a different side of Israel

Debbie Unplugged 1 – Self-doubt and Popeye’s Forearm

By Debbie Gold Hadar

My esteemed colleague David Levy wrote this week about the Israeli “jook” heralding the return of Summer. Like yourselves, I read, I laughed, I cried.

Using this discussion of etymological and faunaeic wonders as a logical springboard, I wish to share with you the events of this past Wednesday, for myself and a small person to whom I am only related because I was there giving birth when she was born.

My two-year old daughter.

Fear not, however. This isn’t “Mommy blogging.” (Ugh.)

This is “Mozzie blogging.”

Yes! As a result of a particularly rampant strain of the common or garden mosquito, whose bite, for some reason, reacted in an almost anaphylactic manner with my daughter’s forearm, I had the doubtful pleasure of touring several of the finest medical establishments that Petach Tikva has to offer.

The thrills never end with me, I tell you.

It all started, typically enough, during the one official break I get at work during the day. Poised with a forkful of well-done minute (as in small) steak halfway to my mouth, my cell phone rings. Normally this is cause for minor celebrations at least, since it’s set at “Vibrate”, and I keep it in my pocket. On purpose. *Happy shiver*

It’s the people at my daughter’s Kindergarten, doing a passable imitation of Kermit the Frog on speed.

“You must come, now! She has a bite on her arm and it’s swollen up enormously! You must take her to the emergency clinic! Aaaaghhhh!”

Immediately, I am assailed by mental images of my child with one regular arm (that’s where she was bitten) and one like Popeye’s. In a very distressed and concerned state, I rush home.

Note: I suppose I should use this forum to apologize to the cars I terrorized on the way home when they wouldn’t get the hell out of my way. I won’t though.

“Keep up with the pace, you morons. I wasn’t going that fast, you were dragging your axels and hogging the lane I needed.”

Yes, I am the poster child for road rage. Ahem.

Whirlwind-like, I arrive home, dump the work bag, and pick up her health card, a drink, a change of clothes and a lollipop for her (I’m a good mother. Sugar is excellent for children.) and then fly out to the kindergarten where I find her … peacefully enjoying her afternoon nap.

This should have been the first red flag to me. Not of impending doom or death by (God forbid) mosquito-induced encephalitis (can mosquito bites induce encephalitis? Answers in a comment to “Debbie Unplugged”, c/o Frothing at the mouth…), but by that all pervasive feeling that I’d been had. Again.

Once more I had failed to trust my own instincts in this most judgmental and instructional country and I was now eating the resulting shit.

I had, of course, noticed the bite first thing that morning, as I got her dressed. It looked fairly ordinary. When questioned, she’d said that it itched but didn’t hurt … and since my daughter is a drama queen to only rival myself, I was inclined to believe her, as I’ve never seen her pass up the opportunity to milk a little sympathy.

She doesn’t have any specific allergies that I know, and I didn’t really give it a second thought.

Now, there I am at the Kindergarten, having roused her from sleep, and I look at her arm. It’s not quite the Popeye-like mutation that I had feared, but it’s definitely very swollen.

So off she and I trundle to the emergency clinic (Moked). She maintains the “no pain, but itches” claim. However she is far more interested in consuming the Danish pastry I bought her downstairs, and showering me with the crumbs, as we wait to see the on-call orthopedic doctor, who is apparently the person one goes to with a distended insect bite.

The mind boggles. But I digress.

Once in the hallowed office of the orthopod, he takes a perfunctory look at her arm (he seems more concerned with keeping her away from the bucket of plaster-of-Paris on the floor) and immediately tells me that I must take her to the ER, so that it can be scanned for signs of an abscess, and possibly drained.

My levels of distress begin to soar again. My brain goes into overdrive. Abscess? Likeminded words: pus… infected… jungle fever… septicemia… untimely and agonizing death. Well, alright; I’m a melodramatic drama queen. But in all fairness, it’s one of my best features.

Cut to ten minutes later, and I’m registering my daughter in the ER of the Schneider Children’s Hospital. Now my daughter is not a child who likes to sit quietly. This meant that I spent my time waiting for the preliminary check with the nurse before being allowed in to see the doc, chasing her up the corridor and back.

Side note: When we eventually saw the nurse, she wanted to take my daughter’s temperature. When she asked my daughter to open her mouth for the thermometer, she did the opposite and shut it firmly.

So I asked her “Do you want the nice nurse to put the thermometer in your bottom”, and she nodded affirmatively. We put her on the bed, and I pull down her cute little trendy jeans (I love Asda) and she gives me a look that I know I passed onto her genetically and opens her mouth.

We then wait the obligatory two and a half hours — despite being assured that we were on the “Green Track” list (apparently a faster track than the regular casualty list), and the chasing continues.

At this point I am fast losing energy and patience (with which I am not blessed with an inordinate quantity anyway). I keep reassuring myself that despite the toll this is having on my mental stability, this feistiness and have-a-care attitude are obvious proof that there can’t be that much wrong, yet once again, I cannot quite manage to reassure myself.

Eventually we are called to see the doctor.

He looks me straight in the eye, and says: “It’s an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. And..?”

I tell you, gentle reader, I blushed from head to foot, feeling like the world’s biggest fucking moron.

Weakly, I protest: “But they said… it might be an abscess… she needed to have a scan…. That there could be significant danger…”

He continues to regard me with mocking pity.

There was no way this could be an abscess, he said, although it might still develop into one. A scan? Scans are for sissies. Well, no, he didn’t say that. But he did make it very clear that the whole idea was far fetched.

The doctor recommends an antihistamine, and to keep an eye on the arm for the next few hours before she goes to bed, and if it gets hard or pus-filled, to bring her straight back in.

As I turn to leave, I shamefacedly admitted that I’d not thought it worthy of attention, but the panic-stricken voices of the Kermit-like Kindergarten teacher and the soporific gloominess of the orthopod had convinced me that my attitude was wrong, bad and mark me with a Scarlet Letter of N for Neglectful Mother.

Always trust your instincts, he said to me. You know your child better than any textbook wielding anal retentive. And he was right. When I first saw her, and saw she was fine and dandy and full of beans; I should have realised what a crock it all was, and not taken the matter any further.

But continually I doubt and second-guess myself when it comes to being a mother. Rarely do I find that my natural instincts are wrong. And yet, I have no faith in them. WTF?

And I cannot be the only neurotic mother out there. I mean, who knows about these things? Despite having relatives with an assortment of ailments that would make an epidemiologist chortle with glee, I have less than a clue about allergies.

Beyond “better safe than sorry,” I have no frame of reference for weird bites from jungle beasties. And needless to say, I have no tried and tested user manual for parents of children version 2.03, because such an animal is a mythical as the long-mourned dodo.

Maybe I should write such a manual. Or start a support group. I can see it now: NAWAC: Neurotic and without a clue. Whaddaya think?

Footnote: my daughter continues to be fine. The antihistamine, combined with her lack of sleep that afternoon, afforded me a most peaceful evening from quite early on. Naturally I made good use of this free time by sitting catatonically until I finally summoned the strength to collapse into bed. Where I dreamed of fighting off mosquitoes with cans of spinach…

Write Debbie at


  1. You’re too hard on yourself.

  2. Miki: thank you, that’s very sweet of you to say.

    Of course, I’m also highly neurotic. It helps.

    D xxx

  3. Very amusing and if I may say so well written. Humorous and pithy


  4. I’m inclined to agree with Dad here, Debs. Actually, I’m inclined to agree with all the comments – especially yours! 🙂

  5. Debbie, wonderful piece superbly written! I can so relate – let me know where to sign up for NAWAC!!!

  6. Dani — thank you honey. Will be round with my clipboard next w/e.

    She — agreeing with my parents? And you call yourself a friend. Sheesh.

    Dad — thanks. You aren’t taking the pith, i hope.

    D xxx

  7. Well, I agreed with you too!

  8. Lisa (not the sister)

    March 12, 2006 at 2:01 pm

    Kept my attention Gvald – well done
    Don’t know where you find the time to do all this stuff – good on you.

  9. This I so enjoyed and can so relate. I’m in for the NAWAC! I’ll even submit an idea for chapter content; “Know In Advance What They’re Thinking, So You Can Warn Them”…1)No beans, rocks or other foreign items in the nose. 2)You don’t really have to “unplug” a lamp, if you cut the cord with metel nail clippers, yes, the light will go out. 3)Before they’re 12, sit them down with a picture book and explain the birth process, so that they are not living life with the notion they were “pooped out” after having seen a hippo give birth on Discovery Channel! So YES Deb, we need a book like this! Loved the humor and self realization! This was a fun read.

  10. I think…yeah, this is definitely the first time I’ve been called esteemed. Thanks!

  11. She: Oh yes. So you did. Cheers.

    Lise: Thank you sweetpea. Answer is, i don’t. I just get riled up about stuff and vent… and then i send it in here. It seems to work.

    Virginia: That you can relate i find so heartwarmin and affirming. #2 of your chapter had me in stitches. And thank you also..

    David: I take cash, or diamonds, or, if you’re really hard up, frothy mocha latte. Heh.


  12. Oddie and Rachel (UK)

    March 13, 2006 at 12:14 am

    Excellent article. Just lucky you weren’t here in the UK otherwise you would still be waiting in the good old NHS line 3 weeks later!!

  13. I am very impressed by your writing, and look forward to more submissions.

  14. Very amusing darling.

  15. You’re welcome! All 3 true stories in my family. True confession; #2 was not one of my 3 boys, it was me. At about 7 or 8, soaking wet, just out of the bath, standing barefoot on a trazzo floor AAAHHHHH! The electrical jolt literally picked me up off the floor and threw me across the room onto my bed! (in the dark 🙂 )

  16. Forgot to fill in the top on #15

  17. Dear Debbie,

    I have noticed that you have never mentioned the father of your daughter, why is that?

    Why did you take all the burden by yourself?!
    It is only logical to share these incidents with the poor girl’s father.

    Or are you too proud/full of yourself to seek help from the poor baby’s father?

  18. Oddie and Rachel (UK)

    March 13, 2006 at 7:03 pm

    Moshe – How many times have you seen a father rush to pick up a child from school?!?!?!!? It is always the mother regardless of how ‘involved’ the father ‘thinks’ he is!!!!

  19. Awww. Oddie and Rachel, rushing to my rescue. Bless you both.

    Moshe, for your information, my husband — also the child’s father — is on a business trip abroad; also the case during this incident. I spoke to him on the phone from both the Moked and the Emergency Room, and kept him abreast of all developments.

    Your implication that i’m proud or full of myself is simply ridiculous, and quite unsubstantiated. Shame.

  20. On a lighter note… ahem, and in no particular order:

    Oddie and Rachel: why do you think i made aliyah? Heh. But you made me giggle, thanks for that, and for stopping by.

    Virginia: LOL! Are we related?

    Smelly: Thanks darling (He’s the maligned and slandered “poor baby’s father”, people. FYI.)

    Michael: Thank you so much! I’ll try to keep the standard as high as you’d expect. (You know, a smidge above gutter level.)

  21. Weeeell, dunno; What is the dumbest thing you ever did? Further, are you willing to share it with the whole world? Awe come on, could be fun. Then after that maybe you or someone else could create a fourm for us all to share “The Most Embarrassing Moment of My Life” That’s always a party favorite of mine, and do I ever have a doozie!

    Beyond that; Whether I am an evolving heathen or a descendent from a lost tribe, I’m claiming the “gendered cousin” thing, as put forth by your “esteemed” colleague David Levy (If you’re only the first to “esteem” him, by all means, after seeing his work, let me be the second! I’m still learning from the “Surfer and the Habad” article he recently did.) Your God is my God, so here’s .. L’Chaim Cuz.

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