A Bloody Rescue In The Time of Corona

Given the current pandemic and resultant public health crisis. With COVID-19 cases rising dramatically in Israel and abroad, United Hatzalah dispatchers have been handling a significant spike in general medical calls as well as hundreds of calls from people requesting information about COVID-19. 

United Hazalah volunteers at the scene of a work emergency. (Illustration)

Israelis are all hunkering down under more and more serious restrictions on a daily basis, however, there are still plenty of people who need to go to work to keep the economy running. Such is the case with most factory workers across the country who are relied upon to keep production humming of the basic needs of Israelis. 

Across the country, United Hatzalah’s 6000+ volunteers have been responding to large-scale COVID-19 exposure emergencies. In one call last week in Netanya, a wedding celebration came to a crashing halt when one of the guests received a confirmation that his apartment-mate tested positive for the virus. Our dedicated team of volunteers raced to the scene to provide support for the guests and to ensure that the people who needed quarantine would do so in a timely fashion. All this while they endeavored to keep passersby, onlookers and themselves from unintended exposure. Fortunately, with the new measures in place, there have been fewer group incidents but more individual concerns.

One afternoon just after 2:00 p.m., a serious and possibly deadly accident was reported at a local factory on HaShoftim Street in Holon. A worker had sustained a severe, disfiguring injury to his hand and he was losing a lot of blood quickly. 

Without a moment’s hesitation, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yossi Mamia raced to the nearby location, arriving just 90 seconds later. Yossi didn’t flinch; the seasoned EMT applied a tourniquet to stem the heavy bleeding, and expertly bandaged the injury site. All potentially recoverable tissue was collected and placed into a bag that was placed inside another bag with ice in order to preserve it for emergency reconstructive microsurgery. The patient was loaded into an arriving ambulance and rushed to the hospital in serious but stable condition. 

As citizens throughout the country cope with the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important to note that regular emergencies don’t stop. Whatever the cause, United Hatzalah’s volunteers stand at the ready to help those in need.

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United Hatzalah Partners To Develop New App That Alerts Users If They Have Been Exposed To Coronavirus

Track Virus is a new Israeli app that will alert users who have been in the vicinity of someone diagnosed with Coronavirus

The new Track Virus app has been developed in partnership with United Hatzalah of Israel and will notify users as to whether or not they have been in the same location or close contact with anyone positively diagnosed with the Covid-19 – Coronavirus. The application, which is already available for download by Android users, and will shortly be available for iPhones as well, tracks the location of the users from the time it is downloaded. The information is kept anonymously on each smartphone and is not uploaded to the cloud. Downloading does not require any form of identification or information gathering.

 

The app works by crosschecking a person’s path with the paths of confirmed patients of the coronavirus as listed by the Health Ministry. Should a person have been in a location where a confirmed ill person was they will receive a notification on their app.

 

It is important to note that the application only works from the time it is downloaded and not retroactively. Therefore it is important to download it immediately.

Vice President of Operations of United Hatzalah of Israel Dov Maisel explained: “As the number of Coronavirus patients rises the harder it becomes for the public to keep track of all the different places that they have all been and the updates from the Health Ministry. Additionally, people often have a hard time recalling exactly where they have been and when. The app solves both of these problems. The app is updated in real-time whenever the Health Ministry issues notification regarding the whereabouts of a person confirmed to be a carrier of the virus. It crosschecks all of the paths of the diagnosed patients with the whereabouts of the user. If the user has been to any of the locations identified by the Health Ministry, then the user will receive a specialized notification from the app. The user will then know that they are in danger of having been exposed to the virus and can act accordingly.”

 

The creator of Track Virus, Uri Feldman added: “We are very excited that a  large organization such as United Hatzalah has partnered with us in tracking and hopefully stopping the spread of the Coronavirus by using advanced smartphone technology. Starting on Sunday, Tes of thousands of users will receive the necessary information regarding the whereabouts of confirmed Coronavrus carriers faster, in a more up-to-date manner and with more accuracy.”

 

The app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store at this link: http://bit.ly/TrackVirusDownload

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The E-Bike That Keeps On Saving

United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs use a variety of vehicles to arrive at medical emergencies in the shortest time possible. Among these vehicles are ambucycles (motorcycles with medical gear that an ambulance has on it in a box on the back,) ATVs, boats, jet skis, ambulances, mini-ambulances, Ezridrs, and electric bicycles. Volunteer EMT and Kiryat Gat resident Yehuda Wertheimer is one of the organization’s electric bicycle riders. He is an extremely dedicated volunteer and responds to emergencies on a daily basis. 

Yehuda at the scene of the bus incident with his e-bike

Yehuda just a few weeks ago received a donated electric bicycle that he now rides around the city saving lives. When asked what he felt about responding on an e-bike he said: “To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much use the e-bike would get. I live in Kiryat Gat, not Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. There is afar less traffic here, and I thought I’d only be using the bicycle in rush-hour and peak times. But I can already see that I was mistaken. Although I’ve only had the bike for less than two weeks, I’ve used it a lot. It has already proven itself to be an incredible resource. It allows me to access so many areas – pedestrianized zones, narrow pathways, building complexes. It has already helped me out in numerous situations and I know that it is going to be a tremendous help in saving lives.” 

Last week, Yehuda responded to a call at a local childcare facility when a small child suffered a brief convulsion. Arriving first at the scene on his e-bike, Yehuda found the two-year-old child limp and apathetic. Yehuda checked the little boy’s vital signs and monitored his condition as it began to improve. The child’s father arrived and brought the little boy to the doctor, who confirmed that the child’s fever was the probable cause of the febrile convulsions.

In another incident that Yehuda responded to last week, a road accident had occurred. An 8-year-old boy was struck by a passing car. Yehuda arrived swiftly at the scene ad began to treat the young boy who was bleeding from facial wounds and very agitated (as were his distraught parents). Yehuda calmed everyone down as he gently cleansed the injury site and applied trauma bandages. After the young victim had been treated, the caring medic turned to the car driver, who was very distressed in the aftermath of the sudden crash. Yehuda spoke to the driver and reassured him that the boy would recover.  

This past Monday, a 71-year-old woman was on a bus when she suddenly experienced a severe panic attack and began screaming. The bus driver pulled over to the side and concerned passengers helped her off the bus as they called emergency services for help. Yehuda was nearby at the time and immediately raced over on his e-bike and yet again arrived first at the scene. He discovered the woman trembling violently and utterly hysterical. Yehuda spoke to her gently, but the woman continued crying out, calling for her husband and hyperventilating madly. Yehuda stayed with her, talking to her soothingly all the while providing a calm, professional and reassuring presence.

“We called her husband and he came running over. He’s also 71,” related Yehuda. “Only he was able to really soothe her. It was heartwarming to see them together. I don’t know why she had such an intense anxiety attack but I am very glad that I was there for her. Thanks to my e-bike I was able to arrive quickly and help ease her suffering.”

To support the work of volunteers like Yehuda please click here: 

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Treating A Groom In Distress

On a recent Saturday night, Ariel Yonatan was alerted to an accident on the highway between Safed (Tzefat) and Meron. A high impact collision occurred between two private vehicles that caused the airbags to deploy and the windows to shatter from impact. 

Ariel raced out on his ambucycle and hurried to the location, arriving alongside fellow United Hatzalah volunteers from the area. After triaging the multiple victims, Ariel together with the other volunteers treated the most seriously injured man who was trapped inside one of the vehicles. 

The unfortunate man had suffered a multi-system trauma. He had numerous injuries across his body as well as serious head wounds. Ariel saw that the man’s eyes were closed. When the volunteers approached to treat him, the delirious man lashed out at his surroundings and rescuers hindering treatment as he attempted to get out of his vehicle. Despite that, the team managed to secure and stabilize the patient and provide crucial intervention. Ariel and his fellows attached a neck brace and administered oxygen while bandaging his other wounds.  A fire rescue team with special equipment for cutting through metal promptly arrived at the scene. The man was quickly extricated from the wreckage, where he was then sedated and evacuated by helicopter to Rambam Hospital.

Ariel and his fellow volunteers then turned their attention to the less seriously injured patients and provided on-site intervention to the eleven other victims. These victims sustained moderate and light injuries to their limbs and faces, mainly as a result of contusions and being struck by glass shards. One victim had sustained a fractured hip  Ariel worked together with the other volunteers in the field and placed the numerous patients on stretchers and transferred them to ambulances. 

In spite of the chaos, Ariel managed to reassure the injured patients, many of whom were in shock and frightened following the accident. As he calmed them, Ariel was told that the seriously injured man was a groom, shortly before his wedding. Ariel, the caring medic, comforted the family and assured them that the man was in good hands receiving the best care and treatment possible. Soon, all twelve victims were on the way to the hospital for further treatment. 

The following Tuesday, Ariel was delighted to receive an update, that the severely injured groom had regained consciousness and was in stable condition. Doctors credited the young man’s survival and recovery to the rapid medical intervention he had received.  

To support the work of volunteers like Ariel, please click here:

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Coronavirus COVID-19 State of Affair In Israel and How United Hatzalah is Helping

Being a first responder with the current worldwide outbreak raging in many countries is not easy. We hear about tragedies from all over the world on a daily basis of people being diagnosed with and many times succumbing to the disease. Thankfully, there have not yet been any fatalities in Israel and 427 confirmed cases throughout the country. The Health Ministry has taken a defensive approach to combat the disease attempting to prevent its spread in Israel. United Hatzalah is doing everything it can to assist in this mission while still maintaining our regular emergency medical service activities and providing a response to any and all medical emergencies in Israel in less than three minutes, and in metropolitan areas in fewer than 90 seconds.  

In addition to the confirmed cases, there have been tens of thousands of people confined to home isolation by the Health Ministry due to a chance existing that they have possibly contracted the virus. While this tactic is hopefully effective in preventing any possible spread of the virus, it is also causing a lot of fear and panic among the population as many people don’t know what to do and lack information regarding the virus and its threats. 

This panic, and the resources required by the Health Ministry in the form of ambulances needed to conduct home testing on tens of thousands of people who have been confined to home isolation in Israel thus far, have resulted in emergency services being overtaxed and spread extremely thin. Too thin to provide a fast and adequate response to the thousands of medical emergencies that occur on a daily basis in Israel. 

United Hatzalah has stepped in to fill that gap and our volunteers have been responding to any and all medical emergencies across the country. The call volume has risen and our dispatch center has doubled the number of dispatchers that provide service to anyone who calls United Hatzalah’s emergency number of 1221. While on a regular day our dispatchers and volunteers respond to some 1,800 medical emergencies since the Coronavirus has hit Israel that number has increased exponentially. The daily call intake last week included 2,000 medical emergencies and thousands of calls from people seeking information. The total call volume more than tripled. 

In an effort to protect our volunteers and their families from possibly coming in to contact with the virus, United Hatzalah has purchased thousands of virus protection suits that will be handed out to all of the volunteers across the county in the coming days. These suits are expensive and are one-time-use only. They are sealed and need to be disposed of using special methodology that will prevent any possible contagion from spreading. 

Already in Israel, one first responder from Magen David Adom has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, as has a dispatcher who works in the MDA emergency call center. They are just two of the 427 people in Israel who contracted the virus. United Hatzalah is doing everything in its power to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to our volunteers. These suits provide an essential barrier required by our volunteers who are the first line of defense against the disease as they are now being asked to treat patients and stabilize them in the field until an ambulance can arrive. 

With the delayed ambulance response that is currently taking place across the country, our volunteers need to stay and care for the patients they treat for longer periods of time, thus increasing the risk of exposure. I cannot stress how vital these virus protection suits are for the safety of our volunteers and their families and we need to but more of them, as each one is single-use-only. 

Our volunteers are working non-stop in order to provide the knowledge, treatment, and care to the people of Israel. In the face of so much worry and doubt, knowledge, awareness, caution, and diligence are key to protecting both our volunteers and the public in the face of this looming health crisis. As ever, our volunteers are rising to the challenge and continuing their heroic work because daily medical emergencies don’t stop and neither do our volunteers. 

 

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Friends of United Hatzalah of Israel raised $15 million at the second annual Los Angeles Gala event with Keynote Address by Dr. Miriam Adelson

Friends of United Hatzalah of Israel (www.israelrescue.org) hosted the 2nd Annual Gala in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 27th, 2020 with over 1,100 people in attendance. The gathered crowd contributed to the success of the organization by raising $15,000,000 in support of the lifesaving work done by the volunteers in Israel, which is undertaken throughout the country – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Photo credit: Credit – Abraham Joseph Pal

The event featured performances by Jay Leno and Israeli recording artist Dudu Aharon, as well as a keynote address by Dr. Miriam Adelson. In her speech, Dr. Adelson spoke about the courage of the volunteers and said, “The dedicated men and women of United Hatzalah are fearless and energetic. They bring Israelis closer together, bridging differences of religion and race. They bring meaning to the word “united” in United Hatzalah.”

The event was co-chaired by Mitch Julis, Joe Kornwasser, Maurice Marciano, David Nagel, Sunny Sassoon, and Ron Simms and the Gala Vice-Chair of the evening was Candice Illoulian Beroukhim. The Host Committee Co-chairs were Nicolai Marciano, Elliot Julis, and Ariel Richter.

Photo Credit – Abraham Joseph Pal

“This is a historic night for United Hatzalah. Thanks to the incredible community here in Los Angeles, and to the amazing people that flew in for the event, we were able to raise a record amount of money to support our amazing volunteers who save lives in Israel every night and day,” said Eli Beer, President and Founder of United Hatzalah.

United Hatzalah is the largest independent, non-profit, fully volunteer emergency medical service (EMS) organization in Israel that provides the fastest and free emergency medical first response throughout the country. United Hatzalah’s services are available to all people regardless of race, religion, or national origin. With the help of their unique GPS technology and their iconic ambucycles, they have lowered the average response time in Israel to less than 3 minutes across the country and 90 seconds in many metropolitan areas.

Photo Credit – Abraham Joseph Pal

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The Impulse to Bring Back a Pulse

On Sunday, February 23rd, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yossi Vaknin was eating breakfast at his home in Migdal HaEmek when he received an emergency alert on his phone and was dispatched to help a 30-year-old woman with diabetes who had collapsed at her parent’s residence.

Yossi immediately ran outside to his ambucycle and raced to the address, knowing that when he gets there he will do everything he can until this woman is breathing again. He flew past traffic to reach the scene in a mere 60 seconds. Another United Hatzalah medic joined him on location to assist with the rescue.

Yossi Vaknin

As soon as he arrived at the scene the patient’s mother waved Yossi over to her daughter, who lay motionless on her bed with no sign of consciousness. Yossi noticed that the patient recently had her leg amputated due to her diabetes and seeing this he knew that he had to do everything he could to make sure the patient didn’t lose her life as well. Both medics moved the unconscious patient to the floor and immediately attached a defibrillator. They began performing compressions and carried on with a full-blown CPR. Within three minutes of being there, another three United Hatzalah volunteers joined them and immediately started helping. For 15 minutes, the team worked to save the woman’s life but during this entire time, no shocks were advised.

The team strenuously continued with manual CPR until a mobile intensive care ambulance crew arrived. Despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation, Yossi and his team refused to give up. Finally, after an hour of exhausting efforts and CPR, the responders succeeded in restoring the patient’s pulse and breathing. The woman was stabilized, loaded onto the ambulance and was rushed to the hospital for further care.

Yossi spoke about how it felt when they finally succeeded to bring the woman’s pulse back. “It was an indescribable satisfaction. All of us worked as a team and did everything we could in order to bring the woman’s pulse back and we succeeded. If we hadn’t gotten there when we did this woman wouldn’t be here with us today.”

Just a few days later Yossi received a phone call and was thrilled to hear that the woman had ‘returned to herself’ in the hospital, regaining full consciousness. The doctors said if he hadn’t gotten there so quickly she wouldn’t be here today. She is now on the way to a full recovery and is receiving the critical follow-up care she needs.

To support the work of volunteers like Yossi please click here:

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You Saved My Life, You Are My Angels

Shai Romano and Moti Tzulshan are volunteer EMTs with United Hatzalah in Netanya. On Sunday they went to visit Elirav Zarchia, a patient at Laniado hospital whom they treated a week previously. 

 

A week earlier, the pair received an urgent alert from United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command center alerting them to a man who had collapsed on HaHashmonaim Street in Netanya. While he was riding his bicycle, Elirav Zarchia had suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed, unconscious and not breathing. When it comes to medical emergencies and in specific when it comes to cardiac arrest cases, the time in which medical intervention is initiated is of utmost importance and can be the determining factor as to whether the patient lives or dies. 

Romano kissing Zarchia on the forehead after seeing him alive.

United Hatzalah of Israel is known for having the goal of arriving at the scene of a medical emergency in less than 90 seconds. Today, the average response time is very close to that goal. In the case of Elirav, the short time it took for Romano and Tzulshan to arrive made the difference in saving his life. 

 

“We arrived and immediately began CPR. We provided compressions, assisted breathing and electric shocks from a defibrillator. Paramedics who arrived continued advanced CPR and we were very thankful to see cardiac activity return on the heart monitor a short time later,” Romano recounted. Romano owns a boutique gift store called “Bu-ot Rikma” which is located on Raziel Street and is situated very near to where the incident occurred. Romano has an emergency electric bicycle that has all of the medical equipment necessary to save a life on board.    

Romano and Tzulshan with Zarchia

“We often finish a CPR call where the monitor shows the return of cardiac activity and a pulse being restored. However, in most cases, we don’t get any updates about how the patient is fairing in the hospital and we don’t always merit the chance to see them wake up or fully recover,” Tzulshan said. “With the case of Elirav, we were notified that he recovered and regained full consciousness in the hospital. Once we heard that, we went together to visit him in the hospital.” 

 

The volunteers entered the ward where Elirav was situated with hearts full of joy. They were still unaware of the surprise that awaited them there. When they walked into the room they saw Elirav sitting on a couch with a huge smile on his face. “You saved my life,” he told the volunteer EMTs. “When I had the cardiac arrest, my mother appeared before my eyes and told me, “You are not needed in heaven, you are needed on earth.” I now see exactly who the angels are who helped bring me back. Thank you for my life.” 

 

Romano was overcome with emotion and kissed Elirav on his forehead and said: “It is for moments like this that we are volunteers. We stay on duty 24/7 in order to make sure that when we are ready when needed for emergencies such as these. When we were performing CPR on you I prayed that we would see this very moment where you were awake and smiling. Seeing you gives us the strength to keep going out on call after call and doing what we do to save lives. It was worth it for me to close my store and lose some business in order to stand here right now.” 

 

To support the work of volunteer like Romano and Tzulshan click here:

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Women’s EMS Unit Helps Disabled Children Get Into Purim Spirit

The Jewish month of Adar is a joyful and auspicious time for the Jewish nation, and school children across Israel kick off the month by dressing up in costume and participating in festive celebrations.  Last week, just after the month of Adar began, volunteers from United Hatzalah of Israel’s women’s unit helped Aleh students in Jerusalem start the month off right by dressing up. Some of the oldest residents at ALEH’s residential and rehabilitative center in Jerusalem, young adults with severe complex disabilities expressed a desire to dress up as first responders, and the volunteers from the women’s unit came and worked with them to create costumes and colorful masks to wear on Purim. 

The event took shape when Gitty Beer, the Director of United Hatzalah’s women’s unit and wife of President and Founder Eli Beer, received a unique phone call. It was a request from colleague Micki Cohen asking whether or not the women’s unit would be able to help spread some festive cheer to children living with disabilities at the Aleh center in Jerusalem. Gitty and the team rose to the challenge. When they heard that the young girls at Aleh wanted to dress up as United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs, Gitty and crew brought vests, stickers, and activities all related to the organization to share with the children and create a special festive day of dress-up, art activities and demonstrating a little bit of what life is like for a volunteer EMT. 

While the volunteers gave equal time to everyone, they set aside some special time to speak to the young women about how women are the strength of their first responder unit – just like Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story. 

The Aleh organization was so pleased with the event that they thanked the United Hatzalah team profusely on social media. “This week, our Aleh students in Jerusalem merited a special visit from the Women’s Unit of United Hatzalah. Unfortunately, the children are used to seeing these volunteers rushing in whenever there is a medical emergency, but this visit is one that the children were very excited about. Putting on the vests themselves and having EMTs come and teach them about what they do, caused the children to have tremendous joy which spilled over to infect everyone who participated. The volunteers stayed and danced with the children, helped them design their masks and even helped with face paint. May we always meet with United Hatzalah volunteers for such joyous occasions… Thank you so much for a wonderful day and for setting an empowering example for our young women, United Hatzalah!”

 

 

 

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From Pain To Empathy, EMT Overcomes Pain From His Own Accident To Aid Other Accident Victims

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yitzchak Levinger received an alert to a serious accident on Keren HaYesod Street in Beit Shemesh, which was right near his location. He immediately dashed to his ambucycle and raced over to the scene. His brother, who lives a few streets over and is also a United Hatzalah ambucycle volunteer, arrived at the location as well.

 

The two brothers found a 60-year-old man sprawled on the asphalt. He had been walking at a crosswalk when he was struck by an electric scooter. The man had suffered a powerful blow to his head and the bleeding was massive. The duo worked quickly to stem the potentially fatal blood flow. They applied pressure and secured the wound with trauma bandages and soon the injury site was neatly covered with white dressing. Yitzchak and his brother then took the man’s vital signs, performed an on-site neurological assessment and affixed a neck brace.

 

The duo stayed on scene monitoring the victim and reassuring him as they waited for an ambulance. Finally, thirty minutes after the initial call, an ambulance arrived. The man was swiftly placed on a backboard and whisked off to the hospital for emergency treatment.

 

“I had just finished responding to a different emergency where a young man had fallen off of a building and was in need of CPR. After regaining a pulse there, I received the alert and rushed over to this emergency,” Yitzchak relayed.  “I met my brother Avraham at the scene and we treated the man together. For me, it is always special to meet one of my brothers at an emergency. I have been a volunteer with United Hatzalah for over 10 years and both of my brothers joined in the past few years. Yisrael, our third brother wasn’t at this call, but we have had times where we all get together for family meals and need to rush out to deal with an emergency in the neighborhood as our parents live in Beit Shemesh as well.” 

 

Yitzchak added that having been previously injured in an accident he empathizes with those in a similar situation. “It’s sometimes hard to respond to calls,” confided Yitzchak. “I suffered a slipped disk a year ago following a motor vehicle accident, and I am often in significant pain. That doesn’t stop me responding, though. There’s not much that can be done to alleviate my pain, but how can I leave someone else hurting when I can help him? I’m grateful that I am able to be on the side of the giving and that I have the tools and ability to reach out to people, treat their wounds, and make a difference.”

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