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The Thought That Keeps Me Going: An EMT’s First-Hand Account of the Neve Yaakov Terror Attack
By Shlomo Gurfein
On Friday night, I was eating a family Shabbat dinner when I got alerted by Yosef Deshet and Chanoch Re’em, two of my fellow United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs, about a mass shooting that was taking place in Neve Yaakov. I was the volunteer on-call in the neighborhood this Shabbat, so I quickly got ready. I took my private gun and my medical equipment with me and left and raced to the scene on my electric bicycle. Upon my arrival, I saw numerous other EMT volunteers as well as ambulances begin pulling up to the scene. We were waiting for the police to secure the scene and give us the all-clear that it was safe for us to enter.
The terrorist was still at the scene and still shooting at people. I saw him shoot a woman and the bullet went through her from one side to the other. I was horrified. A moment later the police neutralized the terrorist and then let us enter the area to treat the injured. All of the volunteer first responders who were nearby rushed into the area where the shooting had taken place a moment earlier and began treating people. I ran to take care of one of the victims. I found the man beyond help and I ran to another. The same situation occurred, and I ran to a third. Each time I kept checking people, they were already deceased. Until I finally found a woman who was still alive, without intervention she wouldn’t be for long.
The woman, who I later found out was 67 years old, had two bullets in her arms and another two in her thighs. The woman had massive blood loss coming from an artery in her leg. I quickly pulled out a CAT tourniquet from my medical trauma bag and applied it to her leg above where the entry wound was in an effort to stem the massive bleeding. The blood flow stopped. Paramedics arrived and I helped them place the woman on a stretcher and move her into the ambulance where she was given fluids and transferred to the nearest hospital in a crucial condition.
I returned to the chaos. People all around me were screaming. The bodies of those who were tragically killed lay strewn on the street surrounded by pools of blood. Family members had begun to arrive and many had begun sobbing next to their fallen loved ones. It was a horrific sight, one of the worst tragedies that I had witnessed.
As an EMT, I have to act in the moment, I cannot allow myself to feel. I have to keep a hold on my feelings until later until I’m no longer needed to assist others. I always stay neutral and serious; I show confidence to the people that I treat. If I was in their shoes, I would want the same thing from the person taking care of me.
The scenes of terror attacks are not truly different from other emergencies, aside from the additional chaos and danger. The victims are very much in a state of panic and often terrified after being shot at and witnessing the carnage around them. This holds true for many scenes of trauma where there is a lot of blood and carnage all around. One of the important things for the victims is a sense that they are not alone and that they are being cared for. I always try to talk to each of my patients and calm them down. I assure them as best I can that the danger has passed and that they are safe and will now be able to begin the road to recovery. It helps provide them with some grounding and a sense of security to regain control in a chaotic scene.
I truly hope the survivors of this tragic attack will heal and be able to return to normal lives. As for myself, I know that I saved at least one woman’s life that night, and that keeps me going and gives me the energy to save more lives. Even though there were many who were beyond my help, I saved one, and one is an entire world. This thought helps keep me going, that and knowing that I am always here to help the people around me and my community.
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