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Wrestling With the Angel of Death and Prevailing
On Sunday morning just after 2:00 AM, an elderly man suffered a cardiac arrest on Hiya Ubanav Street in Tiberias. His panicked daughter alerted emergency services and also made sure to call Yair Nahum, a family acquaintance and volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah who lives nearby.
Yair was fast asleep when his phone rang from the bedside table. Figuring the family wouldn’t call him in the middle of the night without a good reason, he answered the phone and immediately heard the woman’s frightened voice uttering the fateful words: “My father stopped breathing, please come now!”
The volunteer jumped out of bed, updated United Hatzalah’s Command and Dispatch Center, and soon found himself sitting astride his ambucycle speeding to the location through the empty streets of the city. Arriving at the scene in less than 90 seconds, he found additional responders who had arrived seconds earlier. “Knowing the patient, I was able to brief them on the man’s background regarding his heart conditions and dialysis,” Yair recalled after the incident.
One of these first responders was Meir Hayon, another volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah, who had just finished responding to another emergency when was alerted about this incident. Arriving at the scene on his ambucycle at the same time as a third EMT, Meir found the 73-year-old man pulseless and immediately initiated CPR.
Meir took out his emergency medical kit and defibrillator as Yair, who had now joined him, connected a bag valve mask to the oxygen tank and placed it over the patient’s mouth and nose in order to provide him with assisted ventilation.
The first responders attached a defibrillator, which did not recommend administering any chock throughout the entire resuscitation effort. They took turns performing chest compressions in front of the terrified family members. “The pressure I felt was enormous, I had just spent time with the family on Shabbat (yesterday) and I couldn’t imagine having to tell them that their loved one was gone,” Yair recalled. “I had to make sure to harness that stress in a positive way in order to be as efficient as possible.”
When the mobile intensive care unit arrived, Yair inserted an intravenous line to allow the paramedic to administer medications and IV fluids. Yair also briefed the paramedic about the patient’s medical history.
After 20 minutes of effort, the man’s pulse was suddenly restored and he was taken to the hospital for further care. “The feeling of relief and satisfaction was overwhelming,” Yair recounted. “I am so thankful I have the tools to help save the lives of people in my community. Meir concurred and said: “Bringing someone back to life is a feeling that few experiences can equal. While I’ve done it countless times, it is always a truly special feeling. It is quite literally wrestling with the Angel of Death and prevailing.”
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