One of the most important positions in any emergency medical service (EMS) organization is the role that is played by the course instructors. These instructors are responsible for training new EMTs and, thereby, are directly responsible for how well those EMTs treat patients at all of their calls. One such trainer, Revital Curiel, who even at her young age has already trained thousands of EMTs, discussed what inspired her to focus on training other EMTs.
“I remember, when I was seven-years-old, I was playing with my four-year-old brother. While we were playing, he fell and injured his head and I recall that there was blood everywhere. Acting on instinct, I grabbed a piece of cloth and put it on his head while applying pressure to the wound. Looking back on that incident, it seems that I already knew what my future calling would be, even back then.”
Curiel works for Israel’s national volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) organization United Hatzalah as the supervising paramedic for the Negev and, until recently, taught a variety of training courses for the organization. Curiel (29) is married and has two children. When she is not volunteering or instructing classes with United Hatzalah, she works as the training instructor for medical officers at the IDF’s Bahad 10 medical training base.
Revital was confronted with the harsh realities of trauma scenes during her active service with the IDF during the Second Lebanon War.
“Even though I was exposed to serious trauma incidents, medical emergencies and numerous wounded soldiers during the war, I was unable to help, as I did not have the knowledge necessary to treat the people who needed it. I made the decision then to study medicine. When I finished the army, I underwent training to become a full-fledged paramedic and an EMT and paramedic instructor. Now, I both treat people and teach other EMTs and paramedics how to help others. Knowing that I can now help people in all kinds of situations, and having the ability to teach others how to help people as well, is simply the best feeling there is. This is what I like to call exponential growth in life-saving. The more people that are trained, the more people can be saved.”
Curiel just finished a stint of four years of teaching new volunteers how to become EMTs with United Hatzalah. She has conducted refresher courses for the paramedics who work with the organization. “I got my start training medics in the IDF. People who I trained began to tell stories of people that they had saved, and I realized that I was part of that. I was there with them saving the person, as I was the one who gave the tools and the education necessary to help people. This is how I can reach more people in need of help. I am happy to endow the gift of knowledge of how to save lives.”
So far, Revital has instructed over 150 volunteer EMTs with United Hatzalah and over a thousand more in the IDF. If you calculate the amount of people that each of those medics or paramedics have saved, the number is astounding.
One story that stands out in Revital’s mind was of a motorcycle accident involving the police force. “While I was finishing my Paramedics course, there was a car accident involving a police officer from the motorcycle squad. It was the first serious trauma case where I had to take command of the scene. I had to work opposite all of the various security forces including the IDF, the police force, and other rescue units. I had to take command of all of the medics who responded to the scene and it was my trial by fire. The experience was shocking, in a good way, and one that really got me into the mindset of controlling of a trauma scene.”
A few years later, Curiel was teaching a week-long refresher course for police medics in the Negev. The course material was focused on the proper response to trauma incidents. “When I began to describe how to approach a trauma scene, I used the example of my first experience in command with the police officer from the motorcycle squad. A man in the course stood up and said, ‘I’ve been looking for you all these years. I just want to say thank you for saving my life.’ The man I saved then was now the medic standing in front of me. He in turn has been saving lives for quite some time.”
Curiel saw this as another example of exponential increase of life-saving. “That sense of helplessness in the face of an emergency is the worst feeling there is. The uniqueness of United Hatzalah is that it is an organization that is able to give people everywhere the ability to help their friends, family and neighbors so that if an emergency happens, people will not be helpless. The organization directly combats the sense of helplessness via education of its volunteers as well as the public in general. Knowing what to do in the face of a medical emergency and having the tools supplied by the organization in order to do it, those things are simply priceless.”