Shimrit Cohen is a United Hatzalah EMT from Tiberias who also volunteers with the organization’s emergency room (ER) assistance program at the Poriya Medical Center. As hospitals are approaching peak capacity with the influx of COVID patients, Shimrit knows that her volunteer shifts in the ER and activities as a United Hatzalah responder are now more vital than ever. Shimrit is so committed to helping others that she is also pursuing a degree in nursing. While volunteering in the ER, as an always on-call EMT, and a nursing student, may seem to be a lot for some people, Shimrit, who is a single mother of 8, accomplishes this with modest acknowledgment, saying she is merely a “messenger” to help do good deeds in the world.

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Shimrit at the birth

One Tuesday morning in the middle of January, Shimrit was at home studying when she received an alert for a woman in labor. The devoted volunteer immediately dashed outside to her car and drove to the given street address. Shimrit drove down the foggy and rainy street searching for the address but unable to find the precise location.

Meanwhile, the expectant mother was on the floor of her home in the midst of rapid contractions, as her panicked husband was on the phone with dispatch. The husband was hysterical and kept on yelling for help, however in his frenzy, he had mistakenly told the dispatcher the incorrect address. By this point, multiple responders were now driving around trying to locate the birth, each of them having received the faulty information. Finally, the dispatcher managed to calm the father down enough to obtain the proper information and relayed it to the responders in the field. Shimrit raced over to the now correct address.

Shimrit ran inside together with fellow EMT Oriya Sadeh, and found the mother on the ground, pushing out a baby feet-first. It was going to be a footling breech birth. Shimrit, with her ER experience, knows that when babies are in the rare and dangerous footling breech position, the acceptable procedure is for the mother to be rushed into surgery for a c-section. Not having that luxury, Shimrit quickly caught and secured the baby and helped ease it through the birthing process causing as little harm to both the mother and child as possible, as the husband was still hysterically yelling for help. Shimrit saw that despite the positioning, the infant had not been harmed during the birth and the mother as well did not appear to have sustained any injury. Miraculously, this potentially dangerous birth culminated in a healthy baby boy.

Shimrit performed a rapid assessment, finding a perfect APGAR score. As newborns are unable to properly regulate their own temperatures, Shimrit knew that it was critical to ensure that the infant was warm. She dried the slippery newborn, placing him in clean and cozy sheets. Additional EMTs arrived and joined Shimrit. Shimrit started an IV for the mother and reassured the woman that her baby was healthy. The medics then clamped and cut the umbilical cord, and as soon as an ambulance arrived, they placed the mother and newborn inside. The father turned to Shimrit and her colleagues, and now significantly calmer, he thanked them profusely. Once the mother and baby were safely on the way to the hospital and the father was able to calm down, Shimrit took her leave and returned home to continue studying.  

Shimrit spoke about the incident after the fact and said: “Being present at a birth can be difficult, especially when there are complications, but it is also a very beautiful thing. One needs to exude a sense of calm in order to help the mother relax and lower the stress level of other family members. As it was a particularly dangerous situation due to the breech birth, I am very thankful that both the mother and baby were safe.” 

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