Helping People Sometimes Involves Going Beyond Medical Treatment

By Devo Klein

Recently one Thursday afternoon, a United Hatzalah volunteer was driving his ambucycle when he received an alert to a medical emergency on the very street that he was currently on. The volunteer quickly zipped over to the given address and found an apartment complex. He arrived in a matter of seconds.

An ambucycle rider en route to a medical emergency -illustration (credit Shira Hershkop)

Running inside the building, the EMT found family members gathered for a birthday party, who were now circling around a seizing Israeli child of Ethiopian descent. The boy’s mother was agitated since she had never seen a child in this condition before. She did not know what to do in order to help her child. Young children who have seizures are often diagnosed as suffering from febrile convulsions, which are related to high temperatures.

Over the past two weeks, Israel had been suffering a heatwave, so naturally, this was the first thing that the EMT’s suspected. However, as the volunteer removed the boy’s shirt, he could feel that the child’s temperature was normal, indicating that the convulsions were not a result of febrile seizure but the result of something else.

The experienced EMT quickly got to work, giving the boy oxygen, protecting his head and extremities, and slowly stabilizing his condition. After the four-year-old child had fully regained consciousness, he started acting frantic. When he saw that his mother was behaving hysterically as well, it only added to his panic.

The United Hatzalah volunteer realized that the family members were confused and alarmed by the situation, so he slowly explained to the crowded room that he was a volunteer EMT and that his job was to help people with medical emergencies. When the ambulance arrived, the young boy was transferred to the hospital for further care and observation.

Earlier this week, the same United Hatzalah EMT was once again dispatched to the house, after the child had suffered another seizure. He was surprised to find the mother of the child in a relatively calm state, as she had experienced this situation before and was prepared for it.

A large number of United Hatzalah EMTs possess educational backgrounds in the mental health profession and work as psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. The volunteers who don’t possess professional experience in the field receive specialized training that enables them to identify people requiring emotional or psychological first aid at the scene of a medical emergency and assist them by using a variety of techniques. This training, which is provided by United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, enables first responders to provide psychological first aid in the field during the initial minutes following a traumatic experience. That is what helped this volunteer assess the situation and react in a quick fashion to assist the family.

“It’s not just about medical care,” the EMT who wishes to stay anonymous explained. “Sometimes the patient or their family can be in a state of trauma, and therefore we must assist them with their psychological well being in addition to medical care. Psychological well being is an essential part of a patient’s recovery process.”

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