Psychotrauma Unit Sends Ambulance to Bolster Sderot

Following the Intensification of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip this past weekend, United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit Director Miriam Ballin visited the city and its responders in order to bring some much-needed support to the residents and volunteer responders of the area.

Nehorai Darshan Chapter Head of United Hatzalah in Sderot (Left), Miriam Ballin Director of Psychotrauma Unit (center) Raphael Poch Psychotrauma Unit Volunteer

On Monday morning, Ballin, together with the ambulance and fellow responders from the unit arrived in the city in order to touch base with the responders in the city following the barrage of rockets from the weekend and see what was needed in the city. In addition, the ambulance was on hand over the course of the day to provide a faster response for the residents of the city should the need for the unit’s volunteers arise. The ambulance is set to return again later in the week and intermittently throughout the summer as needed.

Ballin talking to a group of youngsters outside of United Hatzalah headquarters in the city.

Ballin and the team met with United Hatzalah Chapter Head Nehorai Darshan and instructed him on how to utilize the special capabilities of the Psychotrauma Ambulance and dispatch it when needed. The team then proceeded to meet with members of the unit throughout the city and their family members and spoke with them about how they are reacting to the recent escalation of attacks. Ballin and the team offered encouragement and assistance to the volunteers and reinforced the tools used by the unit in responding to large-scale attacks like the ones from this past weekend.

Ballin treating an injured woman after she fainted

During the visit, Ballin said: “We came down to Sderot specifically today in order to provide encouragement and strengthen the residents here, as well as our volunteers and their families, who just finished a very difficult weekend. It is important for us that the resident, as well as our volunteers, know that there is someone to turn to should they need our services.”

Ballin meeting with a local Psychotrauma responder in Sderot

Ballin and Poch visit and show support of local residents

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Foreign Volunteers Can Now Pre-Register To Help Israel In Event Of Large-Scale Earthquake

Following the continued tremors and aftershocks that have shaken Israel’s north for the past week, Israel’s Health Ministry and the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) have informally asked United Hatzalah to pre-register all available and willing members of Hatzolah organizations worldwide who are interested in assisting Israel should a large-scale earthquake occur.

Israel has built a plan in preparation of a worst-case scenario event in which some 7,000 people could be killed and 28,600 buildings destroyed, requiring an incredible amount of international aid. Recognizing that such a doomsday scenario may be imminent, the Health Ministry together with NEMA are preparing pre-registered lists of available international medical and search and rescue personnel who will be willing to come and assist in search and rescue operations as well as in makeshift field hospitals that will be set up near disaster zones should a devastating earthquake occur. The lists are to help facilitate and streamline acclimation of international volunteers in the case of a large-scale emergency and get them in the field faster once they arrive in Israel.

“We have been asked by the Health Ministry to pre-register all members of Hatzolah organizations worldwide who, in the event of a major earthquake will want to come to Israel and provide aid,” said Dov Maisel the Vice President of United Hatzalah in charge of International Operations. “The Hatzolah volunteers from the various organizations around the world are some of the most dedicated and giving emergency personnel out there. We are happy to facilitate their registration which will enable them to operate in Israel with full insurance coverage and logistical assistance should the need arise,” he added.

According to a report prepared by NEMA in 2012 and presented at a disaster preparedness conference to Israel’s emergency services organizations last week, Israel’s worst-case disaster scenario would result in 290,000 buildings damaged and 46,000 people injured in addition to the previously mentioned destroyed buildings and people who would be killed. The report suggests that in such a scenario, close to 10,000 people would be trapped and 170,000 people would be left homeless. A later report in 2016 by by Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s Home-Front Readiness Subcommittee found that if Israel were to be struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, the estimate of homeless people would rise to 377,000 In addition, the country could face damages of up to NIS 200 billion.

“Having been one of the responders who assisted with earthquake relief in both Haiti and Nepal, and after seeing the report by NEMA I can say with confidence that if a doomsday scenario were to occur in Israel, then we would need all of the international help that we can get.  Imagine 37,000 people even lightly injured. That would overwhelm any hospital framework. Those people likely wouldn’t even be sent to the hospital in such a scenario, rather they would receive whatever treatment was available in the field and that would be it. Thus, every pair of hands, especially trained medical response volunteers such as Hatzolah members from all over the world, will be invaluable,” Maisel added.

Members of Hatzolah rescue services across the globe, as well as other medical first responders who are interested in providing assistance in Israel,  in the event of a large-scale earthquake, are invited to pre-register at this website:

https://israelrescue.org/campaigns/EmergencyAssistanceRegistration

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United Hatzalah Expands Psychotrauma and Crisis Response K-9 Unit

A new volunteer has joined the ranks of United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, only this one has four legs. Toffy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed known around the world for excelling as therapy dogs, has gone through extensive training with her owner, Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Volunteer Ori Weiss, to become certified as a therapy dog and inducted into the organization’s unit.

Weiss and Toffy live in the northern city of Tzefat (Safed) and will be tasked with providing emotional and psychological stabilization to anyone suffering from emotional or psychological stress or trauma in their vicinity. The new volunteer pairing could not have chosen a better time to begin their work, as many people, mainly children, have been suffering emotional side-effects from the continuing tremors that are currently affecting Israel’s north.

Weiss joined United Hatzalah originally as a volunteer EMT and also works as a therapist who specializes in treating people via animal therapy. He and Toffy work together daily treating people professionally at his clinic. “The patients simply love working with Toffy,” Weiss said. “Toffy returns the affection and love that they show him and thus a bond is formed quickly that allows the patient to open up.”

Weiss added that having animals assist in therapy has extra benefits. “The benefits of therapy involving animals is that the patient feels no judgment, only acceptance of their current state without any preconditions. By nature, humans are judgemental. Therefore, a patient who struggles with creating a connection or trusting another person can more easily connect with an animal. This allows the initial stages of therapy to be easier and the patient can approach the therapy with a stronger sense of personal security.”

United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit already recognized these benefits and has a dog, Lucy, also a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, as part of the Psychotrauma Unit in Jerusalem, working with volunteer Batya Jaffe. “Lucy has been incredibly useful in many cases where breaking the ice and connecting with patients quickly was important,” said Unit Director Miriam Ballin. “We have been looking to expand the K-9 Unit for some time now, and are overjoyed that Toffy and Ori are going to begin assisting the people in the north of Israel, especially now with all of the earthquakes and aftershocks that people are experiencing there.”

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Gunshot Victim Thanks First Responder Who Saved His Life

Last Saturday afternoon a young Arab man was attacked in the Ein el-Maghara neighborhood of Umm al-Fahm, an Arab town that lies just south of Afula in northern Israel. The man was shot several times and seriously injured by unknown gunmen.

Sanaa visiting Hamzeh in HaEmek hospital

United Hatzalah volunteer Sanaa Mahameed, who lives in Umm al-Fahm, was alerted to the scene and immediately rushed to treat the injured man. The man, Hamzeh Mahameed (no relation) aged 21, was driving his car when he was attacked late Saturday afternoon. Sanaa stopped his bleeding, bandaged his wounds and then proceeded to wait for 30 minutes until an ambulance arrived to take him to HaEmek Medical Center in Afula.

Scene from the gunshot incident in Umm al-Fahm

“He had suffered three gunshot wounds to his upper body and sustained injuries to his chest and neck. I bandaged him, provided him with oxygen and opened an I.V. to give him fluids,” said Sanaa, who has been volunteering with United Hatzalah for more than two years and was the first female religious Muslim to do so.  

 

Three days later, Sanaa received a call from Hamzeh’s mother thanking her profusely for saving her son. Thanks to Sanaa’s quick intervention, Hamzeh had made it through surgery and doctors said that they expected him to make a full recovery. Hamzeh’s mother invited Sanaa to the hospital to visit her son. “I was overjoyed by the invitation. It isn’t every day that I get a phone call thanking me for saving their son’s life and I wanted to go to the hospital to see how he was doing.”

 

Sanaa took the family up on the invitation and on Wednesday, visited Hamzeh and his family at the hospital. “They kept thanking me for what I had done, but for me, it was the most natural thing in the world. I heard about the incident and I went to help without thinking twice about it. That is what I am trained to do and that is what I always do,” Sanaa said.

Sanaa with Hamzeh and his mother

Hamzeh thanked Sanaa personally for saving his life. “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be here right now. There is no way to say thank you enough. I am so happy that we have an EMT like you in our city to help us and protect us when we need it,” Hamzeh told Sanaa during the emotional meeting.

 

Hamzeh’s mother relayed that her son had gone through multiple difficult surgeries and the doctors had told her that had Hamzeh not received medical assistance from Sanaa when he did, then he would not be alive.

 

“I am so happy that this young man has another chance at life,” said Sanaa. “Stories like this are the reason I do what I do.” Sanaa has begun training to join the United Hatzalah’s ambucycle unit and hopes to be able to do so in the near future.  

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Rehovot Fire Department, City and United Hatzalah Make Sick Child’s Dream Come True

Last week, a number of rescue organizations banded together with the city of Rehovot to make a sick child’s dream come true. A letter was received by United Hatzalah rescue service asking that they help a sick child feel first hand what it was like to volunteer in a rescue organization. Volunteers from the organization provided the child with an ambulance to take him from place to place as well as monitoring his health throughout the day.

The organization contacted the Fire Department in Rehovot and began to organize the logistics for the day. On Thursday, a special ambulance arrived to take the sick boy, Hezki and his family, from their home in a town near Jerusalem to Rehovot. At the entrance to the city, a second ambulance together with ambucycles from the organization awaited the family. After showing Hezki the vehicles and how they operate during a medical emergency, they accompanied the family to the local fire station.

Firefighters in the station received Hezki and dressed him in full firefighting gear. They then showed him the different vehicles they use to fight fires. Hezki was even allowed to go on the basket and the ladder supporting him was raised. He was accompanied by a firefighter on his trip.

At the end of his visit, he received a modest gift from Chief Officer in charge of the shift Doron Elmishelli.

Hezki and his family then headed to one of the city’s parks where counselor Itzik Ayleen demonstrated how the child rescue vehicle of the city operates and explained what the city’s project for protecting its children from violence consists of.

Hezki and his parents thanked all of the organizations involved profusely for their help in realizing Hezki’s dream.

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A Life-Saving Couple That Saved A Couple Of Lives Over The Weekend

Miri Shvimmer and Lior Eskenasy are an engaged couple who both live in Holon and are both United Hatzalah volunteer responders.  In fact, they often ride to emergencies together on Lior’s ambucycle. “Whenever there are calls that need ALS we go out together,” Shvimmer said as she smiled. “I keep the ALS equipment from my bag in his ambucycle, so that wherever we go we have a full complement of medical supplies with us.”

Shvimmer and Eskenasy

Last Thursday, Shvimmer, a paramedic, was returning from vacation with her mother and had just arrived home from the airport when Lior picked her up. As soon as the two were together, they were notified about a medical emergency occurring in their vicinity. A man had suffered a heart attack and collapsed in the middle of the street in Holon. The pair rushed over, began CPR and administered 3 shocks from a defibrillator. After a lengthy process, they succeeded at regaining the man’s pulse. They then assisted the ambulance team in loading the patient for transport to Wolfson hospital.

On Friday, the couple was called on again to assist in two more emergencies. An 80-year-old man had drowned in a pool at the country club in Holon. Eskenasy and Shvimmer again raced to the scene and succeeded in reviving the man and helping him expunge the pool of water that had settled in his lungs. He too was taken to the hospital in serious but stable condition.

From that emergency, they rushed to another emergency in Holon, in which a man was suffering from a severe case of hypoglycemia and had fallen unconscious. After administering glucose and assisting the ambulance team to transport the patient, the couple finally got some time to spend with each other, before having to return to their other responsibilities.

“Going out to calls with a life partner gives us a sense of completion. We work together in creating a relationship and we build on that together when we save lives as a unit. If we go out on a really hard call, such as saving a child who was hit by a car or a family that was caught in a fire, we share it together and we can have each other’s backs at the scene. We are also there to support each other emotionally when we need it after tough calls,” Shvimmer said.

Eskenasy said that all responders are thankful for the special items that they carry with them that save lives. “Some responders have EpiPens, others have defibrillators, and I have Miri. She saves people’s lives all the time and I take her with me wherever I go. So I have to marry her.”

Three weeks ago, we had a case of a man who was in his 30’s, and after having a fight with his wife, he hung himself in his own home. His wife had cut him down just before we arrived.  We treated him and succeeded at reviving him. A few days later he was sent home from the hospital. For us, that was a call that left an impression. Here we were, a couple saving the life of not just a man, but of another couple for whom things had gone terribly wrong. At the worst moment of their lives, we were there to help and for us, that meant a lot.”

Eskenasy said that both he and Miri also respond on their own, but when they are together the help that they can provide is compounded. “I go to emergencies on my own when Miri is busy or is not around. But it is so much easier when she is around as we automatically become an ALS team and she is able to treat one aspect and I can treat another. Working as a team really increases the chances of us successfully treating the patient in the field. Miri is a really good person who is pleasant to everyone and knows all of the protocols by heart. She is a paramedic par excellence and is also a nurse. When she is in the field, people know her and listen to her and that makes all of the incidents run far more smoothly.”

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Mayor of Ashdod Becomes Honorary Volunteer First Responder

Member of Knesset and United Hatzalah emergency response volunteer Yinon Azoulai was on hand in Ashdod last Thursday to usher in the inauguration of Ashdod’s newest EMS response center. Also present was Ashdod Mayor Dr. Yechiel Lasry, a distinguished physician himself, who became an honorary United Hatzalah first responder. He was bequeathed a United Hatzalah a vest and a volunteer I.D. badge, becoming an honorary member of the more than 5,000 volunteers across the country who drop whatever they are doing and rush out to respond to medical emergencies in their vicinity. While Lasry has not committed to going on emergency calls with the organization, he did speak highly of the activities of the volunteers in his city and graciously accepted the honor of the appointment.

Lasry (2nd from left) next to UH CEO Moshe Teitelbaum and UH volunteers from Ashdod.

During the inauguration, Lasry said: “It is written that anyone who saves even a single life has saved an entire world. United Hatzalah volunteers, I respect and appreciate you. A decade ago, you started off as a small chapter here in the city of Ashdod with less than 30 volunteers. Now you have more than 100 volunteers across the city. The people of the city appreciate and respect you and so do I.”

Mayor Lasry’s UH ID card

The organization, whose volunteers have been saving lives in Ashdod for the past 12 years, celebrated a number of achievements during the special celebration which was held in their new center that was donated by the city as well as a number of generous philanthropists. “The city and a number of sponsors felt that it was time to give back to the organization by inaugurating its first volunteer house and educational headquarters in the city,” said Avi Amar, regional United Hatzalah spokesperson.

Sign above newly inaugurated EMS training and volunteers center

Amar said that the building, a converted bomb shelter located on number 1 HaHistadrut Street, will serve as the local branch office, an educational center to train local volunteer responders, a volunteer house for cultural events that the chapter holds and a location for EMS enrichment classes for the volunteers as well as the local community. “The center will act as a secondary protected medical emergency location in case the city comes under attack like it did during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 or other national emergencies,” Amar added. In addition to being one of the city’s most active ambucycle responders, Amar also works as a police officer in the region.

In addition to the new EMS center, two new ambucycles, the iconic vehicle of the organization, of which there are close to 800 on the streets of Israel, were inaugurated during the evening as well.

New ambucycles in Ashdod

President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer, said: “I am proud of the dedication shown by all of our volunteers in the city of Ashdod. The city has truly benefited from the hard work and drive of these special volunteers who live there and provide emergency services for free to all residents of the city, regardless of background or religion. I look forward to continuing to grow our chapter and presence in the city.”

MK Yinon Azoulai said: “I am proud to be a part of the family of first responders that is United Hatzalah. From my perspective, this is the greatest satisfaction that one could have and I will declare that in every forum I can. I personally would like to thank the Mayor, Dr. Yechiel Lasry for his continued help to United Hatzalah.”

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United Hatzalah Introduces New Midwives Division

As of July 1st, United Hatzalah of Israel introduced a new division of services that will now dispatch trained midwives and OB-GYN nurses to incidents of unexpected home births. Midwives and nurses who have joined the program will now be dispatched by United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center to assist birthing mothers in their deliveries should they not be able to travel to the hospital in time.

Dr. Aryeh Jaffe who is an OB-GYN at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem and a United Hatzalah volunteer Doctor will be overseeing the program together with EMT-b Gitty Beer who runs the women’s division of the organization.

Dr. Aryeh Jaffe

“As someone who works in delivery rooms, I see that the EMS teams, as good as they are, are often inexperienced when it comes to instances of active home labors. As a paramedic in the field, I have helped 55 women deliver their babies. Today, as I conduct deliveries daily, I see how much was lacking from the training I received as an EMS responder. If everything goes smoothly, then most EMS responders will be able to handle the situation, but if there is any sort of complication or emergency that transpires outside of the hospital, the training that these responders have falls short and hence the care which they can provide is also lacking. Thus, the difference between giving birth with a properly trained midwife or without one can be the difference between life and death both for the mother and infant, or an injury sustained by the infant that can accompany the child for the rest of its life.”

Dr. Jaffe explained where the idea for the new unit originated. “I had a number of cases in which I had to call a midwife that I happened to know in order to assist in a home birth that was taking place near where the midwife happened to live. After this happened a few times, I thought that it would be beneficial to patients all over the country to create this unit and be able to dispatch trained personnel who would be able to respond and give the proper level of care needed to mothers all over the country.”

Gitty Beer after having just delivered a baby.

Gitty Beer added that the program will be starting as a pilot project this coming week in Jerusalem, and from there will spread across the entire country. “Since we began advertising the new unit, we have had dozens of midwives and nurses join and will now be providing a response in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Each new volunteer will receive an EMS birthing kit as well as an infant CPR kit that contains all of the medical equipment that is needed to properly assist in a delivery and maintain the health of both the mother and the infant should an emergency arise during delivery.  Our Dispatch and Command Center will now send the new volunteers alerts to their phone of birthing incidents in their vicinity based on their GPS location via United Hatzalah’s emergency responder application.”

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Man Reunites With The Rescuers Who Saved Him From Death

Last week Tuesday, Itai Shukrun, a healthy 35 -year-old from Kiryat Atta with no previous cardiac issues, suddenly collapsed at home. Worried family members called United Hatzalah emergency services and the organization’s Dispatch and Command Center sent an alert to the closest responders in Itai’s vicinity.

United Hatzalah ambucycle volunteer Yisrael Menachem, raced to the location and was the first responder to arrive at the scene in just a few moments. Menachem immediately recognized that Itai had no pulse and was not breathing. Without losing a moment, he attached a defibrillator and began chest compressions. Itai received numerous shocks from the defibrillator while Menachem continued with a full-scale CPR as other volunteers arrived to join the effort.

The United Hatzalah volunteers who responded to save Itai meet with him and his family once again.

A mobile intensive care ambulance team came sometime later and joined the fight to save Itai’s life. Itai was transported in critical condition to Rambam medical center in Haifa where he underwent continuing treatment. Towards the end of the week, Itai awoke and was doing so well that he was released from the hospital.

On Monday, the United hatzalah volunteers who fought to save his life were invited by Itai and his family for a moving and emotional reunion, during which, the volunteers told Itai how the drama unfolded from their perspective. Itai and his family expressed their gratitude to the volunteers for their help in saving Itai’s life.

Carmel region chapter head of United Hatzalah, Naftali Rotenberg, said: “Our volunteers, like their brethren throughout the country, provide emergency medical first response care that saves lives. This takes place all year long, each and every day. Thankfully, in this instance as well, we are able to have taken part in saving the life of this young man due to the quick and response of our volunteers and the expert level of care that they provided. We were overwhelmed with joy to meet Itai and his family once again after he was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health. We wish him and his family a full recovery and only the best of health.”    

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EMT Innovates New Medicart to Help Female EMTs Avoid Back Injuries

“I began volunteering as an EMT almost two years ago and almost immediately began suffering intense back pain from carrying the EMT medical bag on emergency calls,” recounted United Hatzalah volunteer Hagit Saguy. Saguy lives in Kiryat Motzkin, a town north of Haifa and was the first female volunteer EMT with the organization in her area.

“The bags weigh close to 40 pounds and include everything that an ambulance has in it, aside from the bed and stretcher. When you have to run with that type of weight on your back, it can certainly cause problems for those who are not used to doing so, and it did for me.”

From right to left: – Psychotrauma Responder Tzippi Uziel, Paramedic Sagit Levi, EMT Shiri Fadida, EMT and innovator Hagit Saguy, Dr. Olga Loren, EMT Geula Pollack, Chapter Head Naftali Rotenberg

In spite of the pain she was suffering, this wife and mother of four, kept carrying the bag to emergencies as her desire to help others outweighed her pain. But a time came when the pain became too much and she had to worry about her own health as well. “When the suffering became too much, I looked for solutions of how to be able to respond without suffering from the weight of the bag. I took out the oxygen tank, as that weighs the most of all the equipment in the bag, and only carried it to calls that required it. However, as there were a large number of emergencies that require giving the patient oxygen, that proved to be an untenable long-term solution.

Then the day came that proved to be the last straw for Saguy and the beginning of a new invention. “I responded to a CPR call in Kiryat Motzkin and had to park 600 meters (almost half a mile) from the patient who had collapsed on the street. I tried to carry the bag, but it proved very difficult and took me a long time.” For Saguy, the extra time it took to arrive at the patient was simply unacceptable and when she returned home after the emergency, she knew something had to change.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of taking all of that extra time when in a situation when every second counts and I wouldn’t let it happen again.” Saguy, who has her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and works at one of Israel’s leading hi-tech companies put her mind to work and came up with an innovation that would go on to help not only her but all of the women in her chapter.

“I got home and began thinking of different solutions. I finally came up with  outfitting a shopping trolley, that people often refer to as a “granny cart”, and began remodeling it to fit the needs of a first responder so that it could carry my medical kit.”

Saguy sewed on a number of straps that would attach her medical kit to the cart and attached a triple wheel to the bottom that enables the cart to go up and down stairs with ease. “The new cart has really made a difference for me in how quickly I can arrive at an emergency,” said Saguy. “Not only is my back pain gone, but I get to the emergency in a much better condition allowing me to be more focused on my patient.”

More volunteers joined her chapter and also began to experience back pain due to the weight of the bag. “Once I created the new medicart, the other responders appreciated my solution and saw that it cut down on back pain and still allowed us to arrive quickly at emergencies. Even responders from other organizations saw the new cart and were really excited about it. So I brought it up with my chapter head Naftali Rotenberg, who also thought that it was a great idea. The organization then purchased a number of these carts, outfitted them the same way that I had outfitted mine, painted them orange and handed them out to all of the volunteers who requested them in our chapter.”

Saguy said that she is really excited to have helped her fellow responders and that from her necessity came an innovative solution that has now been adopted by the organization. “From my standpoint, United Hatzalah is terrific in its flexibility and innovation. As a volunteer EMT who often does shifts on an ambulance, it allows for a lot of flexibility in the times that I choose to volunteer and as a working mother, I can incorporate my personal and family life, my work life and my volunteering all together. I can run to emergency calls that are in my area and when I can fit it into my schedule, I can also incorporate shift work on an ambulance. I feel that this method is far more effective for a volunteer than other models of volunteering that mandate a set shift rotation that makes it difficult for a working mother to participate in.”

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