Gil Cohen Lives in Netanya and is a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT and an experienced Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit responder. He finds his psychotrauma training invaluable even when responding to regular medical emergencies.
Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit members treat man after a traumatic incident. (Illustration)One recent morning at 11:00 am, Gil was alerted to an unconscious person at a cemetery. Making a mental note to the irony of the incident, Gil hopped on his ambucycle and flew over to the address. His nimble vehicle was easily able to navigate around the gravestones until Gil located the site of the incident.
A 60-year-old woman had collapsed onto her husband’s gravestone, having lost the will to live. The helpless family members told Gil that the woman’s husband had just passed away. Gil assessed the woman and realized that she was in an incredibly high state of emotional stress. Switching caps to a psychotrauma responder, Gil started speaking gently to the semi-conscious woman until she began to respond to him. She told him tearfully that she had already lost a daughter, and this new bereavement was just too much for her to bear. Gil listened sympathetically and provided her with soothing support. His calm, caring manner had a huge effect on the mourning woman, and she slowly began to recover. In the end, she declined ambulance transport and Gil left her with her family in a far more positive state of mind.
In another incident, Gil was dispatched as a psychotrauma volunteer. A 25-year-old man and his 20-year-old sister had been in the family car when they were attacked by an Arab man. The assailant forced the man out of the car, beat him and attempting to stab him. When the knife missed its mark, he grabbed the man in a chokehold, only releasing him as security forces arrived and captured him. The scene was quickly flooded by police officers, ambulance crews and United Hatzalah medics. One of the United Hatzalah medics (after bandaging the injured man’s wounds) called Gil to treat the sister. She had witnessed the entire terrifying scene and had been sure that her brother would be killed. Gil jumped on his ambucycle and sped quickly to the location. He found the young woman in the throes of an intense panic attack. Gil used his psychotrauma training to gently guide her back to reality, assuring her that the danger was over, that she and her brother were safe, and that he was there to help her. His professional intervention made an enormous difference and succeeded in calming the petrified survivor. Within a few minutes, she started responding normally to her surroundings and worried family members.
“My psychotrauma training has helped me in many different ways,” said Gill. “Whether it is in my personal life or when working with the people who need us in the field, both for medical calls and psychotrauma calls, the training has helped me see emergency situations in a different light. I now not only search a scene for those physically injured but I look around to see who was emotionally affected by the incident and once the medical side is done I treat them as well. You learn how to listen to others and identify with them while at the same time reassuring them that they are now safe and that the danger has passed.”
Gil spoke about the internal network of support that exists in United Hatzalah for the first responders after they respond to a traumatic incident, “Our resiliency comes from our unity. The fact that people in the organization are tasked with calling up the EMS and Psychotrauma volunteers and checking in with them after every traumatic call is incredibly helpful. These regional representatives of the psychotrauma unit debrief the volunteer who responded make sure that we didn’t take anything to much to heart. They work with us through the traumatic scenes that we witnessed or were exposed to and they manage to take from us a heavy part of the emotional burden that comes with being a first responder.“
Research shows that interventions such as these can be critical in helping survivors in the aftermath of a traumatic incident, mitigating acute stress and protecting against the overall mental health of the patient and the first responder.
To support the work of United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit please click here: