The blood pounded in his ears, drowning out the sounds of the frantic passengers around him. The two sisters who had identified themselves as medical professionals were tending to the unconscious woman, obscuring his view. They were over 30,000 feet up in the air, and she was unconscious—resulting from a severe case of hyperventilation. One of the women held the patient’s nose and mouth shut to try to force her body to reset its breathing pattern. But as they worked, her blood pressure just dropped further and further. It looked like they were killing her, but he felt like it wasn’t his place to try to correct them like he couldn’t possibly know better.
And in that moment, he was fifteen again, back to that fateful day on the sidewalk near his house. He was just on his way to school when the woman collapsed. After fainting, she lay there motionless on the ground, and he felt equally frozen in his place, utterly unsure of what to do or how to help. A small crowd gathered around the woman, and eventually, someone suggested elevating her legs, an effective treatment for countering the effects of shock.
Talmud teacher and United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Noam Elias recalls this event as the moment that he made his decision to become a United Hatzalah volunteer. “It was something I always knew I wanted to do,” says Noam about becoming a first responder, which is what he has been doing for the past four years. As a father to six children with a full-time job, volunteering as a first responder isn’t always the easiest position to have. Whether it means missing a funeral, a son’s birthday party, or Shabbat preparations— all circumstances that Noam has experienced— EMS work can be difficult on both the volunteer and their family as an emergency call can happen at any time. But Noam explains that his family is incredibly supportive and understanding, with his kids stepping in to help with preparing for Shabbat or throwing a celebratory dance party upon their father’s return, which allows him to fulfill his years-long aspiration of saving lives.
So when Noam was faced with the unconscious woman before him on his flight from the USA to Israel last year, his EMS skills and knowledge kicked in. He asked the people attempting to revive her to step back and, recalling memories from years prior, he instructed one of the sisters to lift the woman’s legs. The trick worked yet again; the woman woke up, and somewhere, fifteen-year-old Noam Elias smiled with the satisfaction that he had been able to help save someone’s life.
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