all that, you are no longer able to clearly see the faces of your beloved grandchildren, life doesn't seem much worth the trouble.

Yesterday, my mother-in-law came home from the hospital with a wide smile brightening her face. "I can see!" she exclaimed. And there was sight, and it was good.

(c)Amy Samin

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