United Hatzalah Head of Strategy Saves Local Grocery Store Owner

When Moti Elmaliach is not working as the head of strategy and PR at United Hatzalah, he is out saving lives as one of the organization’s 6,000 volunteer EMTs. Moti lives with his family in Tel Aviv and often responds to medical emergencies that take place in his neighborhood  

Moti Elmaliach in front of his emergency flycar

One afternoon a few weeks ago, Moti was driving his emergency response flycar down Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway when dispatchers identified him as the closest available EMT to an accident that had just taken place. Moti confirmed that he was on his way via his Bluebird communication device, and headed towards the given location Moti arrived at the scene of the accident in less than a minute.

He found a motorcyclist in his 30s who had lost control of his vehicle and crashed on the side of the Highway. Blood was gushing from the site of an open fracture in the man’s leg. Grabbing a CAT tourniquet from his medical bag, Moti applied the tourniquet a few centimeters above the fracture to stem the potentially lethal blood flow. A second United Hatzalah volunteer arrived at the scene and assisted Moti in taking vital signs and bandaging the injured rider’s other wounds. 12 minutes later, an ambulance arrived and the two volunteers assisted the crew in loading the victim aboard the emergency vehicle for transportation to the nearest hospital. Had Moti not arrived and the urgent medical intervention been delayed until the ambulance’s arrival, the motorcyclist would surely have bled to death.

Two days later, Moti went to his local supermarket to buy a doughnut peach, a special variety that is only available for a few weeks each year. The store’s regular produce manager, with whom he is friendly, was absent and the other employees were unfamiliar with the rare fruit. When Moti inquired when the produce manager would return, he was told that he had just been in an accident. Piecing together the time and the place, Moti realized that it was his friend’s life that he had saved on the highway.

“This is not the first time that I ended up helping a person I knew,” Moti said. “This is what we do in United Hatzalah, we help the people around us, by providing emergency medical care when it is needed most. At the end of the day, we end up helping our neighbors, friends, and families. Knowing that any emergency that I respond to may involve me helping a friend or a neighbor, someone from my own community gives me more impetus to respond to medical emergencies no matter what time of day or night.”

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Health, Home Improvement & Humanitarian Aid. A Community Rallies Together To Do It All

On Saturday night, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Avi Bismouth responded to a medical emergency involving a person who dehydrated at the address of a man whom he had helped once before. Bismouth, recognizing the address, knew that the man was in dire need of assistance and rushed to help. Arriving in just under three minutes, Bismouth found the man’s apartment in a disastrous state unfit for human habitation, and the man unable to move from his own bed. The man could not even go to the bathroom or to get himself anything to eat. “The smell of the apartment cannot be described in words, but it was so bad that it was almost tangible,” Bismouth recounted.

The floor of the shower before

“The house was dark, filled with garbage and feces on the floor and rats were everywhere. There was mold on all of the walls and the ceiling, almost on every surface. People brought the man food and then left, but the man who was unable to get out of his own bed, simply didn’t take the food or get a chance to eat it. When I went into the man’s room, I saw that he wasn’t even able to go to the bathroom and instead was simply lying in bed covered in dirt. I immediately brought him water, as he complained of terrible thirst. When the ambulance arrived, he refused to be taken to the hospital so the ambulance crew looked at the man and refused to touch him. Once he refused, the ambulance team turned and left. But I couldn’t leave him like that.” 

The fridge before

Bismouth went to buy food and more water for the man and brought it to him and made sure he ate.  Then he went home. But the whole situation bothered Bismouth so much so that he couldn’t sleep that night. He had taken photos of the state of the man’s apartment, and at midnight, Bismouth uploaded them to his personal Facebook page with a plea for people from the community to join him in helping this man get back on his feet. Instantly, Bismouth started receiving replies from friends who also couldn’t tolerate that anyone was living in these conditions in their community. People from all different professions offered their professional help and others offered money and food. Bismouth’s phone was buzzing with the sheer amount of responses that his post was getting online. “People were calling me all night long. It didn’t matter the hour. Once they saw the photos they called me and offered to help.” 

The kitchen before

By the time the morning came, other United Hatzalah volunteers, together with community members of Ramat Gan and Givatayim, had galvanized behind Bismouth’s efforts and shifts were set up to come clean and renovate the apartment. “On Sunday morning, half a dozen people came to the apartment to clean. I bought a lot of bleach and I began pouring it all over the bathroom and kitchen. Other United Hatzalah volunteers tackled the garbage and dirt. We worked throughout the day and in the evening, other members of the community who were coming home from work joined us.”

The living room mid-clean up

By the end of Monday, the team of volunteers had cleaned the house, thrown out the man’s furniture, bleached and painted the apartment and brought the man a new bed and sheets. United Hatzalah volunteers from all over the country began to donate furniture and bedding as well as other supplies that were needed. A lawyer volunteered to deal with all of the man’s legal issues for free. An accountant volunteered to help the man with his financial situation which was in a state of crisis. A manicurist/pedicurist came to treat and clean the man’s hands and feet, and a nurse from the nearby hospital came to give the man a bath and assess his medical condition.

The living room after with the donated furniture

“It was amazing to see how the volunteers of United Hatzalah and the community as a whole banded together to help this man. We had an air conditioner repairman come and install new units in his home and an electrician came to fix the man’s lighting. All of this was done in the span of a few days. A contractor has agreed to redo the man’s kitchen and bathroom, in the near future using the funds donated by the community as well as some of his own money, making both the bathroom and kitchen more accessible for the man.” 

The kitchen after the cleanup

When asked how the man will fend for himself even with the clean apartment, new furniture and new belongings, Bismouth replied: “Over the past few days, the man has been receiving therapy, and will continue to receive regular visits from a physiotherapist  who has volunteered to help. In fact, she has already  enabled him to be able to sit up and move his feet off the bed..”

 

Bismouth remains hopeful that now that people are working together to assist him that this man’s life will continue to improve. “We hope that by next week he will be able to walk on his own. We brought him a walker and canes, and right now he is getting over his anxiety and fear of falling. He has had some bad falls in the past few months and is afraid of getting stuck on the floor. He has a bad back problem, but with continued rehabilitation and therapy, he can get up and walk and in a few months, or maybe even a year, he will be able to get back to a regular life. He is only 66-years-old. To let him live like this would be a tragedy that I just couldn’t stomach and thankfully, a lot of people agreed with me.”   

 

Bismouth himself had to help the man after a fall some four months prior when he first met the man. The story began in the early summer when Bismouth responded to an emergency involving the same man who had fallen and was lying on the ground outside. “After the fall he was unable to get up and I couldn’t pick him up,” Bismouth recalled. “It was a hot day and the ground was so hot that he was getting scalded by the pavement. I went to the corner store and purchased a six-pack of water and poured it on the man to cool him and the ground around him so that he wouldn’t get burned. When the ambulance arrived, the man refused to go to the hospital. The crew helped me pick the man up and I drove him home to his apartment in Ramat Gan. This is when I first met the fellow and for the first time saw how he lived. Back then he was still able to move somewhat but even then his home was a disaster. I reported the incident to the local social worker in the hopes that they would follow up and assist the man. But sadly, it appears that this didn’t happen for whatever reason.”   

Avi Bismouth on his ambucycle

Bismouth added that in the course of two days more than 1,000 people volunteered, donated, and offered to help in any way they could all because of his Facebook post. “Right now we have galvanized a veritable army of people who are willing to help out of the goodness of their heart. Many are from United Hatzalah and others are regular members of the community. Together with a few other people, I’m trying to organize an ongoing group that will pool the resources and provide help to others like this man who are in dire need of assistance and living right here in our community in Ramat Gan and Givatayim.”

 

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Beating The Angel of Death

This past Rosh Hashanah, United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs David Badar and Sason Dabul were in Kfar Saba when they received an emergency alert from their communications device, notifying them of a medical emergency taking place nearby. David recognized the address and zipped through the small streets.

From left – Ran Vaizman, Tamar Greenberg Ben-Ari, the patient, David Badar, Sason Dabul, and chapter head Ofer Levin

The pair of EMTs arrived at the given location, an apartment building, in just under a minute. David grabbed a defibrillator and rushed up to the fifth floor of the building, while Sason gathered the medical kit from the ambulance. When David entered the apartment first, he found a grown man on the floor, unconscious and pulseless, with a worried family circling him, attempting chest compressions. David immediately identified himself as a United Hatzalah EMT and got to work.

David attached the defibrillator and continued CPR. During the rounds of compressions, the defibrillator advised 3 shocks. Sason arrived with an IV line. As David continued with chest compressions, the 60-year-old man’s pulse fluctuated, returning and then going asystole again for numerous minutes. David and Sasson refused to give up. A few minutes later, fellow United Hatzalah EMT and ambucycle rider Ran Vaizman arrived on the scene and helped the pair of EMTs by alternating turns performing assisted breathing and compressions.

15 minutes later, an ambulance team arrived and joined in the effort. The team of first responders assisted the ambulance crew with transporting the man down the five flights of stairs, and into the ambulance to transport the man to the nearest hospital. The man was brought to the hospital still unconscious, but with a pulse and regular blood pressure. After the incident, David had to take two days off of work to recover from the intense CPR that he performed on the man that caused him severe back pains.

Another United Hatzalah volunteer, Tamar Greenbaum Ben-Ari, was working at the hospital that the 60-year-old patient was taken to. Tamar stayed in contact with David, updating him on the man’s condition. Thankfully, the man made a full recovery, and right before he was released from the hospital, David and Sason came to visit him.

“Seeing the patient once again alive and getting ready to go home was very emotional,” Sason commented. “It was even more emotional for me than the other emergency that I responded to that day where I assisted a woman in delivering a new baby. Seeing him fully recovered, was far more moving for me. The first time I saw him he was unconscious and so close to death. Now, he is recovered and has a big smile on his face. Knowing that I was a part of that miracle, well it changes one’s perspective on a lot of things. The doctors told David and me that if the patient were brought in any later, he wouldn’t be here today. That sentence lives with me now. I have the power to save someone’s life, and it is a gift I cherish greatly.”

Yesterday, all four EMTs who were involved in saving this man’s life were invited to his home for a meaningful reunion. The family thanked the volunteers and United Hatzalah for saving the life of their father and husband. The volunteers told the man and his family about what United Hatzalah does, its values and purpose, but little explanation was necessary as the man was living proof of why the organization exists.

“When I was performing CPR on him, I felt his pulse returning and then fading over and over again. I felt that I was fighting with the angel of death,” David said. “Later, when the patient and I were joking around I told him that I had blown out my back during the CPR. He was apologetic and felt sorry, but I told him that some back pain was worth it if it meant having him here with us today, alive.”

David concluded: “Meeting the man’s family felt like I was coming full-circle. Our story is simple. Donors from different places donate to save lives. They provide the funding that is necessary for the organization to purchase our ambucycles, ambulances, and medical equipment. We, the volunteers, then use these tools to respond to emergencies, help people in terrible pain, or suffering medical complications, and many times we even save someone’s life. Then the person whose life was saved thanks us and smiles. But the smiles and the thanks belong to more people than just us the responders. They belong to the donors who enabled us to do what we do just as much. We thank them for the opportunity to save a life.”

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Report of United Hatzalah’s Activities During The Second Wave of Corona

Israel began its second wave of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic back in July as the number of people infected with the virus began to drastically rise once again. After reaching a meteoric rise in September, with nearly 10,000 people being infected with the disease per day,  the numbers began to decline in October after a month-long lockdown was enforced on the general public by the government that began on Rosh Hashanah and is slowly being lifted only now. 

United Hatzalah as an organization met the challenges faced by the second wave of the Coronavirus in Israel and the resulting lockdown in a variety of ways. 

United Hatzalah Providing Free Ambulance Service To Corona Patients:

United Hatzalah ambulances awaiting corona patients to transfer

Israel’s Home Front Command, who had been tasked with combating the spread of the disease within the population, asked United Hatzalah to begin transporting patients in moderate or light condition from their homes and hospitals to the specially equipped Corona hotels where the patients could recover in comfort, without risk of infecting their family members and without overloading the hospital system. The patient transfers began in April and increased at a rapid rate as the Corona Hotels became more necessary. Between July and October, United Hatzalah’s fleet of ambulances and volunteer drivers and teams transported more than 10,000 people to and from these hotels. As the lockdown came to a close in October and the number of infected people dropped dramatically, the hotels have been shut down by the Home Front Command, resulting in the end of the project on October 15th. 

 

One of the ambulance driver volunteers from the Tel Aviv region, Dvir Adani, made more than 100 trips to and from Corona hotels all over the country. “I try to make the passengers feel comfortable during their trip. They are already suffering from the virus so I try to do what I can to cheer them up. I am good at connecting with people and I have a pretty good feel for how to make a person feel more comfortable even in tough situations. Just yesterday, I was transporting a young Ultra-Orthodox man to a Corona hotel,” Dvir said in an interview in early October. “When he saw my colorful hair and overall demeanor, he grew shy and distant. Then I began to discuss Gemara with him. That was my education growing up and I am very fond of it, and he immediately loosened up. By the end of the drive, we parted ways as friends.”

Ambulances after transporting patients to a Corona Hotel in Jerusalem

Providing Medical Response Inside The Corona Hotels:

Over the course of the Holiday season in Israel, the Corona hotels became overcrowded as the number of cases rose as did the number of people requiring a place to recover. To alleviate the medical needs of those staying at the hotels the Home Front Command Once again turned to United Hatzalah for the answer. 

UH volunteer brings an oxygen tank and medical supplies to a Corona Hotel

The two organizations set up a special project for Yom Kippur that saw dozens of emergency first responders from the EMS organization stay at the Corona hotels over the holidays. The volunteers were stationed at most of the Corona hotels across the country were tasked with providing emergency medical care to anyone who requires their assistance at the hotels. As Yom Kippur is the most important fast day of the year, most of the population, including many who were sick with Corona, fasted and thus were more susceptible to falling ill. Many of the volunteers were responding to medical calls throughout the day related to the fast or complications with Corona, or even accidents that occurred inside the hotels.    

UH volunteer outside the Kinar hotel

Some of the EMS first responders, who were already “guests” in quarantine at the hotels having contracted the disease themselves and wishing to still help their fellow patients, spent their days assisting those in need. Other volunteers who were healthy stayed in “green” sections of the hotels and entered the hotel when there was an emergency wearing full protective gear so as not to risk infection while treating the patient inside. The organization provided all of the volunteers with full PPE (personal protective equipment) suits and medical equipment as well as ambulance transport for those requiring evacuation to the hospital. 

One example of this was United Hatzalah EMT Yosef Rimmel who resided at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem, where 950 Corona patients were residing for Yom Kippur. Over the course of the holiday, Yossi treated 15 people who were feeling ill or suffered accidents over the course of the fast. 

Yosef Rimmel outside of the Crown Plaza Hotel

Elkana Breuer Incident At Ma’aleh HaHamisha Corona Hotel:

 Another incident took place when United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Elkana Breuer fell ill on Rosh Hashanah after contracting Corona. He and his family chose to recover at the Ma’aleh Hamisha Corona Hotel. Since he began his stay and until the end of the Sukkot holiday, Elkana has not stopped responding to medical emergencies of other residents inside the hotel who require medical aid while simultaneously helping them find joy during their stay.

Elkana Breuer, a resident of Beitar Illit, works as a singer and keyboardist and teaches in an elementary school.  “I have been called upon to provide medical treatment to many people here at the hotel who have little or no other resource for medical attention.”

Elkana Breuer

Having the disease himself meant the Breuer was free to treat any of the ill patients at the hospital. To some who were suffering from severe respiratory problems related to the virus he provided oxygen and first aid care and then called for an ambulance to transport them to a hospital in Jerusalem.   

 “I treat about 10 cases or more each day. Whether it is people who trip down the stairs, suffer broken bones, shortness of breath related to Covid or other diseases, I am pretty much responding to a call all the time. There was an incident with an infant that stuck a bead up her nose and I instructed the parents not to try and pull it out but rather go to the hospital to have it removed properly. In another incident, someone had a severe allergic reaction to some dairy that they mistakenly consumed. They also had to go to the hospital. The majority of the work comes down to reassuring people and identifying which cases are urgent and need to go to the hospital and which are not and can be treated here.” 

Breuer said that there is a doctor that comes to the hotel daily for a few hours at a time but getting an appointment is difficult and oftentimes, emergencies happen when the doctor is not on the premises. “Being here has really given the other occupants a sense of comfort that in the case of an emergency there is someone here who can help them. I’m happy to do it, but it has certainly not been a restful stay for me here,” Breuer quipped. 

Not all of the instances of Breuer’s help were medical. On Saturday night, Breuer led the occupants of the hotel in a special musical event for Hakafot Shniyot the night after Simchat Torah. During the festivities, one of the mothers gave her son his first haircut, a special celebratory occasion for a child who turns three according to Chassidic tradition. In a similar event, Breuer led a special celebration in honor of one of the young men finishing a tractate of Talmud on the intermediary days of Sukkot at a Simchat Beit Hashoeva party in which he also sang for the occupants. 

“All of us who were here for the holidays banded together and worked hard to celebrate the joy that the holidays bring. We have to focus on the good in life in spite of the illness. There is always good, and there is always joy. We just need to find it and focus on it. Helping people brings joy. Culminating life-cycle events and maintaining traditions brings joy. Even here, amid so many people who are suffering from the disease, we must all realize that we are healing and we will live through this. So in the meantime, we must utilize the opportunity we have to help others and bring joy to others. It’s a bit of light amid the darkness and it is so important.” 

Corona Testing in Partnership With Maccabi, Leumit, Various Hospitals and Licensed Laboratories

United Hatzalah EMT Ibrahim Ayouti testing a Maccabi patient for Corona

Towards the end of April, United Hatzalah began working with numerous health organizations and laboratories to conduct Covid-19 Coronavirus testing on segments of the population who were clients of those organizations in order to help facilitate the national project of testing members of the population who potentially had contracted the virus. Through partnerships with the HMOs of Maccabi and Leumit as well as various hospitals such as Hadassah Ein Kerem, Rambam hospital, Assaf Harofeh/Yitzhak Shamir Hospital, and various other hospitals, medical centers, and laboratories across Israel, United Hatzalah undertook more than 3,000 tests per day. These tests took place either at the medical centers, at public testing centers, and specially set up booths for testing possible covid-19 patients, and at people’s homes. More than 150 volunteers undertook the project as full or part-time employment and were paid by the organization to conduct these tests and assist the national effort to test as many potential patients in the populace as possible. Since the beginning of the project, United Hatzalah volunteers have conducted more than half-a-million tests thus far. 

 

United Hatzalah’s Vice President Lazar Hyman said that “Each of the volunteers who wished to participate in the testing process, was required to undergo specialized training on a number of levels. The training included learning how to administer the test, and how to properly dress and wear the personal protective equipment so as not to risk infecting themselves, learning how to properly package and transport the test so that it stayed sterile and was received by the appropriate laboratory in accordance with the law and without being ruined. 

Photo Credit: Abir Sultan EPA

“The tests took place either at drive-in centers, walk-up centers, or even at the homes of the patients themselves. If the tests were administered at home, then UH volunteers arrived at the patient’s home, got into full protective gear, and administered the test. They were then required to immediately take the test back to the lab. We provided this service for patients of the labs or the HMOs that we worked with in order to help combat the spread of the infection.”

Financial Aid Hotline With HaTzinor

UH Volunteer hand-delivering a gift card containing between 1,000 – 5,000 NIS

Toward the end of August, Israeli journalist Guy Lerer, from channel 13’s HaTzinor television program, spearheaded a campaign to assist those in financial need as a result of the Coronavirus economic crisis. Utilizing money that was donated by people who received the government’s Covid-19 stipend and chose to donate it to the cause, Lerer raised 15,000,000 NIS and distributed it to people in dire financial straits before the holidays and the second lockdown. 

 

In order to fulfill this mission, Lerer and HaTzinor teamed up with United Hatzalah of Israel and Pitchon Lev and created a humanitarian dispatch center where those wishing to donate their stipends or those in need of assistance, called in and spoke to a volunteer who helped them go through the process of qualifying for financial aid. 

United Hatzalah volunteers heading out to hand-deliver financial aid gift cards

After calling the hotline, the callers, whose information is kept confidential, will be asked a number of questions to explain what their need is and what the money will be used for, Grants ranged from 1,000 NIS to 5,000 NIS based on need. The money was transferred to people via gift cards that can be used at a variety of stores, or via direct bank transfers if the assistance required was to pay bills. The process took a few days from the time that the call for assistance was received. In urgent cases, gift cards were hand-delivered by a team of more than 100 United Hatzalah volunteers.

 

United Hatzalah established a new dispatch center in order to field the calls coming from all over Israel of people requesting financial aid. 20 people worked the dispatch and fielded the incoming calls. More than 100 volunteers were engaged in delivering gift cards and financial aid to those who needed it around the country. The project lasted for a month leading up to the Holidays and prior to the country’s second lockdown. 

 

United Hatzalah’s Humanitarian dispatchRegular activities under threat of Covid-19

During the entire period of the Coronavirus pandemic United Hatzalah volunteers continued responding to regular medical emergencies As any medical emergency could also be a case where the patient or a family member present could have Covid-19 or be in isolation after having been exposed to a person with Coid-19, each and every medical volunteer across the country had to have personal protective equipment (PPE) with them whenever they went to a medical response call that had a possibility of Covid-19 interaction. 

United Hatzalah volunteer delivering food

In an effort to protect the health of the volunteers who make up the backbone of the organization, United Hatzalah’s Health Department was tasked with continually updating and re-issuing protocols and regulations to all of its volunteers on a regular basis in order to comply with new regulations coming from the Health Ministry. The level of infection suffered by the first responders in the organization was very low during the first wave of the virus but rose slightly during the second wave due to the increased morbidity rate. Proportionally, the infection rate was still very low when compared with the general population. Out of 6,000+ active medical volunteers, slightly more than 200 contracted the virus, and most of those who contracted the virus caught it from friends, neighbors, or their children via their schools, and not from responding to medical emergencies.  

 

Vice President of Operations for United Hatzalah Dov Maisel said that this spoke to the special care taken by the organization to protect its responders. “The number of our medical responses didn’t diminish significantly and the fact that only a small percentage of volunteers contracted the disease, and most of them caught it from their own communities and not while responding to medical emergencies, shows how well the safety precautions taken by the organization worked. Every volunteer needed to apply a facemask to themselves and the patient in order to protect all those present, regardless of the emergency, as well as carry a PPE suit with them to all emergencies, just in case there was a person present who was infected or was in isolation. Additionally, volunteers are instructed, repeatedly, to ask the patient before they entered the house whether or not someone was in isolation or ill with the virus, and if so they had to wear full protective gear. Trainees, as well as volunteers over the age of 60 and volunteers with chronic illnesses, were suspended from responding during the peaks of the first and second wave of the virus and only one volunteer may enter a scene until that scene is deemed safe. Only then can additional volunteers enter the scene of an emergency so that we don’t risk a massive outbreak in one community These regulations fluctuated with the seriousness of the level of infection and in accordance with the guidelines of the Health Ministry. The dynamic instructions provided to the first responders successfully lessened the risk to the first responders of contracting the disease themselves.”       

One story that illustrates this point took place early Sunday evening towards the beginning of October. The incident occurred just after 5:00 p.m. when an 11-year-old girl was playing on a backyard trampoline in her home, located in the town of Karnei Shomron. The child was bouncing around with her siblings when she got off the trampoline and suddenly collapsed to the ground. The child’s mother noticed her unconscious and frantically called United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center.

 

Two United Hatzalah EMT volunteers, who wish to remain anonymous, were the first to arrive on the scene. It took them less than 90 seconds to arrive at the girl’s side and begin treatment. The first responders quickly checked the unconscious child’s vital signs and then attached a defibrillator and began performing  CPR. The defibrillator recommended admitting a shock. The EMT’s paused compressions and administered two shocks to the still unconscious girl. 

 

After the second shock, a United Hatzalah paramedic and doctor arrived as did a mobile intensive care ambulance (MICU) team. The paramedic was Oren Adi. The child’s mother told Adi that the girl has a history of heart problems, which immediately raised a red flag and caused the first responders to question whether this was a case of an injury or a recurring health issue. Adi attached a cardiac monitor with the help of the team from the MICU and was surprised to find that the victim had a pulse. 

 

Unconscious and breathing, the 11-year-old was transferred to the nearest hospital, showing positive signs. As the ambulance and the medical crew cleared the scene, the operational head of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, Hadas Rucham arrived at the house to provide assistance to the traumatized father and four children. Hadas spoke to the father, calming him down after the accident that had just unfolded before him, and suggested that he be driven to the hospital to meet his wife and child, while a neighbor looks after the rest of the children. She then turned to the eldest boy, a 9-year-old, and helped him sort through his emotions as he also witnessed his sister’s collapse.  

United Hatzalah volunteer after delivering a baby

At the hospital, the doctors were struggling to discover the origin of the incident and decided that they needed information from the defibrillator that the first responders used on the girl, which was still in Karnei Shomron. A nearby volunteer ambucycle driver, Yehuda Haas, was alerted and asked to transfer the defibrillator to a United Hatzalah Employee who could download the data from the defibrillator. Yehuda raced on his ambucycle to Petah Tikva to deliver the defibrillator. After successfully downloading the data, it was sent to the medical staff in the hospital. With the information provided by the defibrillator, it was later concluded that the cause of the accident was indeed a heart problem and not an injury. 

 

“There’s something special about seeing everyone working together harmoniously to save the girl’s life.” Adi commented. “Between the two first responders, the doctors, the MICU members, Hadas from the Psychotrauma Unit, Yehuda delivering the defibrillator and the man who downloaded the data, we were a full team of medical personnel, all providing medical care and working together to do so. This participation and togetherness are heartwarming. All the volunteers were devoted to their work and we ended up saving a life.”

 

Adi and the crew were later informed that night that the mother of the 11-year-old girl tested positive for Covid-19, causing all the medical personnel involved to quarantine immediately. 

 

“The beautiful thing about volunteering is that if we would have known that the victim’s parent was a Coronavirus patient, that would not prevent us from doing everything necessary to help her,” Adi added. “As a United Hatzalah volunteer, I know what is right and what I have to do, no matter the possible risk. We saved a life that day, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, even knowing the risk.”

 

To support United Hatzalah’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19 please click here: https://israelrescue.org/coronaresponse 

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Always Ready To Help A Person In Need – After Returning To Israel, United Hatzalah International Ambassador Saves A Life On the First Day Out Of Isolation

Gavy Freidson started volunteering as a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT in 2006 when he was just 17-years-old. Receiving one of the organization’s first ambucycles, Gavy grew passionate to the act of jumping on his vehicle and arriving at the scene of a medical emergency to save a life. Since then, Gavy has moved to the United States and now works as a fundraiser to support the lifesaving work of United Hatzalah in the organization’s U.S. office. Gavy lives and works right outside of Washington. In addition to his fundraising activities, Gavy also acts as the Director of International Emergency Management and the Global Ambassador of United Hatzalah of Israel. Every year, Gavy makes sure to return to Israel for a visit, so he can still volunteer on the field and do what he loves most, save lives.

Gavy Friedson in the center of Jerusalem

This past week, Gavy had just finished his two week quarantine period after coming back to Israel to visit his family for the holidays. On the day that he finished his mandated quarantine, he decided to take a walk in downtown Jerusalem. Enjoying the fresh air and relatively vacant street of Ben Yehuda, he noticed a group of people gathered together and surrounding a man who was lying on the ground. The experienced EMT headed to the crowd to see what had happened. When he arrived one of the gathered passersby explained that the elderly man had collapsed and fainted just a minute before his arrival. 

 

Gavy identified himself as a United Hatzalah EMT and began checking the 80-year-old’s vital signs. The man had a pulse and was breathing. Gavy quickly noticed the man had suffered a head injury when he fell, so he used a shirt to staunch the bleeding while he notified  United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center, requesting back up and an ambulance. As Gavy checked the man’s vital signs again, the man lost consciousness, and soon stopped breathing and lost his pulse as well. 

 

Gavy immediately began chest compressions for about 2 minutes until the first volunteer riding an ambucycle arrived at the scene. The team connected a defibrillator and continued CPR until, several minutes later, the man’s pulse and breathing returned. When the ambulance arrived the fallen man was semi-conscious and was quickly transported to the hospital for further care and assessment. 

 

“When I saw the collapsed man, it made me realize how important our work is. Despite the fact that I was not wearing my United Hatzalah vest and I was not on a shift, I was able to save the man’s life. I’m so grateful to be a part of a lifesaving organization, I have done many CPRs in Jerusalem over the course of the past 15 years that I have been a volunteer. Each time I respond to such an emergency it reminds of just how important our work is. Knowing that I helped save this man’s life gives me a sensation of fulfillment. Doing it on the day I leave isolation and am back on the streets of my hometown really puts into perspective for me that these emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. They haven’t stopped just because there is a pandemic occurring and neither can we ” Gavy commented. “The global Coronavirus pandemic has put significant pressure on people, their lives, their health and their businesses. It has put an incredible strain on first response organizations the world over as well. It is for this reason that I know that I need to work harder and help make certain that United Hatzalah will always be well equipped and ready to respond to any and every medical emergency, whether it is Corona related or otherwise. In these challenging times, we are always on the frontlines, no matter where we are, we can always help another person in need. ”

 

To support the work of United Hatzalah’s efforts in the fight against corona please click here: https://israelrescue.org/coronaresponse

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“I Would Do It All Over Again” – Volunteer First Responder Forced Into Isolation After Treating New Mother Who Tested Positive For Corona

One month ago, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Daniel Katzenstein received an alert from his communication device, notifying him about a medical emergency occurring near his home in Neve Yaakov. Daniel headed to the address in his emergency flycar. As per the protocol for volunteering during the pandemic, before he entered the home where the incident took place, he put on his gloves and covered his face with a mask.

Daniel and his emergency flycar

Continuing to adhere to the protocols of the organization, upon arrival, Daniel asked the family members who met him at the door if anyone from the house was exposed to a coronavirus patient, or in isolation. After receiving confirmation that it was safe to enter, Daniel entered the home and found a woman semi-conscious on the floor retching. The woman in question was 6 weeks post-birth and was unable to keep a mask on her face. Daniel quickly requested backup and an ambulance, before assisting the woman and preparing her for transport to the hospital.

A few minutes later, another volunteer EMT from United Hatzalah, a woman, arrived on the scene along with an ambulance and two other volunteers. The team of EMTs helped the woman onto the ambulance and she was transported to the nearest hospital.

Daniel, along with the team of EMTs later received information that the woman they assisted tested positive for Covid-19 in the hospital, thus forcing them all into a 14-day-long isolation period. This time period overlapped with the week-long holiday of Sukkot, causing Daniel to be distanced from his family during the holiday. The burden of going into isolation had already affected over 1,000 United Hatzalah volunteers during the course of the pandemic, causing the burden of responding to medical emergencies to fall on a smaller roster of volunteers.

But what was probably hardest for Daniel during isolation, was the emergency call that came in when he was on the phone with a colleague discussing the details of Covid isolation. An accident had occurred involving a 10-month-old baby, on the street that Daniel lives on. Following protocol and isolation rules, Daniel knew he couldn’t respond to the call, despite the close distance.

The frustrated volunteer rushed to his porch overlooking the street to get a good look at the scene. He then saw the couple run into the street with their limp baby in their arms and was relieved to see a fellow United Hatzalah first responder arrive on the scene in less than a minute and tend to the victim. The volunteer took the baby from the distraught parents and examined it. Additional United Hatzalah volunteers followed and then the word came back on the radio that the child was conscious.

“With my orange United Hatzalah wings clipped, this was going to be a challenging isolation,” said Daniel. “I turned off my walkie-talkie and handed over the keys to my flycar to a fellow volunteer who would be able to use the vehicle to rescue others while I was in isolation. When I was reviewing the after-action report of the call that caused my isolation with the Vice President of Operations Dov Maisel, we both agreed that I had operated according to protocols, but that these are the risks that we face as first responders. I told him if the situation necessitated it, I would do the same thing all over again. That is what makes us United Hatzalah.”

To support the work of volunteers like Daniel during the corona pandemic please click here: https://israelrescue.org/coronaresponse

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Transforming A Good Deed Into Something Bigger

Kobi Ifargan is a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT hailing from the city of Jerusalem. When Kobi is not active in saving lives, he is busy running his hair salon in Jerusalem.

One afternoon, a couple of months ago, Kobi was tending to a customer when his communications device started ringing, alerting him to a medical emergency happening nearby. Kobi quickly dropped what he was doing and ran out of the store to his E-bike. The staff in Kobi’s shop are familiar with this frequent occurrence, as Kobi has been an active volunteer EMT for over five years. Whenever this occurs, Kobi’s assistants take over his customers allowing him to leave on call.

Kobi on his emergency e-bike

Racing on his E-bike, Kobi arrived at the address indicated on his phone. The location was in an apartment building on the same street, and Kobi arrived in just under a minute. Kobi entered the building and rushed to a first-floor apartment where he found an agitated mother, holding a baby boy that was not moving.

The mother explained that she was feeding the baby a bottle when he suddenly began to choke on it and then eventually stopped breathing. Without hesitation, Kobi quickly flipped the newborn over and administered measured back blows, succeeding in getting the newborn to spit up a large amount of fluid. Kobi checked the baby’s airway, confirming that it was no longer obstructed, but the young boy was still unconscious. Kobi ran the child outside to an arriving ambulance and passed him off to the team of medics to rush the young patient to a nearby hospital.

The following Saturday morning, Kobi was surprised when during Shabbat services he was called for an Aliyah to the Torah. A man from his community, who he did not recognize, donated 150 shekels to honor him with an Aliyah. After the Aliyah, the man stood up before the congregation and spoke. “We all have seen Kobi, a quiet and unpresuming member of our community, running out of prayer services to respond to an emergency. This week, Kobi saved my son who was choking. Kobi, your quick response saved his life. Please accept this honor as a token of my family’s appreciation. Thank you.”

The shy yet grateful volunteer felt honored and appreciative of the man’s recognition of his actions and stepped up to embrace him in a big hug. Following the incident, the two men stayed in touch and became close friends.

“When someone does a good deed in life, the meaning of the deed gets transformed, when it is recognized and appreciated by someone else,” Kobi mentioned. “I volunteer with United Hatzalah as an EMT first responder because I know it’s the right thing to do, to give back to my community. That will never change, but it does get enhanced when my efforts and values are appreciated by others. It reminds me of why it is that I do what I do, and gives me a whole new purpose to go out another day, respond to another emergency, and save another life. Beyond that, it gets other people involved and inspires them to do good for their fellow man as well.”

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Volunteer EMT Acts Quickly To Save A Man With Stab Wounds

Last week, just after 3:00 a.m., United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yisrael Malul was tossing and turning in his bed, having a hard time falling asleep in his home in the city of Kokhav Ya’akov. Suddenly, interrupting the silence, a loud screeching voice was heard outside. The voice belonged to a woman crying for help. The piercing sound of the woman’s scream jolted Yisrael’s wife awake, and when she turned to her husband, he was already grabbing his clothes and medical bag. Upon leaving, Yisrael’s communication device alerted him to the emergency occurring nearby, as his parked ambucycle outside his apartment building was identified as the closest to the scene.

Yisrael on his ambucycle

Yisrael exited his apartment building and was instructed by passersby to the second floor of the neighboring building. Rushing up the stairs, the experienced EMT entered a room where a young man was lying on the ground surrounded by a pool of blood. The woman was kneeling over a young man who was bleeding profusely and begged Yisrael to help the bleeding young man.

Without hesitation, Yisrael quickly checked the man’s vital signs to see if he had a pulse and then cut open his shirt to reveal two stab wounds by his shoulder and a deep stab wound in his chest, not far from his heart. Calculating the location of the wound, the depth of it, and the agony the victim portrayed, Yisrael knew he must act quickly, and that this man’s life was in danger.

Yisrael alerted United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center requesting backup and a mobile intensive care ambulance. He then firmly applied trauma bandages against the wounds to stop the bleeding. As additional United Hatzalah volunteers arrived they assisted with the bandaging and managed to subdue some of the bleeding. Shortly after the man’s condition was stabilized, an ambulance arrived to transport the teenager to the nearest hospital.

As Yisrael treated the young man for his wounds, he was told the background of the situation by the young woman. A couple of days before the incident, an altercation occurred between two young men involving a young woman. The altercation quickly turned into violent words leading the furious man to use action instead. A few days later, he broke into the second man’s apartment and stabbed the 18-year-old three different times before fleeing the scene and disappearing. The woman entered the room after hearing suspicious noises and found the victim lying on the ground covered in blood, that is when she shrieked and woke Yisrael and his wife.

Yisrael later discovered that the victim had undergone surgery and thankfully recovered and that the man who was responsible for the stabbing was arrested and taken into police custody.

“When I entered the room, there was a lot of blood on the floor,” Yisrael said. “When I saw it, I knew it was a matter of minutes before the man died. His life depended on how quickly I acted. Whenever I am faced with instances such as these, my brain goes into autopilot and I simply act. I assessed the stab wounds and began bandaging. If I had hesitated for even a moment, because of the blood, or for any other reason, who knows what would have happened. As part of my training to become a United Hatzalah EMT, I was taught to think instinctively and not let my mind wander and get distracted. This skill helps me act quickly, and as a result, I was able to help save this young man’s life.”

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Choosing To Face The Consequences

United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Erez Agassi lives in Shoham and strives to make a difference every day and help those around him. Like many of his fellow Israelis, Erez has been facing increased pressure at his place of employment as of late, with coronavirus-related stressors building, making it increasingly difficult to continue responding to medical emergencies when they arise. 

Scene of the accident

One morning last week, Erez was commuting from his home in Shoham to his workplace in the central city of Lod, when traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl. Suspecting an accident had occurred, Erez wove his ambucycle ahead past the line of cars to investigate. Unfortunately, his fears were confirmed – a moped rider had been struck by another vehicle and was lying on the asphalt bleeding from his injuries.

Erez now faced a moment of truth; though the clock was ticking, he would be late for work and faced possible consequences from his employer. Regardless of the consequences, the dedicated EMT didn’t hesitate. He radioed-in to headquarters for back-up, positioned his ambucycle with the lights flashing to protect the 30-year-old victim from oncoming traffic, and selflessly got to work caring for the young man, bandaging his wounds and immobilizing his injured limbs.

A fellow volunteer arrived to assist with the rescue, followed several minutes later by a Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulance. The ambulance driver knows Erez well and instructed his crew to follow the United Hatzalah volunteer’s directives, as the ambucycle EMT ‘ran the call’. Soon the patient was stable and ready for transport; Erez and his colleagues applied a neck brace, secured the young man to a backboard, and loaded him into the awaiting MICU for evacuation to the nearest trauma center. One of Erez’s co-workers drove by him while he was treating the injured motorcyclist and continued on his way to work.  

When Erez finally made it into work, he was concerned about repercussions from his boss. He walked into the building and his supervisor came over to him, put an arm on his shoulder and told him that in spite of his being late, he approved of Erez’s decision to stop and help as it was the responsible thing to do.  

“My co-worker had told my boss that I was late because I was helping an injured motorcyclist. He had seen me at the scene and told my boss that I was coming in late and that I was due to me helping save someone’s life. My boss was very supportive in spite of the pressure that we are all facing. When faced with an accident, especially when I am the first at the scene, there really is no choice but to stop and help. I didn’t even think twice about stopping. I did what needed to be done. Thankfully my boss was understanding and the motorcyclist got the care that he needed.” 

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Two EMTs Deliver Two Baby Girls On Tuesday Before 9 A.M.

Early Tuesday morning, just after 6 a.m., United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Avigail Beer was awoken from her sleep by the sound of her emergency communication device, alerting her to a medical emergency nearby. A woman had gone into active labor and was in the middle of delivering her baby without enough time to make it to the hospital. Avigail, still in her pajamas, ran to her car and raced to the given location.

Avigail and Ruth with the second baby that they delivered

Avigail arrived at the address and found her colleague and fellow EMT Ruth Goldman already assisting the woman. The mother-to-be was in the middle of strong contractions and squeezing Ruth’s hand. Avigail quickly checked the woman’s progress and saw that the baby was visibly crowning. Avigail prepared the woman for delivery. 

 

Avigail asked the husband to bring a nylon sheet to cover the floor and then called for backup and an ambulance. Avigail and Ruth assisted the woman for the duration of the labor, until the birth of a healthy baby girl. The pair performed an APGAR test and the newborn responded well. The mother was also in good condition and the pair simply needed to go to the hospital for further care and observation. Avigail and Ruth stayed with the mother and monitored her condition until the ambulance arrived.

 

After the successful birth, Avigail returned home and began to wash her dirty pajamas before getting in the shower. As Avigail was getting dressed she received another emergency alert to another active labor in progress. The address wasn’t very close, but she knew the ambulance was further from the location than she was, so she grabbed her medical bag and rushed to her car once again.

 

Avigail arrived at the location, entered an apartment building and found the woman in the stairway. After a few major contractions, the woman insisted on going to the hospital to deliver her baby. Avigail helped the woman return to her apartment, knowing she wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time, and began to prepare her for labor.

 

The baby hadn’t begun to crown yet, but the woman insisted that the baby was coming. Avigail urged the woman to start pushing. Just as she saw a small head appear, Ruth, her fellow volunteer and partner in the delivery from earlier in the morning arrived. The two EMTs acknowledged each other with a knowing smile and got to work. 

 

The woman was in severe pain but kept pushing until her crying baby girl was born. The pair of EMTs again performed a successful APGAR test and monitored the baby as they helped the mother pass the afterbirth. After the ambulance arrived to transport the happy mother and her newborn, Avigail and Ruth parted ways once more.

 

“It’s usually the small things that make a labor successful.” Ruth commented. “When the team is working together, and everyone is calm and comforting to the mother, the atmosphere becomes more pleasant. That gives the mother an easier and safer delivery. Nothing gives me more joy than working with my colleagues in unison. Today it was my joy to work with Avigail and  successfully aid in delivering two healthy baby girls into the world.”

 

Avigail summed up her eventful morning and said: “Last night we suffered many losses as a nation due to the cruel coronavirus. This morning we delivered two healthy baby girls. This showed me that even in dark times, it is always balanced out by good. When I was in my car on the way to the emergency I could see the sunrise, and I thought to myself, the sun is just rising and I’m on my way to save a life.”

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