Last Thursday, a couple’s night out was cut short by not one but two medical emergencies. Miri Shvimmer a volunteer paramedic, and Lior Ashkenazi, a volunteer EMT, and ambucycle driver were attending a performance of Les Miserable at Tel Aviv’s Habimah theater. As the applause started and before the curtain came down, the couple received an emergency call from United Hatzalah’s national dispatch center. Ashkenzai recounted the incident.

Miri and Lior take part in a "Neshama" couples activity in Tel Aviv. Both Miri (paramedic) and Lior (EMT) volunteer and save lives with United Hatzalah.
Miri (paramedic) and Lior (EMT) volunteer and save lives with United Hatzalah.

“We got the call that a car accident had occurred near the theater. We ran out and jumped on Lior’s ambucycle, and sped to the location. As we got there, we saw that plenty of EMS responders, people who had been closer to the incident than us, were already on scene. However, just as we arrived,  we received a second call from the dispatch notifying us that a man was hanging from a tree not too far from our location,” explained Ashkenazi.

Seeing that the patients at the scene we were currently at we all attended to, we rushed over to the call, noting that it was an advanced life support (ALS) call and that Miri’s training as a paramedic was sorely needed. The man, who was of African descent, was hanging from a tree in an enclosed garden by a belt. While the responders were unsure of how he got there, they immediately sprang into action.

“Whenever there are calls that need ALS we go out together,” Shvimmer said as she smiled. “I keep the ALS equipment from my bag in his ambucycle, so that wherever we go we have a full complement of medical supplies with us. The ambucycle has just enough room for the extra ALS equipment so we had it on hand.”

The responders who gathered at the scene together with Ashkenazi and Shvimmer cut the man down and began to perform CPR on him. The patient had no pulse and was not breathing. Ashkenazi opened an IV line, Shvimmer asked another responder to attach a defibrillator which instructed the gathered EMS team to shock the patient, after which Miri intubated the patient and administered adrenaline. Ashkenazi monitored the patient during the ensuing CPR and after the second round of compressions, the man’s pulse returned.

“As a volunteer, there is a great feeling when we go out on calls, especially when we succeed in saving someone’s life,” said Shvimmer who is just finishing her MA in Neuroscience. Shvimmer holds a joint bachelor’s degree as a nurse and paramedic. She and Ashkenazi are planning to study medicine together once she finishes her current round of her studies. Ashkenazi already works as an Osteopath by day regularly responds to emergency calls.

“Going out to calls with a life partner gives us a sense of completeness. Many couples go on vacation to spend quality time together away from the distractions of daily life. We do that as well, but we also have this part of our lives where we are going out and helping people, and that also helps us understand and support one another. We were both very active on our own in saving lives before we met one another. Today we continue to respond to emergencies separately as well. But when we are together we respond together and that allows us to support each other both during the emergencies and after. If we respond to a really hard call, such as saving a child who was hit by a car or a family that was caught in a fire, we share it together and we can have each other’s backs at the scene. We are also there to support each other emotionally when we need it in the aftermath,” Shvimmer said.

Shvimmer said that the couple hasn’t yet seen too many high-stress calls together, but they certainly understand the stories that they tell one another from before they had met. “We understand each other and speak the same language. Volunteering as an EMS responder is intense for anybody. For us, it is special that we can share these intense experiences together. Every time we save a life together or help treat someone and relieve their pain together it brings us closer to each other. It is another experience shared and another good deed done. Something that perhaps we will tell our children about one day.”