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Lifelines: Of Honeysuckle and Sepsis

C. Saphir

This is strange, I thought. Maybe I should take him to the doctor now

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


Photo: Sutterstock

It was the day of the Big Pesach Shopping. I was standing in my kitchen unloading bags upon bags of potato starch, sugar, oil, onions, and various other Pesach staples. Earlier that day, I had taken 11-month-old Eliyahu, who was sick, with me to the supermarket, and I had stocked up on all the non-perishables we would need for Yom Tov, which was ten days away.

I had already cleaned out the cabinets and pantry to make room for the Pesach items, but the counters and table were not yet Pesachdig, so when I came home from the supermarket, I lined those surfaces with garbage bags so that I could unpack the groceries onto them.

Eliyahu was still sitting in his stroller, lethargic from the fever that he’d had for the past three days. I wasn’t particularly concerned, because Eliyahu was the type of baby who came down with fever every few weeks; he’d been on antibiotics close to a dozen times in his young life, mostly for ear infections. Pesach cleaning notwithstanding, I knew that after three days of fever, taking him to the doctor was the responsible thing to do. So that morning, I had called the local clinic and made an appointment for five p.m.

At two thirty in the afternoon, as I was unpacking the bags, I noticed that Eliyahu looked weird. His limbs kept jerking involuntarily — first his arm flailed to the side, then his head bobbed up and down, then his knee jumped.

This is strange, I thought. Maybe I should take him to the doctor now.

Our pediatrician, Dr. Kleinfeld, was a real stickler for time. He wouldn’t see patients who came late, nor would he see them before the time of their appointment. There’s no point in taking Eliyahu to the clinic now, I told myself. Dr. Kleinfeld will never let him in.

But Eliyahu really didn’t look good. His lips were blue, his skin was pale and greyish, and he seemed apathetic. I have to do what’s right for him, I decided. Even if it means that I’ll feel like a fool when I get to the clinic and they tell me to wait until five.

Photo: Shutterstock

I took one last look at my hurricane of a kitchen. By the time I’d get home from the clinic, the older kids would be home, and who knew what kind of mess I’d have to deal with then. I shook my head, wondering why I was going out to the doctor now instead of just waiting two hours until my appointment.

When I walked into the clinic, Dr. Kleinfeld was seeing a patient. Curiously, however, there was no one in the waiting room, even though the clinic was usually teeming with patients. Even more curiously, when the door opened and the patient exited, Dr. Kleinfeld motioned to me to enter, and didn’t say a word about the fact that my appointment was not for another two hours.

 “Undress the baby,” he instructed me, while typing something into his computer. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

As I finished undressing Eliyahu, Dr. Kleinfeld looked up and saw his greyish body and bluish hands, feet, and lips. He stood up abruptly. “Get your baby to the nurse this second, and tell her to take his vital signs and start an IV.”


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