Despite all of the problems working as a doctor in southern Israel during these trying times, life must go on. For example, I really had to get my car serviced today. So despite all the pressure on me to get to work, on my way in I stopped at the Honda garage just a few blocks from the hospital. While signing in, I suddenly heard the eerie and very scary sound of the air raid sirens which go off (usually ) when there is an incoming missile. There really is nothing like it. It sounds like a nightmare but the only problem is you know you aren’t dreaming.
We have been instructed to immediately find shelter, either in a bomb shelter if near one, or in a designated “protected area” which is usually just the inside of a building, far from windows and as far from an exterior wall as possible. In case you are caught out in the open, one is meant to lie down on the ground, put your hands over your head and, if religious, pray; if not, hope that this is your lucky day.
Fortunately this building had a proper bomb shelter, into which we all crowded: me, another customer, two secretaries, a sales manager, and a couple of mechanics who happened to be bedouin Arabs from a nearby settlement. Amazing how we suddenly all lost our social roles and became absolutely equal, all of us dependent for our safety on the strength of the reinforced concrete shell surrounding us.
Despite our equality, I could see that one of the secretaries was quite frightened. Automatically going into my doctor mode, I tried to reassure her. I smiled and attempted to express the proper balance between bravado and calm concern. I offered that we were in fact quite safe now and just had to wait – either for the “all clear” or the “boom” of the rocket, indicating that it had hit the ground (and missed us).
In any case, as I explained in my best evidence-based mode, while the chance of a rocket hitting someone was real, the chance of that particular projectile hitting us was very low. I used the lottery as an analogy, and the fact that I had never won, as proof. (As in most clinical situations, while one must never lie, one does not always tell the whole truth). I could see that my words were having some effect, and in order to keep calming her down, I just kept talking, going over my “certainty” that nothing would happen to us.
Fortunately, nothing did. The missile, while indeed bent on causing death and destruction by those who had sent it our way, fell in a open field. We got the “all clear” and filed out of the shelter, each one of us immediately going back into our civilian roles. On the way out, the secretary surreptitiously squeezed my hand, leaned over and whispered, “Thanks, doc.”
One of my colleagues was waiting for me outside the dealership. I got into her car and headed off to the hospital to my day job.
Dr A Mark Clarfield, a long-time contributor to Medical Post, is a doctor at the Soroka Hospital, Beer-sheva, which serves the south of Israel. It is designated to receive casualties from the fighting in Gaza, and, being only 40 kms from the strip, has already come under missile attack from rockets fired from there.