Rafi and Yedidye become extremely ill. The taxi driver they met at the airport is at the hotel, and they get into his cab to go to Minchah. He still has Rena’s business card in his pocket, which she gave him “just in case,” and he decides to call her for assistance.
“Who is this?” said Rena. “What do you want?”
The taxi driver tried to explain who he was and what the problem was, and eventually Rena realized this was the same driver she had sent Rafi and Yedidye off with.
“What’s the problem?” she said. Hearing that they were both ill and nearly passed out in his taxi, she told him to bring them to the closest Emergency Room.
“No can do,” he said. “I thought of that already. They have no medical insurance.” Rena rolled her eyes in frustration. While she had been delighted to host the female Asoulins, she had no interest in taking responsibility for two irresponsible men. But she knew that Savta Asoulin would be terribly upset, and so she gave her address, reluctantly, to the driver and told him to bring the two men to her apartment. She had no idea what she would do with them once they arrived.
But as soon as the driver had hauled them out of the car and into the house, she realized that they were truly in trouble. They hung from the tall man like clothing on a hanger. Their faces were pale and sallow, and it was clear that they were very ill.
She quickly arranged a sick room for them and they basically fell into the beds she led them to. Her nurse’s training stood her in good stead, and after some precisely-worded questions, she diagnosed them as having food poisoning. She took the fully-stocked nursing kit she kept at home for emergencies such as these, and quickly took blood samples from the two men, then called a messenger service to bring them to the lab. Rafi’s temperature was 103.6, while Yedidye’s hovered over 104.
She realized they were rapidly becoming dehydrated, and quickly rigged up makeshift IV poles. She had just four bags of rehydration fluid, and had them hooked up in no time. Savta Asoulin sat next to her son Yedidye and bathed his face with a cool washcloth while Rena gave the blood samples to the messenger and then phoned the lab with her instructions. Because she had responded to emergencies many times before, she was known at the lab and they were happy to help her out. She and Savta Asoulin took turns holding pails for the patients as they vomited repeatedly.
Natalie and Maryam were at the medical center, and so it was just Rena and Savta Asoulin. After they had made Rafi and Yedidye as comfortable as they could be, they settled in for the vigil. Rena was afraid to leave them alone for even a moment, lest one of them begin convulsing due to his high fever. She didn’t want to alarm the older woman, and did her best to remain calm. She put on some soothing background music and made sure the room was cool enough but not too cold. The men were moaning and groaning, and for once, even Rafi had no jokes or light comments to offer on the situation. It was pure misery for them all.
Savta Asoulin murmured Tehillim from the small sefer she took out from her purse, while Rena debated whether to call Rafi’s wife in Israel and inform her of his condition. When Rafi overheard her asking Savta Asoulin what she thought, Rafi overheard them and cried out.
“No! Don’t tell my wife I’m sick! She’ll keel me!” Spring-loaded with tension like a slingshot just before launch, Rena burst out laughing.
“What I say?” said Rafi.
But Rena was too busy laughing to reply. She finally pulled herself together and told Rafi she’d hold off calling until the next morning but not a minute later.
Yedidye lay quietly, groaning in pain occasionally and clutching his stomach in agony. His mother sat by his side while Rena gave her instructions for how to care for him. Her tone was authoritative yet calm, and out of the corner of his weak and tired eyes, Yedidye could not help but notice her incredible patience and skill.
The long night wore on and on. Rena administered fever reducers and made sure the IVs were running smoothly. The men were tossing and turning so violently she was afraid they would throw themselves off their beds, but luckily neither of them experienced convulsions as a side effect. She called a private home health-care agency and hired a male nurse to come and do some physical care for them, and Yedidye thanked her from inside his mind, because he was still too weak to talk. Savta Asoulin dozed in a chair, opening her eyes from time to time.
Rena took up her own Tehillim and began davening. Although she’d been a nurse for years and had been in situations like this before, they had never occurred in her own home. If they weren’t better by the next morning, she’d have to consider getting them to a hospital. She worried especially for Yedidye, as he was the quieter of the two. She could tell exactly what was happening with the much more vocal Rafi, but Yedidye’s silence frightened her. As the night went on, she noticed his ingrained refinement that was evident even in the throes of his illness. Surprisingly, she found herself comparing him to the many shidduch prospects she had encountered throughout her long experience as a single.
She scrolled through her mind, trying to recall everything her sister Suri had said about him, and at that moment, as dawn was slowly approaching, as Rena sat in the dim room listening to her patients’ labored breathing, she understood, for the first time, what had gone wrong in her life.
To be continued . . .