Just before Pesach an emergency doctor from Terem in Kiryat Gat, Dr. Matthew Friedman, surprised the crowd at the city’s United Hatzalah volunteer EMT graduation ceremony when he presented a newly graduated volunteer EMT with a defibrillator. What made this surprise so special, was that Friedman himself had been saved by just such a defibrillator used by United Hatzalah volunteers in the city some five months ago when he collapsed in the street.
The incident took place this past November in Kiryat Gat. when Friedman, 53, the Director of the Terem Emergency Clinic in the city, suffered a cardiac arrest. The doctor, who had no prior medical condition that would warrant a sudden cardiac arrest, lost consciousness without any warning signs whatsoever.
Luckily for Friedman, help arrived in less than a minute. United Hatzalah EMT Yaakov Weinberg, who volunteers with the organization’s ambucycle unit was dispatched to the scene. “I saw him unconscious on the street,” recalled Weinberg. “He was not breathing and had no pulse. The first few moments are the most critical and one needs to work fast. I understood that he had suffered a cardiac arrest and I attached a defibrillator which administered two shocks. While I was performing CPR, other volunteers who live and work nearby arrived and assisted in the lifesaving effort. We fought for his life for more than 20 minutes, until he was transported to the hospital. These were very intense moments.”
The cause of Freidman’s cardiac arrest was discovered once he got to the hospital. “In retrospect, we learned that he had a blockage in his aorta that caused him to lose consciousness and collapse” Weinberg explained. A few days after performing CPR on Friedman the volunteer first responders received the happy news that Friedman had undergone a catheterization procedure and was on his way to making a full recovery.
Friedman recalled that the volunteers decided to visit the man whom they had saved. “We went to visit him, and only there in the hospital, did we realize that we had helped save the life of a fellow emergency medical practitioner and a doctor no less. It was a very meaningful visit. He told us that the cardiac arrest came as a complete surprise and he thanked us for saving his life. It gave us a terrific feeling to know that we had helped save the life of a fellow person and a local hero.”
During the graduation ceremony, Friedman spoke to the new graduates about the importance of the work that they do. “Had it not been for first responders from United Hatzalah such as yourselves, I would not be standing here today. I would love to tell you more about the speed and dedication with which the volunteers who saved my life responded and treated me, but I was not aware of what was going on. In truth, on November 2nd I would have ceased to be here. My entire life I have been on the other side, the side that gives the emergency electrical shocks, the person who saves lives. That day, I became the person whose life was saved. Today, I am fully recovered and have returned to a normal life, all that I can do is say thank you, but there are no words to express my gratitude. It is impossible to describe the emotions that I am feeling right now. I can only say one thing – due to the training that you have received, the presence of mind, being in the moment of action, and the dedication of volunteers just like you, I am standing here today.”