By Dina Shoval
Last Friday night was one of the most harrowing nights that I have ever experienced in my life. It began like any other regular Friday night, I was with my family, we made Kiddush, ate our meal, and played backgammon. After losing a couple of rounds, my father decided to head upstairs to rest, and then complained that he wasn’t feeling well.
At first, it seemed like he was being dramatic about losing a few games, but as his pain continued, it appeared more and more like something was seriously wrong. As soon as my mother called me into the room I understood that my father was suffering a major incident, either a cardiac incident or a stroke. I called emergency services for help and within less than two minutes, not one, but two EMTs from United Hatzalah were in the room assisting us.
I later asked them how they arrived so quickly and they told me that they had just responded to a different medical emergency on one of the streets nearby when they received the alert to this one. Just a few minutes after they arrived, my father went into his first cardiac arrest that evening.
I learned that evening that the statistics are stacked against people and that only 3-4 percent of the people who receive CPR actually survive. It is pretty much a miracle every time someone survives a cardiac arrest via CPR. Over the course of the next 40 minutes, my father’s heart stopped five times. Five times the volunteers from United Hatzalah, as well as the ambulance team that arrived later, performed CPR on him, and five times he survived.
My father’s story would have ended very differently had those first responders not shown up as quickly as they did and been able to initiate the first round of CPR immediately. The volunteers that arrived were steadfast, extremely experienced, worked in close partnership with the ambulance team that came in a way that deserved only praise, were sensitive, and did everything they could to save my father’s life.
We arrived at Kaplan hospital where my father was taken for immediate catheterization. The volunteers from United Hatzalah stayed with us for the entire procedure in the room, never for a moment giving up on my father, even though, for all intents and purposes they had completed their job. Only after my father came out of the operation, did the volunteers share with me and my family what had happened inside.
It was pretty much an open miracle that occurred in front of our eyes. My father had a 99 percent blockage of his heart. The catheterization succeeded in opening this blockage. The volunteers explained to us what took palace in the operating room and provided us with videos and explanations so that we could better understand. Only then, after the procedure was a success and it was declared that my father would survive did they take their leave.
But their efforts didn’t end there. The volunteers stayed in touch with us, visited my father in the hospital to see how he was recuperating, and yesterday, when my father was released, they even came over to our house once again, but this time with a reason to celebrate.
My father is a very simple man. He doesn’t even have a Facebook account. However, this story, perhaps the most intimate story of his life, he agreed to share widely and publicly. He asked me to share it for a very simple reason, he wants to bring awareness to the dangers of cardiac arrests so that people should take better care of themselves, and to thank the volunteers from United Hatzalah who helped save his life.
It is thanks to them, and all those who helped that I will be able to spend more Friday nights and Shabbatot together with my father beating him at backgammon. I hope that the next time he loses, he will be less dramatic about it.