On Yom Kippur evening, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Mordecai Holtz, who lives in the town of Neve Daniel, was praying in shul during the special holiday service, when his emergency communication device alerted him to a medical emergency that was taking place nearby.

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Mordechai Holz

A five-month-old baby was choking a few blocks away from Mordecai’s location. The EMT quickly stopped his prayers and rushed to the given location, arriving in less than 45 seconds.

Mordecai hurried into a home where worried parents were holding their choking baby girl. The volunteer asked what had happened as he began monitoring the infant. The parents explained that their baby had just started to crawl, and apparently swallowed a loose magnet. The baby had begun gagging and coughing up blood, and that’s when they called United Hatzalah for help.

The baby was breathing, but not properly, so Mordecai quickly began performing the Heimlich maneuver on the infant. After no success, Mordecai realized that the Heimlich may be doing more harm than good, so he used a stethoscope to try and find the magnet. That too was unsuccessful.

Mordecai realized that the baby wasn’t choking completely as its airway wasn’t completely blocked. The baby was retching, meaning her gag reflex was acting up due to a partial blockage in her windpipe. Together with other EMS personnel who arrived, the decision was made to encourage the baby to keep retching as long as her airway stayed partially open. By holding the baby in an upright position and maintaining an open airway, the magnet stayed where it was and did not form a complete blockage of the baby’s windpipe. Mordecai was able to keep the baby stable until an ambulance arrived and the child was transferred to the nearest hospital.

Later during the holiday, Mordecai met members of the ambulance team walking through the streets of the town and was told that the baby had made a full recovery after doctors had managed to extricate the magnet from the baby’s throat. The baby was expected to make a full recovery. This would not have been possible if Mordecai had not responded so quickly and maintained the baby’s open airway.

“On the eve of Yom Kippur, we all stand together as a nation and pray to be inscribed in the book of life. On this day, there is nothing more meaningful than saving a life,” Mordecai commented. “This incident really put into perspective for me the gravity of the day. Here, in my very town, a new life was almost extinguished just a few hours into the most significant day of the Jewish calendar. Thanks to my training and to receiving the alert in time I was able to prevent a major tragedy from occurring and help write to make sure that this baby was inscribed in the book of life. It is one of the most meaningful Yom Kippur holidays that I have ever had.”

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