On Monday evening just after 8:00 p.m., a man approached a United Hatzalah ATV that was helping an elderly person traverse the sand by Sanz Beach in Netanya and told the volunteer EMT driver that his son had drowned in the water. The EMT alerted the organization’s dispatch to the incident but was unable to begin searching for the missing and suspected drowned young man because the driver was dealing with his current patient.
United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Eliya Shaar was in a meeting at the Netanya branch headquarters of the organization when he received the alert from dispatch. He quickly excused himself, jumped on his emergency electric bicycle, and raced to the beach just a few blocks away. When he arrived, he quickly met up with the ATV and its driver who informed him that the drowned man was not in their current location but seemingly further down the beach.
Eliya looked around and saw a group of people huddled together some 200 meters away near the Four Season’s Beach. He dashed off and found that the group of swimmers and bystanders had indeed pulled a young man from the waters, and that the young man was unconscious and not breathing.
“The bystanders had begun performing CPR right next to the waterline,” Eliya recounted, “and the waves were getting higher with the tide causing water to come right up on the unconscious man’s face. With the help of two other people there, I moved the drowned man to a safer location higher up on the beach where we continued CPR.”
Eliya attached the defibrillator that he had brought with him and then switched out the person doing compressions while instructing another person to bring him his oxygen kit from his medical bag. “I ended up performing CPR for more than 3 minutes, just myself and the bystanders before other volunteers from United Hatzalah arrived to help.”
As more volunteers arrived, they joined the effort to save the young man’s life, but it wasn’t looking very hopeful. “The defibrillator wasn’t advising a shock and we weren’t getting any positive response from the patient, ”Eliya explained. “I have been a volunteer EMT for eight years and have been to a lot of drowning incidents. This one had the feel of someone who wasn’t going to make it. We were doing everything we could, but there was little to no improvement.”
Then something unique happened. “I didn’t see it right away, but something terrific happened,” Eliya recounted. “This was a beach with primarily ultra-orthodox beach-goers. As I was busy performing CPR with my fellow first responders, the people on the beach decided to get involved in our rescue efforts as well and began to pray. At first, they formed a minyan (quorum) and prayed the evening prayers in the merit of this man’s life being saved. Then, when they finished the prayer service they began to recite Tehillim (psalms) as a group. It was amazing to behold. As we switched in and out of performing chest compressions and providing assisted ventilation, the volunteers joined in as well. We were more than 20 minutes into the CPR and there was still no sign of improvement. But the people prayed and something changed.”
A few minutes after the psalms began, a mobile intensive care ambulance arrived and the paramedic administered a number of doses of adrenaline. Eliya continued his recounting. “The defibrillator chirped that a shock was advised but we checked and there was no need as the man’s pulse had begun to return to a stable rhythm. I was shocked because I was certain that this young man was not going to survive. At some point, his father had joined us together with the driver from the ATV and identified that this was indeed his son even though he was found 200 meters away from where he had gone missing. I was happy to report that the young man’s pulse had come back and we were going to transport him to the hospital. I told him that it was a miracle.”
United Hatzalah volunteer Amos Arbiv who was one of the first responders at the scene added, “It could have taken hours to find this man in the gathering darkness, especially with him having been swept away from the location of his father’s initial report. Instead, thanks to the efforts of those on the beach, the early intervention of Eliya and others, and the prayers that were recited, this boy has a strong chance of survival. After the successful CPR, the young man was taken to Laniado hospital in serious but stable condition.”
Eliya concluded by saying, “Just as we did on the beach, we will all continue to pray for his welfare and that he makes a full recovery.”