“This morning I had the privilege to save a life in mid-air.” so said the President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer, who treated a man on an El Al flight from Newark to Tel Aviv for severe hypoglycemia. The in-flight treatment that Beer provided took the patient from a glucose level of 40 to a stable level of 120 and lasted approximately two hours.

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Eli and his patient exiting the plane – with permission from the patient to use this image.

“I was flying from Newark to Tel Aviv this morning, and while I was sleeping someone alerted me to a person who required medical attention a few rows in front of me. I jumped up from my seat and ran to where the person was seated. I saw a man who was about 65 years old, with convulsions, who had a cold sweat, was very pale and had a very high pulse rate. The man had difficulty speaking. I tried to communicate with him and was unable to do so. I asked the flight crew to bring me the Doctor’s medical bag and equipment. After a short check of his vital signs, even prior to obtaining the bag I was able to diagnose the man with hypoglycemia. His lack of glucose was so severe that it appeared he would lose consciousness at any minute and we it was possible that if that occurred we would need to begin CPR.

I asked the flight crew to request a glucometer and glucose from the passengers. In the meantime I made the man swallow honey and some jam that was nearby while he was still convulsing. One passenger ran over with a glucometer that they had with them and after a quick check, we found that this man’s glucose level was at 40. This was after a few minutes that we had been force feeding him sugars. I initiated glucose treatments thanks to the helpful passenger, and after about 30 minutes the man began to calm down. I took responsibility and told the flight manager that there was no need for an emergency landing. I stayed with the ill patient for two-and-a-half hours to continue giving him glucose and monitor his situation until he stabilized and came back to himself. Only after his sugar level stabilized at 120, and the man regained full consciousness, did I go back to my seat.

The El Al staff, especially the flight manager, were terrific and very helpful, as were a psychiatrist and neurologist from Ichilov who also helped in the beginning.

I have no doubt that I saved a life today. When he came to, the man told me that he was on his way from Detroit to Israel for his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. I am proud to be a United Hatzalah volunteer in the air and on land. After more than two hours of treatment and no sleep, I got off of my flight with an incredible feeling of pride for all the other United Hatzalah volunteers who do things like this every day.”

         – Eli Beer, Founder and President of United Hatzalah


The Vice President of Customer Services from El Al Amir Rogovsky said regarding the incident: “We want to thank Mr. Eli Beer for the resourcefulness and quick thinking that he showed on this morning’s flight. Thanks to the assistance he provided the passenger, he assisted in helping save the man’s life and we wish to thank him from the bottom of our hearts.”

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