Yoav Refeal and Micah Shulem
Yoav Refeal and Micah Shulem

Yoav Refael Bruchi, just a six-year-old child was lying by the side of the road unconscious and without a pulse. He was suffering from head wounds and had a dismembered leg and he was completely covered in dirt. His brother Uri, who was one year older stood nearby and was in complete shock, his  spirit crushed.

This is how Micah Shulem, an veteran EMT from United Hatzalah found the children following the horrendous accident that nearly destroyed the family. “I will never forget that day, for as long as I live,” said the experiences EMT, “I got out of my car and I saw a large gathering of people standing nearby. That is how I located the site of the accident. The driver who caused the accident was standing nearby as well. Later I found out that he had had his license revoked previously, had no insurance, and was speeding recklessly. He hit the two brothers while they were crossing the street together with a group of other children who had gotten off of a school bus. Yoav Refael looked like a porcelain doll completely covered in dust. Another EMT arrived with me and we immediately began CPR in order to resuscitate Yoav.”

Shulem had already performed CPR many times under the guise of his volunteering with United Hatzalah. He provided first aid response at the scenes of many terror attacks both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But nothing prepared him for conducting CPR on a six-year-old schoolboy who was just trying to return home. “When you need to conduct CPR on a child who was just a few moments ago happy and healthy, you continually ask yourself ‘Why?’ You carry on and muster all of your your knowledge and experience and only one thought stays in your head: the need to succeed.”

“I looked at this boy who only a few moments ago stepped off of his school bus and suddenly was dead – the loss of consciousness due to injury is to be on the verge of death. During the CPR compressions I prayed that he would come back to us, that he would cough, that his heart would begin beating once again.”  

Shulem said that the incident will remain with him for a long time. “I will never forget the way that  Yoav Refael looked or how how his father looked when he arrived at the scene and heard about what happened. He fainted on the spot. I’ll also never forget the driver responsible for the accident, nor the dirt that accumulated in my mouth as I performed CPR on the child.”

“I returned home completely drained from the experience, and I went to lie down. The next day I called Kaplan Hospital in order to inquire about the well being of Yoav and I was told that he had been moved to the Schneider Children’s hospital,” said Yoav.

The doctors at Schneider determined that the treatment that Yoav received at the hands of Shulem and the other medics who arrived at the scene from United Hatzalah saved his life. 

The harrowing event occurred at the beginning of the 2014 schools year. Yoav Refael began first grade and that day began the “horror movie” as Zadok Baruchi, the father of Yoav and Uri termed the events that began on that day with the accident. A Horror movie with a happy ending.

Yoav suffered head injuries that were so severe that doctors would not offer a prognosis, now he has returned to full health, more or less.  

“I was at work when suddenly my wife called me. She was screaming hysterically “they’ve run over our children, come immediately,” Zadok recalled. Zadok works as research biologist. “When I arrived Yoav was in an ambulance unconscious and on a respirator. I went with him to Kaplan hospital where they immediately operated on him due to a tear in his liver. From there they transferred him with as much speed as possible to Schneider Children’s hospital. Yoav was in a coma for a month, until one day he opened his eyes and began to breathe on his own. As he was waiting to be transferred from the surgical ward to the rehabilitation ward he began to interact with his surroundings, he moved a foot, there was a ray of hope.

Yoav’s rehabilitation was a long one and only after six months was he was released from hospital to home care. In September 2015 we were told that Yoav can again begin to return to school. He was instructed to attend swimming classes in order to help with his injuries, which we were hoping would continue to pass over time without too many further complications. “We are God-fearing people and we strongly believe that God performed a number of  miracles for us during Yoav’s healing process,” said Zadok, “The doctors simply could not  believe their eyes when Yoav came for a checkup at the hospital. They to believe that his recovery is nothing short of miraculous.  

Shulem, who was invited and attended the celebratory event in honor of Yoav’s miraculous recovery said that “It is unbelievable how this child has returned to himself. When I arrived at the celebration I started to cry. The child is running around, happy, and jumping, no one  would believe that this is the same child or what he went through. Today he appears to be a completely normal child, he returned to life in both meanings of the word.”  

Shulem began his career as an EMT when he gathered up a group of friends and hired an instructor to teach them a course in first aid. As a youngster he volunteered for a short stint on an ambulance. “After that members of the Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel began to get organized and we joined United Hatzalah. Fourteen years ago I moved to Rehovot. I began the United Hatzalah chapter in the city and today I am a regular volunteer with them” said Shulem.

The story of Yoav Refael Bruchi is just one of the unbelievable stories that occur at United Hatzalah every single day. “If by chance I was not in the area that day to save Yoav, or I hadn’t received training the equipment from United Hatzalah, or if I had gotten there just a moment later, Yoav would not be wit us today. God apparently thought that I needed to be there, and the rest is history. It is one of those stories that is not pleasant to recall how it began, but it is heartwarming to think about how it ended,” concluded Shulem.