I had just left my mother’s home in Rehovot on Thursday evening after bringing her some supplies. My brother and sister-in-law were visiting with their family. My car had broken down due to a dead battery, and I received a jump start from a member of a volunteer car service organization known as Yedidim. The volunteer advised me to keep driving for a while to ensure the battery didn’t die, so I did. I was driving around the block near my mother’s apartment building when I received an alert on my emergency communication device, informing me that a young girl was choking nearby. To my shock, the address displayed was my mother’s apartment. It was my niece who was choking.
I quickly returned to the building, thankful for my newly charged car battery, and arrived first at the scene. I ran up the stairs, where my brother opened the door to hasten my entry. My young niece was handed to me immediately.
The dispatcher was still on the phone, instructing my mother on how to clear the blockage that my niece was choking on, but my mother was struggling to perform it correctly. My sister-in-law was in tears and screaming, and my brother, who was attempting to help, was visibly relieved to see me.
I performed five Heimlich thrusts followed by five back slaps. I then turned my niece on her side and cleared her mouth with my pinky. By then, two other United Hatzalah volunteers, Haim Yisroel Shuldiner and Chani Vaknin, along with a new trainee, had arrived to assist. I managed to dislodge a piece of green candy from her mouth. As the candy was removed, my niece began to cough and breathe again. We all sighed in relief as she regained consciousness. Yisroel Haim informed the dispatch that the danger had passed and that my niece was conscious again. She was initially disoriented and then became very upset, as did my brother.
I consulted with Hadass Peleg, a head of the Psychotrauma unit, who advised me on how to talk to my niece and my brother to calm them, ensuring they didn’t feel helpless, which could have lasting negative effects on their psyches. My brother had done everything he could, calling for help, and my mother had attempted the Heimlich maneuver, but they weren’t as skilled as trained responders. Fortunately, we averted a major tragedy together.
A few days later, my brother revealed he had been donating monthly to United Hatzalah for some time. It seems his charity played a role in saving my niece. The charity indirectly helped him and our entire family.
I will never forget last Thursday. People often become confused about basic procedures during medical emergencies. I strongly recommend that everyone gets training and knows which emergency number to call.
First responders are not immune to this confusion. Many colleagues have admitted to freezing up in emergencies involving their own families. It’s more challenging when it’s personal. I’m grateful I maintained composure and clarity, enabling me to save my niece. In the moment, I didn’t fully realize I was saving my niece; I treated her as I would any child in need. That approach saved her life.