“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.”