Ashdod EMS Vets Help Train New Generation Of Recruits

Veteran Volunteer Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel from the Ashdod chapter of United Hatzalah took part in a special evening that brought together veteran responders and new recruits in the city. The educational evening was focused on exposing the new recruits to how the local chapter works as well as learning from the invaluable experience of veteran first responders. The evening took place in the city’s volunteer station house.

EMS veterans help train new recruits in Ashdod.

EMS veterans help train new recruits in Ashdod.

The recruits are currently in the middle of their EMT training and will join the ranks of Israel’s volunteer, community-based EMS response organization United Hatzalah upon its completion.

“The new recruits were given an opportunity to get to know the people who have been responding in our city for years,” said Ashdod team leader Yechiel Cohen. They have been through some of the toughest response calls in Israel having provided EMS service to the citizens of this city throughout the different wars with Hamas in nearby Gaza. In Ashdod, as well as the surrounding area, we need to be prepared to provide fast and professional medical response no matter what comes our way and that is not easy for people who have never experienced it before,” he added.

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One Shoe On, One Shoe Off – Reflections of an EMT

One Shoe On, One Shoe Off,

An infant sized BVM attached to an oxygen pump. (illustrative)

An infant sized BVM attached to an oxygen pump. (illustrative)

Come back from a long day at the office. Three social events on the same night.  A friend’s 50th birthday, a Bar Mitzvah, and an engagement party. From the early morning, I’ve not seen my house.

Night time. Midnight. Home. I walk in. I say hello to my daughter who is still up. I sit down and begin to get organized for a shower.

I have one shoe on and one shoe off. My radio goes off. “Street #####. Unconscious Child”. My right hand grabs my motorcycle helmet. “One-year-old” My jacket appears in my left hand. “Responder 50 en route!” My daughter hasn’t been surprised by these calls for a long time now. She closes the door behind me softly.

My ambucycle and I are en route. The voices in my helmet headset spring to life. “5220 en route!” “3370 en route!” “3379 en route!” The dispatch center asks: “3321 en route?” The answer…. “Nu, what do you think?!” Each and every one of them has left the warmth of their houses, perhaps even their beds. We are all en route.

With one shoe on and one shoe off, I arrive at the address. CPR! A tiny baby has turned a color that would terrify any living person. So small. Within three minutes he is surrounded by five volunteer EMS personnel. Everything is working on autopilot in quick rapid succession… “Begin compressions”… “Connecting defibrillator”… “Who is helping me with intubating?”… One is prepping adrenaline, while another is preparing the oxygen mask.  

Five minutes pass. We are in the fight…. for a life. The last responder to arrive delicately ushers the worried parents into a bedroom. We are all here for one purpose. To save a life. To return home. For all of us to return home. After the call, after the transport, after the hospital stay… to return home, and to make sure that no one will be left behind.  

One shoe on and one shoe off, I get back on my ambucycle to return home. The weeping heavens open themselves up and water me with renewal while I drive home.

Behind me, everything worked like a well-oiled machine. How much heart and how much feeling went into those actions that were undertaken as if on autopilot. The dispatch center has been notified. 9400 contacts me on the radio and the psychotrauma and crisis response team takes over and begins helping the family.    

One shoe on and one shoe off, I kiss my youngest girl even though she is sleeping soundly in her bed.

One shoe on and one shoe off even an hour later. I am sprawled out on my bed and I cannot manage to fall asleep.

Until now, this has been a bad night.

From this point on, may it be a good one.   

-Moshe Sa’adon – Volunteer 50

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10-Year-Old Sends Sentimental Letter to EMS Organization – Touches the Heart of Thousands of First Responders

On Tuesday, United Hatzalah of Israel received a letter from a 10-year-old boy thanking them for saving the lives of people in Israel. The organization, which serves as Israel’s fully volunteer community-based EMS organization, also received a donation of 50 NIS from the young boy. According to an attached letter from the boy’s mother, the young boy, Ariel, saved up all the money he could, penny by penny, in order to arrive at the sum.

In his letter, Ariel writes, “Hello United Hatzalah, I want to say how much I love you and the speed in which you respond. I too want to become a volunteer EMS responder with your organization, but I am only 10-years-old. I have donated to you as much as I could. Hopefully, when I am older, I will become a volunteer. But I have a request. Please do not change in the meantime. Don’t change your radios, your ambucycles, your helicopters, and your defibrillators. I love you all, and thank you.”

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Needless to say, the letter touched a few hearts in the organization. In fact, President and Founder of United Hatzalah, Eli Beer read the letter and was moved by Ariel’s sentiment. “This is what making a difference in the community looks like. Through our work of saving lives and responding in less than three minutes to emergencies, we have inspired Ariel to want to become a volunteer EMT. How many more Ariels are out there in communities across Israel? Each of our volunteers works in their own community and helps the people around them thereby affecting countless lives. The fact that we can inspire young people to want to take up the mantle, and even make a donation, means that we are making a positive impact on the next generation and that to me means that we are succeeding at spreading the important message of our community-based response model. Ariel, I thank you for your letter. It has touched the hearts of everyone here.”
With the permission of Ariel’s mother, the organization shared Ariel’s letter on internal WhatsApp groups with all 3,200 volunteers. Ariel’s letter has thereby touched the hearts of all of the men and women who help so many people every day and has undoubtedly inspired them to continue.  

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United Hatzalah Welcomes Newest Recruit and First Member of Psychotrauma K-9 Unit

Trauma’s New Best Friend

United Hatzalah Welcomes Newest Recruit and First Member of Psychotrauma K-9 Unit

On Sunday, Israel’s EMS Psychotrauma Unit welcomed its newest member who has four paws and is named Lucy. Lucy got her paws wet, so to speak, responding with her handler Batya Jaffe to a building fire that took place in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem on Sunday, where an older man was critically injured when his apartment caught fire. In addition to other unit members who provided stabilizing treatment for those affected by the fire, Lucy was on hand to help patients calm down, recover, and cope with the incident.

Lucy and hen handler Batya Jaffe are both members of the Psychotrauma Unit

Lucy and hen handler Batya Jaffe are both members of the Psychotrauma Unit

The term Psychotrauma Unit refers to United Hatzalah’s trauma and crisis response unit. The unit is tasked with responding to traumatic scenes that take place at or in the aftermath of medical emergencies and providing psychological and emotional first aid for the people affected by the emergency. These people can be the patients themselves, their family members, neighbors or even passersby who happened to witness the scene and were traumatized by what they saw and experienced.

“We have gone on a lot of calls over the past year that the unit has been in operation and while we have been able to treat people successfully, we have noticed that in certain cases people need help at the onset of the treatment to allow us to help stabilize them,” said Miriam Ballin, Director of the Psychotrauma unit.

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“We always look for more stabilization techniques to add to our toolbox and a therapy dog is a great addition. Research on the topic shows that therapy dogs have proven to be very helpful when used in traumatic situations, especially when dealing with children and the elderly. So when we opened our second training course we made sure to include two therapy dogs and their handlers in our group,” Ballin added.

Ballin said that for now, Lucy is being deployed at scenes of major traumas where there are a lot of people involved. “Lucy can help distract people from the trauma that they are witnessing, and focus on something else. By her being on scene she allows those who are suffering emotionally from the trauma to connect to something real by touch or even just by seeing her with her vest on. Lucy allows people to connect back to reality in a non-threatening manner. The people suffering do not have to do anything, or report anything to anyone, with Lucy around they can just recognize that she is there, and that alone brings them one step closer to stabilization.”   

Lucy responded to her first call on Sunday in Jerusalem, at an apartment fire in Gilo

Lucy responded to her first call on Sunday in Jerusalem, at an apartment fire in Gilo

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EMT Astounded by Seeing Psychotrauma Crisis and Response Unit In Action

“It takes a lot to truly surprise me. I’ve been an EMT for years and I have seen a lot of trauma. From car accidents to sudden infant deaths, terror attacks, and many other medical emergencies. As a first responder for my community, I have responded to hundreds of emergencies, each with their own unique situation. Until last week I had not seen the true power of the psychotrauma unit, one of the newest additions to EMS response in Israel.

(Photo: Scene of accident on route 3866 outside Mahasiya)

(Photo: Scene of accident on route 3866 outside Mahasiya)

 The interaction took place after a motor vehicle accident which I responded to outside of the town of Mahasiya on route 3866 this past Friday. One of the vehicles involved caught fire and was a total wreck. The woman who was driving had a complete emotional breakdown following the accident. I as well as some of the other emergency medical services (EMS) personnel who responded to the scene attempted to calm her down, but she was hysterical and inconsolable.After numerous attempts to calm her down most of the EMS teams left the scene after telling her the catch-all Israeli conciliatory phrase “Yihiyeh B’Seder” which loosely translates into English as “It will be okay.”

I am part of an organization in which everyday people, from every community in Israel, drop everything they are doing and respond to medical emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. So I am used to seeing car accidents, but I had never seen a woman this shaken up. I picked up my radio and I called for a representative of United Hatzalah’s psychotrauma team to come and try to talk to the woman. The volunteer, who works as a therapist in her professional life, left her preparations for Shabbat and came to the scene. She sat with the woman, in my car for over 40 minutes, talking to her, calming her and helping to stabilize her emotionally. After the arduous task, I saw a dramatic change in the woman as she returned to herself and was able to begin processing what had happened to her. The shift was dramatic, and as a seasoned EMT, I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this before.

 To me, this is what United Hatzalah is all about. It is an organization that helps people and works to provide free medical service in the first few moments after a crisis happens. While I focus on providing medical aid, I now see the power of the psychological aid that our psychotrauma team provides for people suffering from a traumatic incident. This is my first time seeing the work that this unit does, with my own eyes and I was astounded. It is incredibly inspiring to me as a volunteer EMT to see that we have ways of helping that go far beyond the medical. Providing psychological and emotional aid as a first response is incredibly important and I am proud to be part of an organization that recognizes this aspect of treatment as a necessity. I encourage my fellow EMTs and EMS personnel to also utilize this astounding unit if you ever encounter a person who is in need of emotional or psychological help as a result of being exposed to trauma. It can make a world of difference.”

                                               – Yitzchak Marmorshtein, Volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah

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Why I Give Up My Time To Help Others – the Story of A Bat Yam EMT

Yoni Uziyahu lives and works in Bat Yam, and has been an EMS volunteer first responder for the past four years. As part of his responsibilities as a volunteer first responder, Yoni leaves his home, his family and his work, all at a moment’s notice to answer the call of the EMS dispatcher whenever it comes over his radio. As his chapter’s local spokesperson, he also receives real-time updates regarding every emergency that occurs in the vicinity of Bat Yam-Holon, and passes on the relevant updates to the media. He does all of this on a completely voluntary basis and does not receive a penny in return.

Yoni Uziyahu

Yoni Uziyahu

Uziyahu is an ambucycle rider (a motorcycle that contains all of the same medical equipment as an ambulance with the exception of a stretcher), who often arrives at the scene of a medical emergency among the first responders if he isn’t the first himself. “Even when I am at work, if something happens nearby, I drop whatever I am doing, leave my fellow workers and head out to help the person in need of medical attention,” said Uziyahu.

According to Uziyahu, that attitude is shared by all of the 3,200 EMS personnel of Israel’s volunteer emergency medical services organization United Hatzalah. Whether they are lawyers, handymen, computer software engineers, or truck drivers, they all drop what they are doing at a moment’s notice and head out to save a life of someone from their community. “The idea behind the organization is to provide a fast and professional community response to any medical emergency that takes place before the ambulance can arrive. The first few minutes of a medical emergency are critical and can often make the difference between life and death,” Uziyahu explained.  

“We usually have a response time of less than three minutes, and many times we are even faster than that arriving within 90 seconds. We respond from within the community itself so that medical help comes from nearby, sometimes even from the same building or right next door. We help our neighbors, friends, relatives, and complete strangers. We get their fast so that we can minimize the trauma and suffering of the patient. That is our job and that is why I love it. I get to help make the community I live in a better and safer place,” Uziyahu added.

Uziyahu recounted a story that made a lasting impression on him. “Approximately three years ago, I responded to an emergency where a 50-year-old man had collapsed without a pulse and was not breathing. I raced over and arrived in less than two minutes. When I got to the scene I immediately began CPR and attached a defibrillator. The patient received two shocks and his pulse returned after the second. I continued to provide him with oxygen and waited for the ambulance to arrive. It took them 17 minutes to get there. Had I not been there to help him, it is quite likely that he wouldn’t be with us today. That feeling, of knowing I made a difference and saved a person’s life is exactly why I do what I do.”   

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United Hatzalah EMS Personnel Respond to Shooting and Stabbing Attack in Petach Tikvah

As printed by the Jewish Press:

Scene from Thursday's attack

Scene from Thursday’s attack

At least seven people were hurt Thursday afternoon in a terrorist attack at the open air market in Petach Tikvah.

At least two people were treated for shock. At least two others sustained moderate wounds, including one who was stabbed. Two victims sustained mild gunshot wounds, and one more person was treated for superficial wounds as well.

United Hatzalah EMT Zev Topper related that one of the patients treated had been beaten by passersby who mistook him for the terrorist. The patient related that he screamed “I am not the terrorist I was chasing the terrorist. If I die, I die protecting the state of Israel.”

“As I was treating a woman for gunshot injuries to her legs, the dispatch center of United Hatzalah informed me and my fellow EMS first responders that there were other injured people the next street over,” Gal Dover, a paramedic with United Hatzalah who responded to the incident said.

“After I finished treating the woman, I ran over to the other scene where I treated a man for a stab wound and head injury. Other United Hatzalah volunteers treated other people injured at the scenes, including two who were treated for shock.”

United Hatzalah EMTs and paramedics treated a male stabbing victim on Berkowitz street in Petach Tikvah, as well as a woman who was shot in her lower body on Baron Hirsch street, next to the open air market.

The attacker was allegedly an Arab citizen of the Palestinian Authority. He fled the scene after the attack but was quickly captured by civilians who handed him over to police, still with his firearm in his hands, police said.

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From Car Accident to Stabbing Victim, Israeli Volunteer EMTs Live From Call to Call

Most people live their lives following a routine. Going from day-to-day following a similar pattern of work, leisure time, and family time, most people appreciate a sense of repetitiveness on which they can rely. But for a volunteer EMT in Israel, life is anything but routine. At any given moment, one can be called away from whatever they are doing, whether it be working, giving the kids a bath, or making Kiddush on Friday night. Whenever one’s radio goes off, someone’s life may very well be in danger, and you know that you are among the people who are closest to the scene and are most able to help.

Last week, Rachamim Gilboa, a volunteer EMT and ambucycle driver with United Hatzalah, was alerted to a motor vehicle accident that had taken place in his hometown of Bat Yam. He quickly left what he was doing and responded to the emergency. When he arrived together with other EMS personnel, he began treating the injured persons involved. As he was treating them, the dispatch and command center alerted him to a stabbing incident that had just taken place at a banquet hall a few hundred meters away! Gilboa ensured that there were sufficient resources and personnel at the scene to continue treating the accident victims and rushed to the address where the stabbing had taken place.

(Photo: Rachamim with his ambucycle responding to a call in Bat Yam. Credit: United Hatzalah)

(Photo: Rachamim with his ambucycle responding to a call in Bat Yam. Credit: United Hatzalah)

Arriving in 20 seconds, Gilboa ran inside and found the victim barricaded in one of the offices. From what he was able to gather from eye-witnesses, there had been an altercation that had broken out and one of the partygoers broke a glass bottle on the victim’s head. The victim had sustained a bleeding head wound. After speaking with the victim, Gilboa was allowed inside the office where he began treating the injured person. He carefully cleaned the wound, bandaged the man’s head and assessed him for possible brain injury. By the time the ambulance arrived, the victim was prepped and ready for transport.

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Bringing in Shabbat – EMT Style

In Judaism, the holiest time of the week is Friday night. Traditionally a person prepares themselves to accept or greet the Shabbat in a way that they would accept and greet a bride or a queen. However, for some EMS personnel in Israel, that is not always possible.  

Recently, Ezra Gottlieb, and ambucycle driver who has been an emergency medical services (EMS) responder with United Hatzalah for the past eight years, was alerted to a serious three-vehicle accident on route 60 just one hour before Shabbat.

Accident scene Highway 60

Accident scene Highway 60

“The tunnel road” as it is called due to the tunnels that connect Jerusalem to Gush Etzion is usually clogged with traffic before Shabbat arrives with people heading in both directions on the two-lane road, trying to arrive home before Shabbat begins.

Despite the extremely inconvenient timing, the dedicated volunteer immediately jumped on his ambucycle and raced to the scene from his home in Beitar. The accident caused the already heavy traffic to come to a stand-still. The tunnels behind the crash site in both directions were impassable to regular cars. Fortunately for the victims, Gottlieb was driving an ambucycle, which allowed him to weave through the traffic and arrive in mere minutes.

Gottlieb, together with other United Hatzalah ambucycle medics, immediately began triaging and administering critical medical intervention to the six injured victims. Gottlieb’s attention was drawn to two hysterical children screaming “Ima! Ima!”  The 7 and 10-year-old children were in the back seat of one of the vehicles, with their unconscious mother trapped, slumped over in the driver’s seat. Gottlieb cared for the traumatized children who were only lightly injured while a special rescue unit extricated their mother from the car. Now having access to the mother, Gottlieb checked her for a pulse and finding none, immediately began CPR.

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How EMS Teams Dealt with the Haifa Carmelit Fire on Shabbat

On Saturday afternoon, United Hatzalah dispatch center sent out an urgent call to the Haifa area EMTs who were established as the Shabbat duty officers regarding the fire in the Carmelit subway system. The first responder who arrived on scene was Yishai Shachar. Shachar reported that he saw smoke emanating from the subway tunnels. Quickly recognizing that this could be a system wide situation that affected the entire subway line in numerous stations and that people could be injured in any of the stations, Shachar requested that the command center dispatch volunteers to all of the stations on the line, even though it was Shabbat.

United Hatzalah EMS responders talk with Fire and Rescue responders on the night after the November fires in Haifa. Illustration - Credit: Shmulik Hershkopf - United Hatzalah

United Hatzalah EMS responders talk with Fire and Rescue responders on the night after the November fires in Haifa. Illustration – Credit: Shmulik Hershkopf – United Hatzalah

“During emergencies that take place on Shabbat, United Hatzalah an EMS organization that strictly adheres to Jewish law (halacha), has set up a duty officer rotation that provides EMS response to those in need without causing more than a handful of their volunteers to break the laws of Shabbat in a given area,” explained Rabbi Naftali Halperin, Head of United Hatzalah’s Halacha Department. “We have a system that provides the duty officers with a number of options in terms of calling for additional responders depending on what the situation requires,” he added.

Naftali Rotenberg, head of the Carmel chapter of United Hatzalah reported that “United Hatzalah volunteers responded and deployed to all of the Carmelit stations according to the procedures outlined by the organization for operating on Shabbat.” The procedures include only arriving in private vehicles while walking home or if the distance is a problem then waiting for a non-Jewish driver to drive responders or their cars home, not making any extraneous calls on operational radios, only taking with them precisely what they need in order to treat patients as well as other procedures.    

“During the incident,” Rotenberg added, “One of our volunteers, Shlomo Blutnik, who responded to the Massada station was called upon by firefighters to the apartment of an elderly woman on the nearby Golomb street, who had suffered from smoke inhalation as a result of the tunnel fire. Blutnik immediately began treating the woman and monitored her vital signs until an ambulance arrived to evacuate her to the nearest hospital. Eli Guedj, another EMS volunteer treated a patient for shock at the Gan Ha’Em station. All of this took place under the guidance of a non-Jewish dispatch officer from the national headquarters.”

“All of the dispatch officers, both Jewish and Non-Jewish, receive specialized training with regards to responding to emergencies on Shabbat,” explained Rabbi Halperin. “All of them know exactly what they are allowed to do and not do, and what the volunteers are allowed to do and not do. That way we enable the command center to have a team of both Jews and non-Jews work together to limit the amount of desecration of the Shabbat during an emergency.”

Moshe Adler the chapter head of United Hatzalah in Haifa explained on Saturday night that “Our volunteers responded during the incident and provided EMS first response to those who needed it according to the protocols set forth by the organization which adheres to the strictest levels of Shabbat observance. All of the volunteers who are trained by our organization undergo special training regarding these protocols, and I am happy to say that our volunteers followed them to the letter. We are very happy that this incident ended quickly and with only very minor injuries.”

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