A few weeks ago, a woman in her 50s suffered chest pains in her home in the city of Acre. Her relatives alerted emergency services.

Chen right together with United Hatzalah Akko branch head Noam Lifshin 226x300 1
Chen (right) together with United Hatzalah Acre branch head Noam Lifshin

One of the first to respond to the emergency, which ended in the transport of the patient to the hospital, was United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Chen ben Yehuda. Chen, a 43-year-old resident of the Netiv HaShayara moshav, is not your standard first responder: he uses a wheelchair to get around.

“My story began a few years ago when I started having back pains. I underwent an unsuccessful surgery which damaged my spine. After a while, I decided to go through another surgery which worsened my condition even more, causing my right leg to go numb. Since then I have been using a wheelchair,” Chen explained.

Chen had to learn to live with his disability. “Before my injury, I was always an active person, I used to work in a government office and I was always on my feet,” he said. “It was hard to transition from that to sitting in a wheelchair all the time. I started looking for ways to contribute to my community and I saw on my moshav׳s Whatsapp group that a United Hatzalah EMT course was opening up. I decided to trust my gut and sign up. At first, people looked at me weirdly, thinking it was impossible for a person with a disability to be a first responder and save lives. But my instructors in the course kept telling me nothing is impossible and supporting me, which helped me believe in myself,’’ Chen said.

He completed the course successfully and began responding to emergencies on ambulance shifts in and around Acre.“I found tricks that help me provide medical assistance comfortably and overcome my disability,” the volunteer explained. “For instance, I put on knee pads so I can get on my knees to perform CPR. I am used to getting on and off the ambulance and the ambulance crew is used to putting my wheelchair into the ambulance or taking it out. It all happens very quickly and smoothly.”

The EMT talked about his motivations for volunteering with a disability and said, “The medical field has always fascinated me. After I joined the EMT course I was exposed to a lot of knowledge and experiences and I enjoyed it very much. When I was out in the field on the ambulance shifts I saw people in need of help, I learned how to provide assistance and actually see the influence of my help. I found it very satisfying.’’

Chen continues, “I don’t feel any less of an EMT because of my disability, I actually feel better, because I’m living proof that a man with a disability can do what any other person does. I strongly believe that giving is also a way of receiving, I provide medical treatment and I receive satisfaction and happiness. It pushes me to continue volunteering and saving lives.’’

To support United Hatzalah volunteers such as Chen, please click here.