On Thursday afternoon, just before 4:00 p.m., a woman in her 40s in Rosh Tzurim began to feel a shortness of breath after having a mid-afternoon snack. She was unaware of having any allergies and rushed outside to ask some neighbors for help. On the way, her skin began to break out in rashes. The neighbors who responded to her shouts for help called emergency services.

Down the very same street, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Tzvi Barkai was in the middle of teaching a class of clinical students via Zoom when all of a sudden the emergency alert application on his communications device began to chime. He quickly apologized to his students and told them that he would be back soon. He rushed outside to his car, quickly drove down the street, and arrived in less than two minutes to find the woman amid a crowd of distressed neighbors.

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Tzvi Barkai

Tzvi quickly made his way through the crowd and assessed the woman’s condition. Tzvi found that the woman had an enlarged tongue, rashes in multiple locations, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, a high pulse rate, and difficulty speaking, all of which are clear signs of a severe allergic reaction. Having recently taken a specialized training course in responding to cases of anaphylaxis, Tzvi knew that once two bodily systems are affected, the allergic reaction becomes a case of anaphylaxis and the immediate treatment that is required is a dose of epinephrine. Epinephrine is the drug that is administered inside EpiPens as well as other auto-injection devices. Tzvi quickly pulled the EpiPen that he carries with him in his medical kit and administered it to the woman.

“It took about five seconds for the medication to have its effect,” Tzvi recounted afterward. “The woman’s pulse slowed and her blood pressure rose. The rashes began to subside and she was able to breathe and talk once again. It was incredible to witness.” The woman’s condition stabilized as the medicine continued to spread through her system and by the time the ambulance arrived approximately ten minutes later, the woman was stable enough to be transported to the hospital where she would receive continuing care and assessment to determine what caused the reaction.

“During the training class that I attended, EpiPens, including the one that I used on Thursday, were donated by the Eichen family to all emergency first responders in attendance. The Eichen family are partners in helping save this woman’s life today, and I want to thank them for their help,” Tzvi added.

He concluded by saying, “Anaphylaxis has a very simple, easy, and lifesaving treatment, but it can only be done if the responders have the right tools, namely EpiPens. With that tool, the situation is under control and the patient can be stabilized. Without it, one can only hope and pray that an advanced life support responder who can administer epinephrine without an auto-injection device is nearby and can get the person treatment in time. Otherwise, the person could very well die. We need more of these tools so that we can save more lives.”

To equip more volunteers such as Tzvi with an EpiPen, please click here.