The Kiryat Gat Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel have gotten used to seeing United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit in action over the past few months, so said Team Leader Yaakov Weinberg in a thank you note to the Unit on Wednesday.

This past week, during the Yom HaZikaron commemoration and Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration, the unit’s volunteers traveled from afar to respond to crises in the city twice, once on each day. The first instance was following the tragic death of a youngster in the city whose family was well known. Psychotrauma volunteers came from Jerusalem to help comfort the family, neighbors, and friends of the child. They helped the family mourn and cope with the incident. The volunteers stayed for a number of hours before returning home.

Psychotrauma Unit on scene in Kiryat Gat
Psychotrauma Unit on scene in Kiryat Gat

During the second incident, which occurred just after noon on Yom Ha’atzmaut, the volunteers from the Psychotrauma Unit left their family barbecues and headed once again south to help those who suffered a tragedy in the city.

According to Weinberg “I received a call around noon on Yom Ha’atzmaut that a person had fallen some five stories off of a building. I was the first person to arrive on the scene. Upon arrival, I was quickly joined by other volunteers and together we immediately began performing CPR on the patient. After a few other responders arrived we learned that there were family members in the building. I went inside and found the man’s wife and daughter. They were hysterical. Nothing we tried was able to calm them down. I called the dispatch center and requested that they send the Psychotrauma team immediately to help the family members. I was told that volunteers were leaving Beit Shemesh and that it would take them 40 minutes to get to us. I told them to get here as fast as they could, and indeed they almost beat the ambulance.”

Weinberg described how valuable the work of the unit is to those in need of emotional support following a tragedy. “Together with a police officer who arrived at the scene, I spent an hour inside trying to console the family members who were present. There were two other children who were supposed to arrive at the building as well. I tried to offer the family members whatever support and strength I could in the face of their tragedy but it was one of the hardest sights that I have ever had to witness. The complete explosion of this family and the cries of the family members was too much to bare for me, and at times I found myself crying alongside them. When the Psychotrauma volunteers arrived, they, together with the EMS teams, told the family the news that their husband and father had been declared dead, but they did it in such a calming way that the family was comforted. The level of care and professionalism that they showed is something that I had not seen before in the field when responding to those suffering a personal trauma of this nature.”

Eli Beer, Founder and President of United Hatzalah said, “The job of our Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteers is to build a support system for those who need their help. The volunteers arrive, help stabilize the patients and build a support system for them to help them figure out the next steps that they need to take and then leave once that support system is in place.”

Weinberg said that the volunteers stayed for more than two hours with the family members and neighbors who had seen the incident and were having trouble understanding the next steps in dealing with the tragedy. “After more than two hours I went out to buy pizza and drinks for the volunteers who arrived. As the head of the local team, it is the least that I could do for these volunteers who gave so much of their time on the holiday to help those in need. I can’t thank them enough for their devotion and dedication.”