Last week on Wednesday, a woman in her 40s had a severe allergic reaction in her home in Givat Shmuel. The reaction came after she came into contact with food to which she is allergic. The woman started to swell and had trouble breathing as her throat began to close up. She called emergency services before she lost the ability to talk. United Hatzalah’s dispatch and command center sent the five closest available volunteers in the vicinity.
Josh Westfield, a United Hatzalah doctor who works in Tel Hashomer Hospital got the proximity alert as he was in his car and on his way home. Josh rushed to the scene and was the first responder to arrive at the woman’s address. As he entered the woman’s home he found her having difficulty breathing and suffering from rashes. Josh noticed that the woman had injected herself with an EpiPen shot in an effort to alleviate the symptoms of the anaphylactic reaction. Her symptoms receded enough to allow her to breathe and her rashes diminished somewhat, but she still required additional medical treatment.
Josh checked the woman’s vital signs and found that she was still in respiratory distress with an elevated heart rate. In order to further stabilize the woman, Josh administered medications intravenously providing her with additional antihistamines to combat the allergic reaction. After a few minutes, the woman began to return to herself as other volunteers from United Hatzalah and an ambulance crew arrived. The team assisted Josh in treating the woman and transporting her to the ambulance which then took her to the nearest hospital for further care.
‘’This is not the first time I treated patients with severe allergy reactions,” Josh added after the incident. “I already know what to expect even before I set foot inside the patient’s house. In spite of that, there is always a slight sensation of fear and adrenaline that kicks in for me as well when I respond to life-threatening emergencies. The important thing is to stay focused and do what I came to do, which is to help the patient. I believe it is necessary for every first responder to carry an EpiPen or other auto-injection device. These devices save lives as they limit the allergic reaction and buy time for the patient to receive additional medication that can alleviate the reaction. They are crucial for first responders to carry because anaphylactic reactions can occur to anyone at any time. Today, another tragedy was prevented thanks to one of these devices.”
Since Saturday, United Hatzalah volunteers have responded to more than 50 medical emergencies involving anaphylactic reactions across Israel, thanks to the work of first responders and other medical personnel like Josh, there have not been any fatalities.
To equip more volunteers such as Josh with an EpiPen, please click here.