Almost three weeks ago, on Monday evening at the soccer game between Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Maccabi Haifa in the Yaakov Turner Toto Stadium in Be’er Sheva, Yossi Cohen, a 42-year-old man, suffered a cardiac arrest. Fortunately, United Hatzalah volunteer paramedic Gal Mazor was there as part of the medical team that United Hatzalah sends to all of the Hapoel Be’er Sheva soccer matches and helped save the man’s life.

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Yossi’s rescue efforts

Yossi began to experience symptoms on Sunday evening but they subsided. They returned on  Monday afternoon when Yossi experienced shortness of breath and chest pains, both symptoms of a heart attack, but he lay down in bed, regulated his breathing, and once again they subsided. As an avid soccer fan, Yossi never missed a game of his favorite team Maccabi Haifa, and he wasn’t about to start now.  


On Monday evening, Yossi arrived at the stadium with his friend, 15 minutes before the opening whistle was blown. They were late, so they ran in a hurry to the entrance. “I was forced to stop running as I felt a sudden sharp pain in my chest,” Yossi recounted. “The pain was so extreme that I could not continue walking. I lay down on the sidewalk by the entrance to the stadium, and once again tried to regulate my breathing. I was unsuccessful, but I forced myself up anyway and we took our seats on the bleachers while I tried to catch my breath.”


20 minutes into the game, Yossi climbed down the bleachers and urgently told the usher he needed medical assistance. He couldn’t bear the pain in his chest any longer. The usher alerted the United Hatzalah medical team that was providing medical coverage for the game. United Hatzalah volunteer paramedic Gal Mazor, came running to help along with other EMTs who were in the stadium. 


“I saw Yossi on the floor, clutching his chest in pain and unable to breathe regularly,” said Gal, “My instincts told me he was suffering from a heart attack. When I attached a heart monitor, I was not surprised to see that my instincts were correct.” Gal administered medications and fluids through an IV and fitted Yossi with an oxygen mask. He told Yossi that he was experiencing a  and that they were going to bring him straight to Soroka Medical Center to have an emergency catheterization done.


It was half time, and the crowd thinned out during the intermission. Yossi was wheeled out in a wheelchair to where an intensive care ambulance was waiting for him.


When they arrived at Soroka, as Yossi later jokingly called it “The best hotel in the country,” the medical team stabilized him and the pain subsided. “I asked to go back to the stadium to finish watching the game because I felt better,” Yossi added with a smile.


A catheterization was scheduled for the next day, Tuesday afternoon. However, Yossi woke up early Tuesday morning in severe pain. Yossi only notified the nurses 45 minutes later when the pain became too much to bear. “Suddenly, everyone was on top of me again, and at a quarter to nine, they started the catheterization ahead of schedule.”


“There is probably nothing worse than a catheterization. It was a nightmare. I prayed it would end. And there I was, lying in a hospital bed for four days because of it. They said I had a blocked carotid artery with no arrhythmias.” 


“If the cigarettes were what caused the heart attack I experienced in the last 24 hours, then there was not a single cigarette worth it. The remaining cigarettes my wife got rid of by giving them to a hospital employee.”


“My advice is don’t just pray for health. Pray that you should be able to keep yourselves healthy. Act on it, be vigilant and do blood tests frequently. Stop saying that starting from tomorrow you’ll go on a diet or go on a long walk. Take action, and if you cannot do it on your own, seek help from a professional. My cousin told me something that made me very emotional. ‘You almost left our family,’ he said. It’s not worth taking the risk. Start taking care of yourselves.”


“I got so much support from the most amazing soccer players in the country,” said Yossi, “I will be there for their next game on Monday against team Ashdod, I can’t wait.” 


Maccabi Haifa spokesman Dudu Bezek said, “Happy to hear that you are recovering and coming back to yourself. This was definitely a crazy story. The players were also very excited to hear your story and that you are better. It was nice meeting you. Take care of yourself.”


Maccabi Haifa soccer player Omer Atzili wished Yossi a speedy recovery, “I heard about your story and I am happy it is behind you now. Get well soon, we love you and can’t wait to see you at our next game.”


Paramedic Gal Mazor and Yossi have become close friends since the incident occurred. Gal visited Yossi in the hospital during his recovery and they spoke to each other on the phone on a regular basis. “I suffered a heart attack and gained a friend for life. We are like brothers,” Yossi said.


“I want to thank the Creator of the world, and thank Gal for saving my life. I am grateful to be alive and well,” Yossi concluded.

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