Saving a Life in Two Minutes – A First Person Account

My name is Chaim Stern and I am a United Hatzalah volunteer EMS first responder. A few weeks ago, I was lying in bed reading a book and drifting off to sleep when I received an emergency alert from United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center. A child was choking in my vicinity. The clock showed 12:52 a.m. as Stern jumped out of bed. The address came in a moment later and my adrenaline spiked. The emergency was right across the street from where I live.

I quickly reported to dispatch that I was en route and, following protocol, I switched over to the regional channel on my radio for further instructions and reports. There I got the rest of the information regarding the emergency including which floor and apartment in the building the emergency was taking place in. All this happened in the few seconds it took me to get my clothes and vest on.

 

I ran across the road. As I ran into the building the elevator pinged. The father of the child had sent the grandfather to direct EMS teams.

 

I told him to stay downstairs while I took the elevator up to the fourth floor. I reached the floor and walked out of the elevator while hitting the button to send it back down to the lobby so that backup could arrive quickly. I entered the hallway and to my right saw the open door. I ran in and saw a tiny baby in a diaper lying on the dining-room table and the baby’s father attempting to do compressions.

 

As I approached, in ran another volunteer behind me. The baby was slightly cyanotic around the lips and wasn’t moving. I felt for a brachial pulse but there was none. I reported on my radio that I was undertaking CPR and that Advanced Life Support (ALS) should be alerted. I immediately administered two breaths to the baby’s mouth while I stuck my hand underneath to raise his shoulders slightly to open his airway. The other volunteer relieved the father of doing compressions and as he took over I counted out two breaths and then he performed 15 compressions. We cycled like that for a few more rounds and then searched for a pulse.

 

Lo and behold we found a pulse. It was very slow so we did another cycle. Suddenly the baby started moving around and two seconds later let out a weak cry followed by strong full-fledged screaming.

 

It was at the moment that the baby screamed that the United Hatzalah ambulance arrived. The team was headed by EMS instructor and volunteer Yechiel Meiberg who had come from the national offices just down the road.

 

I remember everything so vividly as one would at a life-altering event. I cannot begin to explain what a fulfilling feeling it was when that baby started crying again.

When things calmed down a bit Afterward and I was heading home, I checked our operations application to review what had transpired. I was surprised to see how fast things took place. I saw at 12:53 it said that I reported that we undertaking CPR. At 12:54 we had reported that the baby had regained consciousness. I got the call at 12:52. That means that within 120 seconds of the call we got the baby back to being fully conscious.

  

Incidentally, the father of this child is actually an uncle of one of our volunteers named Bentzi. Bentzi called me up the next day, quite emotional, to thank me.

 

I went to visit the family the following Thursday to find out how the baby is and how they are. The grandmother opened the door and told me that the baby had lost consciousness again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and had to be readmitted for a while. From her, I got the full details of the story.

 

The baby had been born 9 weeks early and had been let out of the hospital 2 months later. He was let out of the hospital on that Friday. The family had noticed through Shabbat that sometimes while the baby was eating he seemed to choke a little but it always managed t recover. On Saturday night, unfortunately, it didn’t and that’s when he called.

 

It is indeed hard to imagine what a large part of this baby’s future I managed to play in just a few minutes, and what part United Hatzalah has as well. While my story is only one of many life-saving stories that have taken place by the volunteers in our organization over the years, each one is a world unto itself.

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