Last week, Tamar Grunebaum Ben Ari, a United Hatzalah volunteer in Kfar Saba, was at her home when she received a call about a suffocation victim. What would normally be a routine event for a woman who has been an EMT for the past 5 years, turned out to be something a bit out of the ordinary. 

When Tamar looked at her communications device after receiving the alert, she was astounded to see just how close to home the incident truly was. “There is something chilling about reading your own address as the scene of an emergency. It took me a few seconds to process what was happening,” she recounted.

Tamar grabbed her emergency medical kit and ran down two flights of stairs to an apartment below hers where she found her neighbor, a man in his 70s, who was suffering from an obstructed airway and had already begun to turn blue. She immediately initiated the Heimlich maneuver and after several attempts succeeded in dislodging a piece of watermelon that had been stuck in the man’s throat. “It was just like in the movies,” she recalled.

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The cake and note Tamar received from her neighbors a day later.


A day later, Tamar received a cake from the wife of the man that she had saved with a note attached to it. “My noble neighbor, thank you for saving my husband,” read the note. “I want to wish you that your family should know only good health.”  

Eran Ego, the regional paramedic and deputy head of United Hatzalah’s Kfar Saba chapter, praised Tamar’s actions: “When I heard about this story, I wasn’t surprised that it was Tamar. She truly embodies the values of United Hatzalah – of giving to others without asking for anything in return and dedicating one’s time to help those in their hour of need. Tamar arrived as soon as possible at the scene and identified the right course of action in order to save the patient’s life.” 

Ofer Lewin, head of the chapter, added: “Tamar Grunebaum Ben Ari has been a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah for over 5 years, and despite her busy life responds to medical emergencies at any hour of the day or night and no matter the circumstances. This time the life she saved belonged to one of her neighbors in her own building. The story could have ended differently if she hadn’t been there.”

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