Overcoming Disability As A First Responder

As part of our Year Of The Volunteer project, United Hatzalah will be highlighting volunteers from across the country who give of themselves and their time to help others and save lives each and every day. We want to recognize these heroes for the work that they do both as volunteer first responders and in their everyday lives.

Today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021, we are highlighting some of the inspiring men and women who, in spite of their disabilities, continue to rush out and save lives in an effort to help those around them whenever they are needed.

Naama Bloy  – Ofakim

Naama Bloy is a trained nurse and worked in the surgical ward of Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem as well as in the emergency department in Soroka Hospital. Today she currently works in Assaf Harofeh/Shamir Hospital in the Pediatric ward. She is 30-years-old and lives in Ofakim with her husband and three young children. Naama has done all this even though she was diagnosed at the young age of three years old as having a severe hearing impairment. She is completely deaf in her left ear and lost 80 percent of her hearing in her right ear. 

Naama Bloy

Naama manages to cope with an advanced hearing aid in her right ear in order to hear and understand what is going on around her. Doctors have told her that the cause of her hearing impairment most likely came from a severe case of chickenpox that she suffered when she was a baby. 

“I have always been interested in the field of emergency medicine, but I didn’t think it was something that I could ever do,” Naama said. “When I was working in the emergency ward, I used to see patients arriving in really bad shape and the only reason that they were alive was because of the work of the first responders who treated them at the scene. First responders have a huge impact on the long-term well-being of the patient in my eyes, and sadly, they aren’t always given their due credit, especially volunteers from United Hatzalah.” 

Naama added that she was pulled towards becoming a first responder herself based on what she saw at the hospital. “As a nurse, I was curious about the processes that occur in the human body when it undergoes trauma, and about the techniques used in prehospital care. In addition, the adrenaline and activity involved in responding to emergencies in the field are vastly different from what takes place in an emergency room. 

My greatest challenge is my inability to hear properly. Working in an environment that is very noisy and requires noise in terms of alerts to patients’ conditions, creates a lot of difficult challenges for me. Over the years I have learned certain techniques that allow me to operate in the most efficient way that I can. Among these techniques is my increased ability to read the body language of a person in front of me and use that to understand what is happening in my surroundings. By using techniques such as this I am able to overcome what I lack and work efficiently even in a place as fast-paced as an emergency room, which is important because the most important thing for me is that my patient receives the best care from me that I can provide them with.

Another important lesson that I have learned is to overcome the embarrassment that often comes with having a disability and asking for assistance whenever I need it in order to function better. Much to my joy, wherever I go I encounter people who are more than happy to help me without hesitation and without cessation. 

I met so many incredible people in United Hatzalah, especially in the chapter of Ofakim, where I volunteered prior to the onset of the Coronavirus and my giving birth to my youngest child. They gave me all of the equipment and tools I needed in order to allow me to become a first responder and maximize my potential during medical emergencies in the field. At first, I was terrified of responding to medical emergencies in the field, but thanks to the help I received from the chapter and the organization, I was able to become an integral part of the first responders here in Ofakim. It was because of them that I built the confidence to be able to respond in the field and help others in their time of need, even before they get to the hospital. 

Naama receiving her medical kit from United Hatzalah chapter leadership in Ofakim

If there is one message that I would like to pass on to other people who are struggling with a disability or physical impairment it is this. Today, anything is possible. Truthfully, it is. With the incredible technologies that we have available to us now, there are solutions for everything, and people with disabilities can enjoy a myriad of solutions that allow us to live lives as close to normal as possible. If a person has enough will and strength of purpose, then all of the options are open and the skies are the limit. 

Being a United Hatzalah volunteer is incredible. Volunteering with the organization is incredibly meaningful to me and it has had a lasting effect on who I’ve become and what I am able to do. Thanks to the help I received at United Hatzalah, which empowered me to be a first responder, I know now that I can succeed and help people as a first responder as well as a nurse in the hospital. I am hoping to continue to grow in this field and take additional training courses in emergency medicine in the near future. 

Tal Federman – Rishon LeZion

At the age of 29, Tal Federman, who was a mother of two young children, suffered a stroke that left her in a wheelchair and shut down mobility on her left side. “It turns out I was destined to become a personal coach for people with disabilities, but I had no idea until I was in my 30s,” Tal said. “Suddenly, after I suffered a stroke, my life changed and turned upside down and I was left with challenges that I had never faced before. I had to deal with a completely new reality.” 

Tal Federman

Tal underwent a year-long rehabilitation process in Lowenstein Rehabilitation Hospital in Ra’anana. After this, she was in a wheelchair for eight months. When she suffered the stroke she had a two-week-old infant and a baby who was 20 months old. “Every day brought new challenges, from all sides, I was surrounded by difficulties that I needed to overcome,” Tal relayed. And overcome them she did.   

“With a lot of faith, self-assurance, and mental strength, I found my way to rehabilitation and recovery. Through this I was able to regain an almost normal life,” Tal added. 

After having gotten through the difficulties of having her life completely changed due to a sudden disability, Tal found a new calling, that of standing by and supporting others who have also undergone a serious medical incident that left them with disabilities or other medical difficulties and helping them reshape their lives.  

Up until Tal suffered her stroke, she had been a successful architect with a budding career. After her rehabilitation, she dedicated herself to supporting others and recieved recognition for a new field of work, coaching those who suffered medical crises and helping them with their rehabilitation. 

“I studied how to become a personal coach and I began coaching people who were living with disabilities. I found that my own personal experience, which gave me no shortage of difficulty, empowered me to start this new path to helping others,” Tal explained. “My disability affected every aspect of my life, and I am using that experience to help others who have also undergone life-altering events. I took a medical training course which has given me a lot of tools that I now use to assist families in navigating the medical system and assisting them throughout their process, from treatment to rehabilitation to recovery.” 

Tal during her training on an ambulance

As I saw through my own experience, it isn’t just the person who suffered the medical incident that needs assistance, but their families and loved ones often need help as well. Through my new work I become an integral part of the treatment for the people I help,” Tal explained.

Tal, in addition to her work as a personal coach, was higher by the HMO Maccabi to assist people with medically induced disabilities. She has also authored a book that guides people on steps to take during a recovery process and tells about her own experience. She has become a lecturer and assists both individuals and families in coping with disabilities. “I teach people how they can take a new medical condition and turn it into personal growth in order to come out of it stronger than before.”   

“Every crisis is an opportunity for growth, I am no stranger to taking lemons and making lemonade. Everything is in a person’s mind and dealing with one’s challenges in a proper way is the key to not only coping with a disability but to overcoming it and growing with it or because of it.”

Tal has joined United Hatzalah and is currently training to become an EMT even though she still has difficulty using her left arm or leg. “I often came across people who needed immediate medical attention while dealing with my patients. I wanted to know how best to help them so I took the United Hatzalah EMT training course and have never looked back. It has helped me understand so much more and I am using everything I learn to help others,” Tal added.

Tal with fellow trainees on a United Hatzalah ambulance

Tal faces many challenges in her EMT training but manages to come up with ways to cope. “Performing CPR with one and a half hands is certainly a challenge, but I have come up with techniques on how to do it effectively, and the test dummy that we use gives us responses as to how well or how poorly we are performing compressions and assisted breathing. Thus far my compressions have been on as high a level as the rest of the students in my class if not higher. I practice a lot more in order to fine-tune my technique, but when I put my mind to it, I can do it and do it well. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

Tal implementing her special technique to perform chest compressions during a training session

“I have enjoyed all of my training, and I look forward to my upcoming graduation and getting out into the field and helping others. Having gone through what I did in my own life, I know that there is nothing greater than helping others in their time of need, whether it is due to an immediate medical emergency, or dealing with the fallout and disability that one can be left with as an outcome from a medical emergency. This is a worthy calling and I view it as my calling. I am thankful to be a part of such a wonderful organization.” 

Eli Almoznino – Lod

Eli’s life was altered five years ago when a woman drove her car into his while Eli was on his way to work. “I was working in Be’er Yaakov at the time, and while I was on my way to the office, a woman drove her car into mine. She was on her phone and was not paying attention to what was happening on the road. What I recall from the incident was that I opened my eyes and saw the windshield on my face. There was intense pain all over my body. From the incident, I developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) otherwise known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), which rendered my right leg unusable. I have been suffering from the pain ever since and a few months ago I finally decided to have an amputation done. Since then, I’ve been walking on a prosthetic.”

Eli Almoznino

For years Eli was walking with crutches but he never let that slow him down. “After I was injured, I realized that I cannot let this injury keep me from doing what I love, which is helping others. I continued to respond to emergencies as an EMT whenever they happened in my area. My crutches slowed me down a bit, but after the amputation, I am much faster.”

In addition to being a first responder EMT, and one of the organization’s most active and veteran dispatchers, Almoznino also heads the organization’s Urban Search and Rescue Unit for missing persons.  He lives in Lod and is a father to two children. He rushes out to emergencies with his private car, which was altered to account for his disability.

“I won’t say that walking or running to an emergency is an easy thing,”  Almoznino said. “Walking on a prosthetic leg is not easy at all. But I do it. I walk and I can carry a backpack or a medical kit, whatever is needed. I have to persevere because I won’t give up on my dream, which is the most important thing to me, and that is to always help others and be there for them when they have an emergency. Whether that is as an EMT or commanding the Search and Rescue Unit, it is my passion to help others whenever they need help.”

Eli Almoznino meeting the Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz together with other United Hatzalah volunteers last week during the Minister’s visit to UH headquarters in Jerusalem

“You can do anything you set your mind to,” Almozning added. “Look at me. I am missing my leg and I decided that this cannot hold me back but instead I use it to propel me further. I am a first responder, I play basketball and soccer on a weekly basis, and I don’t allow this to hold me back. It’s a part of who I am now. I consider the accident the beginning of the new me, my new birthday.”

 

To support the work of United Hatzalah volunteers such as Naama, Tal, and Eli, please click here:

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