Thursday, February 11, 2010


Being sick in Israel stinks. Not for lack of quality healthcare, and certainly not for lack of affordable drugs.

As we've mentioned here before, there's a wordplay on new immigrants and the fact that new immigrants get sick. A lot. The word for "immigrants" is olim and "new," plural, is chadashim (that's "ch" as in throat-clearing, not "ch" as in Charlie). So, "new olim" are olim chadashim (in Hebrew the adjective goes after the noun).

The word for "sick people" is cholim (again, that throat-clearing "ch").

So, olim chadashim - new immigrants - becomes cholim chadashim - new sick people. Ha ha.

However, the longer I'm here, the more I realize everybody gets sick a lot here, whether you've been here 6 months, 6 years or 6 decades. Everytime I turn around, somebody's sick. And not that "I don't feel like going to school/work/meeting with my boss" sick. Or the, "I'm not feeling well today so I won't go in, but I'll work tomorrow" sick, either. No, here, people get mamash (really really) sick. Head-throbbing, can't breathe, sinuses clogged up like a camel in a sandstorm (see how I did that? How Israeli am I?) sick. A lot.

I blame children.

Israel is blessed with a lot of children. Children who play together in maon and gan (daycare and nursery school). Children who wipe their noses and then share their toys with their mates. Children who so adorably hold hands when playing. Then go home and kiss their Emas (moms)or their little siblings. Then the Emas hand the toys to the Abas (dads), who, while out for a walk, shake hands with their neighbour. Who then grabs his child's hand... and so it goes.

I know this happens everywhere. But people are a little more paranoid conscious of antibiotic soaps and liquid sanitizers and washing hands every 5 minutes in the US and Canada. We also have a load more kids per square inch in Israel. We're also a very huggy, touchy-feely group over here.

Frankly, I love it. I love the kids, I love the contact and I wouldn't trade the hugs and kisses for anything. But I suspect this is the cause of our constant illnesses. That and our collective sinus conditions.

But I digress. This is not why I gripe. No, my gripe is that when I do get sick, I get sick bad. I don't necessarily mind being sick, what is getting to me is I don't know the drugs here! I want DayQuil! I want NyQuil! When my sister got married last year and was fighting a bad cold that would not quit, her most urgent request to my soon-to-be arriving mother (along with sneakers, q-tips and ziplock bags) was NyQuil.

I've tried different drugs, but I never cared about the ingredients; I just wanted to feel better and Day/NyQuil worked. So far, nothing here works. And don't even get me started on the cough syrup here. Every single one on the market (and my doctor checked!) contains Sorbitol, which I cannot take. I know this because I took some before I knew I couldn't. Trust me on this one. So I'm stuck taking cough drops which contain loads of sugar, which means my choice is either stay up coughing all night, or don't cough, but stay up because I'm wired on a sugar high. Tough call.

I just want my DayQuil and my NyQuil. Or something exactly like them. I want the security of knowing I'm taking something that will make me feel better. Or, in the case of NyQuil, not care if I'm not feeling better.

Oh, and my over-the-counter cough syrup with codeine. Sometimes I really miss Canada.


dan.bernst said...

The Maccabi pharmacy has Acamol Day/Night, which is identical to Tylenol Day/Night.

Alissa said...

But neither of those is Nyquil ;)

Jess said...

Also, there is a disturbing trend in Israel where people just don't finish their antibiotics cycle - they stop taking them when they feel better, which means the bug lies dormant and gets stronger, and then when I go for the year with my strange custom of, you know, listening to my doctor, I don't have the antibodies to deal with the superbugs which attack my tonsils and I then end up lying in bed hacking up all sorts of disgusting things and the whole thing leads to having my tonsils removed.

Moral of the story: Dear Israel - your doctor went to med school. There is a strong chance that s/he knows what s/he is talking about. Take the damn meds.
My immune system.

Alissa said...

Sadly, that's not just Israel. I had to chew out many friends in the US who "felt much better" and would stop their antibiotics.

Oh, and come to think of it, a neighbour of mine in Vancouver also fell into the category of "I, the patient, know better." :sigh: