POSTED: November 1, 2023
A couple of years ago I was on my way home from a walk in a park when I encountered a young woman who was clearly in distress. It was in the early part of the pandemic and we were all wearing masks but hers was lying on the grass. She appeared to be choking and as I tried to determine what exactly was happening, she started to bloat up as if being filled with air. I sat her down at a bench but her throat was closing up badly and she was looking like the Michelin Man. Before I knew it a young fellow was beside us with a device out and slammed it into her thigh and she had almost instant improvement. “Epi pen” he said as he left almost as fast as he arrived, and then turned and said the weirdest thing “get her to the hospital …. and you are her dad”. The first part of his short instruction list was obvious but the second one I found bewildering.
Shortly thereafter the ambulance people arrived and after asking me what had happened and who she was, again the statement “You are her dad and you need to come with us.”
Once at the hospital she was admitted and then it all became clear when I was doing the registration. When a patient is admitted the administrators need a person to attach to the file administratively. This is partially because with so many visitors in Malta who are not part of the EU the procedures for approval for treating them are extensive if not EU citizens so once identified as my “daughter” and I produce my identification they don’t seem to ask beyond that for the purpose of treating her and then later the admin stuff can get worked out. It is the relationship of the admin side not being done as quickly as the actual emergency work that needs to occur as something of a lifesaving workaround.
So for that brief time I was her dad. I have never been a dad and I had a glimpse into that overwhelming sense of responsibility – even with this just being a little administrative fiction.
The wait was long. We started in the afternoon and as the hours dragged on it was clear we would not be out of there until the next day. They had said that it was anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting and once home she would have to follow up to see about this extreme reaction. They periodically told me she was doing fine but in a small facility that was already running past capacity I could not visit her. Finally, at about 6:40 in the morning they said we could go and I got a taxi.
Her name was Ofra and she was staying with some friends on holiday in a place not too far from our Marina. The truth of it is Valletta is not a big community so everything is fairly close. Her phone was dead and I had not brought mine out for what I had thought would be a short walk that previous afternoon so her friends were relieved but startled when we arrived at their rental flat. We had a tea with them and I learned a bit more about her. She was from Tel Aviv and a student and was here with some friends just for a few days of holiday. We exchanged some contact info and I went home to bed.
Since that time captain Ciara has my little pack equipped with not only an epi pen for dealing with people who go into anaphylactic shock for an allergic reaction but also with a Naloxone kit for people who have overdosed on opioids. She had always kept an epi pen handy on the boat for extreme allergic reactions but also keeps one in her personal bag and now one in mine. So periodically these expensive little needles get to the end of their useful date and Ciara gets an orange or grapefruit and has me practice on jabbing into them. I have saved several pieces of fruit over the last couple of years!
Ofra was a bit of a political junkie like me and we would periodically email back and forth about the world’s problems. I enjoyed hearing her perspective as it reflected the ideas of my optimistic but naïve younger self.
So why am I going on about this now? Well sometimes she would copy her cousin in the email loop as he was quite political as well. Two weeks ago I received an email from him that Ofra had been hurt at a pro-Palestinian rally in Tel Aviv, trying to convince the current government coalition under Netanyahu to not over react to the terrible atrocities committed by Hamas. As a reservist she was on alert with an expectation of being called up and with others was conflicted by her duty and her conscience. Her cousin said that even her family had mixed reactions to both his and her participation in the rally, some proud, some disgusted.
At that rally she was hit by a rock, thrown by one of her countrymen at the protestors. After some medical complications from a delay in accessing medical help, from a high quality medical facility that was very close to where she was injured, she died. An Israeli reservist, trying to keep her government in check, killed at the hands of another Israeli.
The older I get, the more complicated and confused the world seems to be.
Rest in peace Ofra.