Gavy Friedson and Dovi Meyer are two United Hatzalah volunteer responders who currently live abroad. Friedson lives in the United States and works for the organization in the Washington D.C. area as a local representative there. Meyer currently lives and works in Sydney Australia and volunteers for the Sydney Hatzolah at the same time that he continues to dispatch for United Hatzalah in Israel from afar when called upon.
Friedson, who often speaks all across the United States about his experiences as a volunteer EMT with the organization, was very active with the relief missions to both Texas and Florida following the hurricanes this past summer. Recently, he visited Israel for the 70 ambucycles for Israel’s 70th birthday which occurred on Israel’s Independence Day. “It is always important as an EMT to continue to see patients and respond to emergencies, that way you keep your skills fine-tuned. When I’m in the United States I help promote the organization as well as the sister organization in New Jersey, United Rescue, and tell their stories to the public, as well as my own. So I need to keep up with what is happening in Israel as well. Thus it is a very important trip for me.”
When Friedson and Meyer were both living in Israel they often rode together on the same ambucycle. Now that they came back at the same time, the situation was no different. “I have already treated more than 70 people in just a week together with Dovi,” Friedson said. The pair would go on to treat more than 120 patients over the course of Friedson’s visit. At all of those calls, the duo arrived in less than 90 seconds. Meyer stayed a bit longer than Friedson and treated even more patients. “We’re kind of partners for life in more ways than one,” Friedson quipped. “Not only do we save people’s lives together, we work well as a team and hence go on as many calls together as we can.”
Meyer is involved on a whole different level of the organization. As a first responder who also trained with the organization to be a dispatcher, and has the extra added bonus of being in a time zone that is 10 hours ahead of Israel, Meyer, through the use of advanced technology, was able to dispatch local Israeli responders to emergencies from Australia over Pesach and Shabbatot during the times when the holidays had already ended there. Thus, he and the organization were able to cut down on the amount of desecration of the holy days required by dispatchers in Israel.
“I think one of the greatest things that we are seeing with modern day technology is how you can instantly be anywhere and help people without even being there at all, which is an amazing concept. For me saving lives is something that I have in my blood. It is an urge to run and do and help wherever we are. While I was at the airport in Sydney, I was still dispatching calls to my local team in Israel. And once I landed, the first thing that came out of my bag was my radio and smartphone and I clicked that I was available to help. I am very fortunate to be in an area of the center of Jerusalem, which is, unfortunately, an area that has emergencies all the time.”
Meyer told of two motor vehicle accidents that included seriously injured patients at the scenes and how the duo helped stabilize the patients and prepare them for transport once the ambulance finally arrived. “These experiences, and being able to help someone, once you do it a certain amount it becomes a part of you, almost like something you need. Wherever I go in the world, I always try to help people wherever I can, but there is nothing like being here in Israel, at home, and doing it with and for my own people.”
The volunteers spoke about the timing of their trip and how it leads to their ability to help so many others. “During this time between Pesach and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), there is an acute influx of people that come to Israel, especially this year for the 70th anniversary. Many of these people are tourists who don’t speak Hebrew, so having English speaking EMS personnel arriving to treat them is something that allows for faster treatment and gives them a sense of calm. When someone is having the worst day of their life, any extra comfort we can give them is beneficial.”
Speaking for the pair, Meyer said: “This is something that we will never stop doing. We want to save as many lives as we can no matter where we are.” Freidson added that representing the country abroad has had a special meaning for him. “When we were responding in the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma, finding people in their homes who hadn’t had water for days and alerting the local authorities to survivors trapped was something that I was proud to do with the Israeli flag on my shoulder. Israel was one of the first countries to respond to the slew of hurricanes that ravaged the U.S. and the Caribbean this summer, and United Hatzalah was among the first organizations from anywhere in the world to be there. This just goes to show that no matter where you are in the world when disaster strikes, United Hatzalah will be there.”
Speaking about the international reaction to seeing the organization’s model in action, Friedson said: “Whenever I meet with first responders in the U.S. and I talk about our lifesaving volunteer model, they are shocked. At first, they don’t believe that maintaining an average response time of fewer than three minutes is possible. But once they see how it works and how we maintain that threshold, it really piques their interest. When I tell them that all of our volunteers respond to hundreds if not thousands of calls a year for free, they are beside themselves. It takes them a few minutes to understand that it truly comes from the heart.”
Meyer added: “Australia is a bit slower paced than either Israel or the U.S. so for people to conceptualize a response time of less than three minutes is a bit difficult for them to understand. My dream is to have enough volunteers around the world that if a baby is choking anywhere, that someone would reach the child and help save their life in less than a minute. No matter where we are, we’ll race to save lives. It is a race against the clock, and that is a race that we want to win every time.”
President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer said: “Our organization has a goal of hitting a 90 second response time around Israel and arriving at a network of 6,000 volunteers across the country. For us, it is certainly helpful to have such active international ambassadors as Friedson and Meyer working as both EMTs in Israel and part of the organization’s lifesaving delegations around the world.”