David, a resident of the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, was taken to the hospital where he underwent a difficult recuperation period, but recuperate he did. After the harrowing experience, David was thankful for the near-immediate intervention from the United Hatzalah first responders, many of whom he became friendly with, he never imagined that he would need their help again, at least not for another medical emergency.
However, he ended up needing their assistance not only once more, but twice. The first incident took place a few months later when his house caught fire, which was shortly followed up by David suffering an epileptic seizure and nearly losing his life to the ferocity of it. Both times United Hatzalah volunteers from the neighborhood responded and helped David and his family. David attributes his life being saved once again during the seizure episode to Reuven Sarfati a volunteer EMT with the organization. Reuven met David when the two were teenagers and attending the same high school. As they grew up, they both stayed in the same neighborhood and got to know each other’s families.
During the seizure, David’s wife panicked, but his five-year-old son, not knowing what else to do, called Reuven for help. Reuven alerted United Hatzalah’s dispatch to the emergency, arrived at David’s home, began medical treatment, and even physically restrained David while he was suffering the seizure. Reuven provided David with assisted ventilation and prevented David from causing himself any further injury while he was seizing. David was then taken to the hospital once again for follow-up treatment.
After the third time that David was rescued, he realized just how critical the work of community-based first responders is and decided to join the ranks of the organization and become a volunteer himself. Today, Reuven, together with many of the other volunteers who helped are close friends with David.
“Gilo is a very difficult neighborhood to navigate for outsiders,” David explained. “If Reuven hadn’t come that Shabbat when I suffered my seizure, I’m not sure I would have survived it. The ambulances didn’t arrive for quite a while and Reuven was the one there who was providing me with medical treatment during the elongated seizure. Those can be very dangerous and require medical intervention. If not for my friends and neighbors from the community who helped, I’m not sure that I would be able to be here today having this conversation.”
The experience left a deep impression on Sfedge. “I feel that I was helped by people in my neighborhood and now it is my turn to be the one offering that help.” David now serves as the team head of the Gilo region for the organization and is in charge of the very neighborhood where he was saved. “Becoming an EMT has been a gift for me. I am able to help provide care to those who need it and give back. That is important to me.”
David not only serves as an EMT but also as a member of the organization’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit and provides psychological and emotional first aid and stabilization to people suffering from both medical emergencies and the psychological trauma that results from them. “I saw the trauma that my son went through when he had to make the phone call to Reuven, I wanted to help other children who go through the same thing. I often find myself helping children deal with their own trauma after having witnessed their parents in medical emergencies, or vice versa. I try to go respond to every medical emergency that I can. I even leave my own family in the middle of dinner in order to help neighbors or complete strangers. My family knows very well what I went through and they recognize the importance of the work,” David concluded.
Sarfati added, “Being an EMT can be stressful, but the satisfaction it provides gives us fuel to go and keep saving more people. It isn’t often that someone I saved becomes an EMT themselves, but it isn’t rare either. People who see the need for this kind of work, are often the ones who undertake to do it. I am happy that I was able to be there for David during his time of need and I am proud that he has joined the organization and become one of its most dedicated volunteers. This story is a reminder for me of the importance of the work that we do and the impact that it has on people’s lives. It is a force multiplier. I helped David, and now we both help others. That is a lasting impact that came from responding to one emergency many years ago. Now, countless lives have been saved and made better as a result. This is the true power of the community and the true power of the kindness of those who dedicate their lives to saving others.”
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