“Perhaps my words or my actions will save a life.” This is not a statement that each of us can make on a daily basis, but for some people, people who volunteer as first responders such as Mordechai Mammon, these are words to live by.

Mammon suffered a personal tragedy when he was very young and lost a sister who was run over by a speeding car while she was crossing the street in a crosswalk. Regarding the incident, Mammon said the following:

“It is impossible to put into words just how much I miss my sister. Saying goodbye to her was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Tehilla, my younger sister, was only 5 and a half years old when a driver sped right through a crosswalk and hit her. Tehilla was killed and the life of my family was shattered on that crosswalk.”

EMT Modechai Mammon superimposed is a picture of his sister
EMT Mordechai Mammon superimposed is a picture of his sister

So began the story of Mammon becoming a volunteer EMT with Israel’s national volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) organization known as United Hatzalah. “In the three years that I have been volunteering with United Hatzalah as an EMT I have seen far too many traffic accidents,” said Mammon. “The purpose of United Hatzalah is to arrive at the scene of any medical emergency across the country within three minutes, before the ambulance service can arrive, and begin treating the victims. Therefore, I have often found myself being the first responder, alone, at the scene of a medical emergency or traffic accident. During these times, I am the only person that stands between life and death for the injured people involved.”

Mammon said that, like many other volunteers, he often gets asked tough questions by people who are not in the field. “People who know my family history, who know that my sister was killed in a car accident, often ask me how I deal with the real life situations that I find myself in as an EMT. I don’t always answer them. Sometimes even thinking about the answer is too difficult for me.”

But Mammon does have an answer. “The truth is that I face the pain. In a week during which I respond to accidents that are lethal, that pain hits me sevenfold. But the desire to help, to heal the wounded and to save lives, is no less strong and it allows me to arrive at the scene, disengage from my own personal pain and memories and treat the injured in a removed and professional manner. The pain usually hits afterwards when I return home.”  

“People ask me, ‘What do I need this for? Why do I run towards situations that make me face the pain of the wound of the death of Tehilla, a pain that will not go away? Why is that a good thing?’ I know that those who are asking these questions are worried about me and trying to look out for me. I tell them that as an EMT every minute counts, and the fact that I arrive before the ambulance can save lives. Arriving within two to three minutes of an incident can make the difference between life and death.”

For Mammon, a lot of his personal fortitude comes from his personal tragedy. “When Tehilla was hit by the speeding car inside the crosswalk all those years ago, it took the ambulance a very long time to arrive. United Hatzalah didn’t exist back in those days. Had there been an organization such as United Hatzalah, had a medical practitioner or EMT arrived on scene to help Tehilla in those first few minutes, the story of my family may have been entirely different and perhaps the tragedy we lived through could have been prevented.”

Mammon explained that ever since he became an EMT he has always paid special attention when responding to car accidents and never hesitates to go when he receives such a call, no matter what else may be happening at the time. “I run. I run to save lives. I know that I am the person who can change the outcome. I am happy to say that I have been successful at doing so on numerous occasions. It is an incredible feeling and it gives me the strength I need to be able to deal with the harsh scenes and the personal pain I feel. This is how I find comfort. My sister Tehilla was unable to be saved, but I have already saved the sisters and brothers as well as the husbands and wives and fathers and sisters of many other people. That knowledge pushes me to drop whatever else it is that I am doing and run to emergencies. I am the one to respond and provide help to those in need. “

Mammon ended with a message that he wanted to pass on. “It is important to me that people know that medical intervention during the first few minutes after a medical emergency, even before an ambulance responds, saves lives. I hope that everyone who agrees with me will share my words. Perhaps my message will encourage others to take up the mantle of lifesaving and volunteer to become EMTs or first responders. Perhaps after reading this, one driver out there will drive a bit slower, a bit safer. Or perhaps my words may bring peace to another family that has had a similar experience and lost someone precious to them. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I will be doing my part to help wherever and whenever I can.”