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.

“I was driving with my family back from a wedding which took place at a banquet hall across the street from the location of the stabbing. I responded to the car accident, and then turned around and went back to the banquet hall where the stabbing took place. It was surreal as I had just been there.”

When asked if these types of situations are the norm for him, Gilboa responded, “I get multiple calls one after the other pretty often. I once responded to one heart attack and just as I finished I headed to a second one. There were two in less than an hour right next door to one another.” Gilboa said that while these types of situations usually cause stress for families who are not used to it, his family, especially his children, not only encourage him to respond to emergencies but badger him when he doesn’t head out fast enough. “My family gets upset with me when I am unable to respond to the call. My kids bug me and say ‘Dad why aren’t you going? It is close by and you can help someone.’ The guilt trips are incredible,” Gilboa quipped. “It means that they understand the importance of what I do, and like many other EMS families, they too are a part of the lives I save. Without their support, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”

Gilboa praised the volunteers of the organization and their families for their dedication and self-sacrifice. “The volunteers in this organization are a group of dedicated hard-working people all of whom are heroes and have a special place set aside for them in the world to come.”

President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer echoed Gilboa’s sentiments. “We have 3,200 volunteers in our family. That number does not include the family members of those volunteers who also sacrifice spending time with their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who respond to emergencies. It is because of their selflessness, and their willingness to drop whatever it is that they are doing in order to rush out to help people whenever and wherever they need it, that we can save as many people as we do. I’ve been an EMS responder since I was a fifteen-year-old boy. I know what it is to sacrifice one’s time and one’s family time to save another. I tip my hat to all of the brave men and women who volunteer to do this job. It is not an easy yoke to bear and yet all of our volunteers do so with pride. That makes me proud of every single one of them.”

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