| Diary Serial |

On Call: Chapter 2 — The Match 

“I just stitched up a boy who fell out of bed and bumped his head — for real! How’s supper coming along?”


As told to Shoshana Gross


titching a wound is almost like doing needlepoint. My needle is grasped by a hemostat, a scissorlike tool with no blades. I carefully put in the last suture while the four-year-old boy, numbed with lidocaine, busily sucks a lollipop.

“We’re done,” I tell the anxious mother. “He only needed three sutures on his forehead. Just keep them clean and dry for twenty-four hours. And Mark...” I bend down, looking into two mischievous brown eyes. “Beds are for sleeping, not for jumping.”

Mark grins stickily, mouth ringed with purple, and the two of them head for the exit. It’s been a long day already, and I’m hurrying to the desk in the center of the ER when my phone rings. It’s Yaakov.

“Hi, Yaakov? Is everything all right?”

“Baruch Hashem, how are things in the ER?”

“The usual excitement. I just stitched up a boy who fell out of bed and bumped his head — for real! How’s supper coming along?”

There’s a pause. “I’m not sure if the rice is done. How do I know?”

I wince. Running out the door that afternoon, I’d left a pan of rice and some chicken defrosting on the counter — with a detailed list of instructions for Yaakov when he came home from kollel. Obviously, I hadn’t been detailed enough.

“What does the rice look like? Is it soft, crunchy, or black?” I ask patiently.

“Well, there are some very dark parts. Is it supposed to be brown and hard? The chicken looks a little interesting, too.” Visions of interesting chicken (how interesting?) and very well-done rice float through my mind, but instead of annoyance, I feel only gratitude.

The first (and second, and third) thing everyone asked when they heard that I was contemplating working in the ER was, “What about shidduchim?” The unspoken words were loud and clear: Who’s going to marry you?! The fear was real, and I worried that everyone was right, even after speaking to my mentor and rav about my dreams and ultimate goals.

The number of names we received wasn’t the steady flow it had been for my older sisters — more like erratic drips from a leaky faucet. Some of the guys who consented to date me were intrigued by the medical field, others were repelled when they learned more about what it entailed. But before going to medical school, I made a firm commitment to never refuse a date, no matter how hectic my schedule. Building a family was not going to take second place, no matter what anyone thought.

So I dated. In my second year of school, the night before the Board Exams (a test on everything we’d learned so far) coincided with the only night my then-date was available. Evening found me primping in front of a mirror instead of hauling out my hefty tomes and cramming with a double-espresso at my elbow. The date was a disaster, but the exam — after a sleepless night post-date — fortunately, was not. I received the ultimate reward in the fourth year of med school.

Yaakov was a little older, and more mature and open-minded than many of the boys I had gone out with. On our first date, as I took a sip of (yet another) Diet Coke, he said, “I want to ask about your plan to make a career in the ER work with raising a family. I assume you have a plan.”

I was speechless for a long moment. Finally, someone who seemed to think I had answers!

“Residency is rough,” I told him. “But when I’m done, I’ll only need to work around thirty hours a week to make an excellent parnassah, and I can schedule my hours to avoid Shabbos and Yom Tov. I’ll be there for my family, and still have a job that I love.”

Yaakov really listened. We met again, and then again. I marveled at his patience, clear thinking, and his courage to consider entering my world. He didn’t flinch when I nodded off over a plate of steak and seared asparagus at a gourmet restaurant. He didn’t run for the hills when I warned him that we really had no idea what we were getting into with residency.

“I won’t know what it’s like until I’m in it,” I cautioned. “I can’t even warn you properly!”

“Life is like that,” Yaakov answered.

And he didn’t protest when I told him about The Match. It’s one of the most important parts of fourth year med school, where soon-to-be-graduates apply to residency programs around the country. Most of us apply to approximately 50 programs throughout the United States. After virtual interviews with every single program, we applicants rank the hospitals in order of preference — and the hospitals do the same for the applicants. Then, a website we call The Match uses an algorithm to place everyone. You go where The Match sends you — there’s no second choice.

“I submitted my form, but I have no idea where I’ll be placed,” I told Yaakov.

“When do you find out?”

“March eighteenth is Match Day,” I told him. “Everyone gets a sealed envelope with their assigned program, and we open it together.”

“Let’s make it a date,” Yaakov said. I protested. He insisted. “I’m coming with you.”

March 18 found me pale and shaking, with Yaakov trying to calm me down. I could barely hold the envelope in my trembling hands, and most of my classmates were similarly nervous.

The moment of truth came, and I opened my envelope: Chicago.

There were tears of joy, and Yaakov was pleased. It wasn’t the Tristate area with Shabbos-friendly residency programs, but it was a big Jewish community with kollelim, a strong infrastructure, and some family nearby.

“Should I start hunting for apartments?” Yaakov grinned. “Let’s make it official.”

We did. Getting engaged was nothing like I’d imagined, but everything I wanted.

The break between med school and the start of my residency program was crammed with searches for an apartment, finding a kollel for Yaakov, and preparations for the wedding. It was a wonderful and hectic time, only slightly tinged by the worry of residency.

There is so much we never expected, but we work through it together. The calm and patience I saw in Yaakov on our dates comes in handy every day. And sometimes I need to eat interesting chicken and burnt rice. But it’s worth every bite.

I’ve known it since Match Day — I’ve met mine.


The characters in this series are composites; all the stories are true.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 889)

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