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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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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