Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Publisher’s Note: Now that The Jewish Link has published 200 editions and we are nearing our fifth anniversary in March, I have begun, finally, to get some perspective on our paper’s first editions and some of the things I overcame in the early days to make sure the paper came out on time. The Jewish Link’s first year was a hectic and sleep-deprived period for me, but perhaps the craziest and most memorable Yom Tov edition was our first-ever Sukkot edition in 2014.

As Neilah began this past Shabbos and Yom Kippur, my mind flashed back to the last time Yom Kippur fell out on Shabbos, back in 2014. At Neilah in 2014, in my same seat in the beit midrash minyan at my shul, Beth Aaron, I was in incredible pain. I could barely stand as I had a terrible pain in my right big toe. I had never felt such pain before—literally it felt like needles were making a home inside my big toe.

What made it worse was that I hadn’t even done anything to my big toe to aggravate it and it didn’t even look inflamed or infected on the outside. I was in pain and I had no idea why. This had never happened to me before. I had to sit for most of Neilah, but that didn’t even help much as the pain just seemed to get worse.

After Maariv, I hobbled home with tremendous difficulty, ate quickly, and called my doctor, who agreed to see me at his home that night because he was going to Israel for Sukkot the following day. He took a quick look at the toe, asked me a few questions and wished me a mazel tov and informed me that I am having a gout attack or flare-up. 

This came as a complete surprise. With my doctor’s patient explanation, I was not surprised to learn that the pain caused by gout is one of the worst types of pain known to man and medicine and that, in fact, there were actually small needle-like buildups of uric acid crystals making a home in my toe, as I had suspected.  

The doctor prescribed a medicine for me called colchicine and advised that I should take it hourly until the pain went away by the next day. I took it hourly for the next 18 hours straight and the pain did not subside. So I called the doctor’s partner who recommended a strong anti-inflammatory and I took that, and by late Sunday night, the gout pain seemed to lessen and I felt I was on the road to recovery.

I woke up the next day—Monday—the deadline day for our first-ever Sukkot edition—feeling very sick and just not myself. In those days, the paper was put together by only myself and one editor, and if I wasn’t able to do it, the paper would simply not happen altogether. I had no choice but to make sure our first-ever Sukkot edition went to print. There was no backup.

As the day went on and I sat in The Jewish Link’s office at the time—my dining room—I felt worse and worse. My wife prevailed upon me to call the doctor in the late afternoon, and we spoke to a new doctor who was part of a medical service covering my doctor’s practice while he was away. When I explained to her that I had been prescribed colchicine for gout and took 18 doses straight for 18 hours, she flipped out and demanded that I go to a hospital immediately as I had taken way too much of the medicine and had overdosed on it and my life and health were in imminent danger.

I absolutely refused to go to the hospital as I had to finish the Sukkot edition by late that night. It had to get to the printer by 12 a.m. and I was the only one who could get it done.

My poor wife and family understandably got very nervous as I tried my absolute best to tune them out and make sure that the edition’s drafts were being reviewed and articles and ads inserted and put in the right places.

As I was trying to work on the paper, my wife called the local Poison Control number and asked me to speak to them. The female Poison Control staff member reviewed the facts and told me bluntly: “Sir, if what you are saying is true about how much colchicine you took, you can expect your organs and your body to start shutting down within the next 36-48 hours.”

My eyes lit up at what she said and I responded quite seriously, “That’s great news!!! It will give me enough time to finish the Sukkot edition! Thank you for this info!” Needless to say, my wife was not pleased with this response.

The Poison Control staffer then threatened to have an ambulance sent to our house and me forcibly put into it but I was unstinting and would absolutely not go.

In my defense, although I wasn’t feeling very well, I just didn’t feel like I was dying—not that I have ever really known how that feels—or that it was as bad as Poison Control and the substitute doctor made it out to be. I just couldn’t believe that I might be dying because of a few too many doses of this seemingly common gout medication.

Moreover, I had a near unshakable faith in my doctor...I just couldn’t believe or accept that he would prescribe me something in an amount that could so easily kill me. It just didn’t make sense. How could he kill me so easily? Why would he want to do that to me? We knew each other for a long time and I just couldn’t believe he wanted to kill me. He simply wouldn’t make a mistake like this!

I kept repeating this over and over to  my wife, in-laws, and sister-in-law who were all brought over to the house to try and talk some sense into me. I refused to move from the table or listen to anyone...because I had to get that paper out the door!

Finally, after speaking to other doctors and more family members and more friends who are doctors—by this point we called most of the doctors in our lives—or rather, my wife did, as I was too busy working on the paper—we finally found two friendly doctors who reassured my wife and told her that because I was a bit taller and bigger than the average male, I could probably wait on going to the hospital for a few hours. So, after committing to my wife that we would go to the hospital as soon as the Sukkot edition was sent to the printer, I was able to finish our first-ever Sukkot edition.

Of course, once the paper was sent to the printer, we rushed to the hospital where they ascertained that—thank God—I was not dying then, and by the time Sukkot came around, I was feeling better.

The postscript to all this is that I got a call over Chol Hamoed from my doctor in Israel who called to apologize that I had taken way too much colchicine and that I was not supposed to take nearly that much of the medicine. Apparently, I had completely misunderstood the instructions...and unfortunately, my life and health had actually been in some jeopardy.

My heart dropped when he told me this. Wow. I walked around in a bit of a daze for a day or so over Chol Hamoed—which was fine as we were not publishing again for another week or so.

But I pulled myself together right after Simchat Torah because the next edition was already beckoning and it was time to get back to work.

(Please note that although my story is a true one and is even humorous on a certain level, my behavior was inexcusable in hindsight and I respectfully request all my readers to generally listen when every important person in your life, your doctor, and the local Poison Control all tell you to go to the hospital.)

And now it’s time for me to get back to this year’s Sukkot edition—with thankfully no drama or gout pain. G’mar tov and chag sameach to all!

By Moshe Kinderlehrer, Co-Publisher