18-year-old Coral Sellouk, may have been the youngest person to ever train as a United Hatzalah EMT. She began her course in January in Israel at the age of 17, as part of the organization’s NREMT training course that gives participants the ability to become recognized EMTs both in Israel and in the United States.
Little did she know that the skills she learned in her five-month course would help her save two lives in less than a month, one in Israel and one in her hometown of West Hollywood, California.
“Training to become an EMT has been a positive change for me,” said Sellouk. “Not only have I learned to gauge my surroundings in a different way and notice things that I never did before, I have managed to raise my awareness in a way that enables me to help people. It is because of this training that I was able to save two lives since my graduation. That is not something that I ever expected to do,” she added.
Sellouk finished her NREMT training course in May this past year and then stayed in Israel for a few months longer. During that time, she joined numerous ambulance shifts with United Hatzalah to complete her required training calls. When she was supposed to fly back home to the United States, her flight was delayed by a week so she extended her stay in Israel. She decided to use her time wisely and went on some more ambulance shifts. It was the last of these shifts that resulted in the first instance of Sellouk’s life where she helped save the life of another person.
“I was participating in a very quiet shift in Rehovot on the last Thursday night that I was in the country after my flight was delayed. I wasn’t supposed to even be in the country, but God had other plans. The night was a quiet one and there were almost no calls. Just as we were about to close the shift, we got a call that there was an unconscious person nearby. We rushed to the address and when we got inside we heard someone screaming. It was one of the relatives of the man who had collapsed. We began CPR protocol and performed a successful CPR on the unconscious patient. It took an hour and a half, but we eventually succeeded in getting the man’s pulse back. It was the first time I had ever helped save a life.”
Sellouk relates that the information she received there from the team of responders helped her pull through the more arduous second CPR case that she would face alone, just two weeks later. “When you have a team of people working with you, encouraging each other, and telling one another that each person is doing a good job and performing the compressions properly, or giving positive feedback, it really gives a boost to keep on going with the CPR. I very clearly noted the difference between this CPR case and my next.”
The second CPR case for Sellouk took place two weeks later, after she had arrived home in California. The emergency came without warning and occurred right in front of Sellouk’s house.
When the emergency occurred, I was pulling out of my driveway just like I did on every other day. As I was looking around me I noticed a man laying on the sidewalk. Prior to my training, I would have just assumed that this was a man sleeping or simply lying on the street. The course taught me to look deeper and stop to see if everything was alright and if I could be of assistance. I stopped my car, honked to see if he would wake up, and when he didn’t I got out and went over to the man to see if he was conscious and check his pulse. I pulled a pair of gloves out of my United Hatzalah vest pocket and went to check. He was unresponsive, not breathing and had no pulse. I immediately started CPR. Not knowing how long this man was laying there for gave me little hope that what I was doing would help.”
Undeterred by her doubts, Sellouk continued following protocol and worked to try to save the man’s life. “I performed two rounds of compressions and called 911. While they were on speaker, I continued to do CPR alone until the ambulance got to me 4 minutes later. This was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever done. Once the paramedics arrived, they quickly took over compressions and let me assist them with the assisted ventilation by use of a BVM. They wrote down my name and phone number and I went back home worn out from what seemed the longest 5 minutes of my life. I’m not even sure how I did it. But in the spur of the moment, I simply kept going, even in the 105-degree heat of August. There was a point where I couldn’t feel my arms anymore.” she added.
Sellouk efforts paid off. On Sunday morning, two days after the incident occurred, Sellouk received a phone call from the Deputy Chief of the fire department. “He thanked me for my actions and proceeded to tell me that they managed to get this young man’s pulse back and transported him to the hospital where he was ultimately brought back to life and was in good health. The feeling that I felt in that moment is a feeling that I cannot put to words. I saved this man’s life.”
Shocked and amazed, Sellouk suddenly understood the power of first responders. “You never expect anything like this to happen. You see it in the movies and you hear it from your instructor, but you never actually expect it to happen in front of you. In a million years I never thought it would happen to me. I took the lead on some calls in Israel but I always had a team with me to correct me if something was wrong. Here, outside of my own house, next to my own driveway, I was by myself with this man’s life literally hanging in the balance. It was in my hands and everything was up to me. That is something that I will never forget.”
Sellouk wished to thank those who helped her accomplish this great feat. “I would like to thank Eli Beer, Shai Jaskoll, and all those who are involved in the amazing organization that is United Hatzalah for giving myself and so many others the opportunity to save lives. Most of all I would like to thank my EMT course instructor, Ari Deutsch, who put in countless hours and showed tremendous dedication by teaching us and showing us how passionate he is about saving lives. It is now my passion as well.”