F rom the youngest age, I knew I was going to be a doctor.

I loved medicine, I loved taking care of people, and I loved discovering the intricacies of the human body.

My plan took a little detour, however, toward the end of my undergraduate studies, when I got engaged to my husband, Chanoch. Chanoch’s rebbi felt that it was not a good idea for me to be training as a doctor while starting a family, and he recommended that I become a physician’s assistant instead.

Following his advice, I went to PA school instead of medical school. It was a decision that would have huge ramifications later on.

Chanoch was learning in kollel when we got married, so in order to support ourselves while I was in school, we spent our weekends working as house parents at a Jewish home for mentally challenged adults. Chanoch also worked as a lifeguard in Williamsburg on Fridays. We took a cheap apartment in East Flatbush, paying $85 a week in rent. (This was in 1980.)

My first PA job involved doing physicals at a government welfare office in Williamsburg, but that position phased out after a short time. When I was looking for a new job, I saw an ad posted by the infirmary of Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail. They were looking to hire PAs, and I thought working there would be a good way to amass medical experience.

The first question I was asked during my interview was, “What would you do if you’d walk into a jail cell and find an inmate hanging from the ceiling?”

I calmly answered that I’d lift the inmate, unwind the rope from his neck, and begin resuscitation. I guess my answer satisfied them, because I got the job.

I worked at Rikers Island for 14 years. My colleagues would joke that I went on maternity leave every nine months. But I worked until the very end of each pregnancy, and returned to work after six weeks. I always worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. “graveyard” shift so that I could be home with my children during the day. I’d sleep a few hours in the evening, and then I’d leave the house for my shift at Rikers, which was a half-hour drive away. In the middle of the night, my husband would bring me the baby to nurse.

It was an unconventional arrangement — but we were hardly a conventional couple. Chanoch and I had both grown up in homes where one parent was not frum and the other parent tried valiantly, but not always successfully, to maintain religious observance. In the process of embracing full-fledged frumkeit, we had both resolved to devote our lives to Torah, come what may. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 665)