Last Wednesday I was on my way to my afternoon job teaching when I was alerted to a man who had fainted. I was on my ambucycle and raced through the congested streets to arrive on site in less than 60 seconds. A 50-year-old man lay unconscious on the ground. Together with another United Hatzalah medic who had also just arrived, I quickly checked the unconscious man, finding he had not just fainted but was pulseless.
We sprang into action and began full-blown CPR. We radioed United Hatzalah’s dispatch for additional manpower and an intensive care ambulance. Within minutes another two United Hatzalah volunteers arrived and assisted in delivering chest compressions, systematic ventilations, and four shocks from a defibrillator. Our efforts were critical in keeping oxygenated blood flowing to the man’s brain and vital organs during the 14-minute wait for the ambulance. The paramedics who joined us administered drugs, and we kept up the fight for the man’s life for another 15 minutes until his pulse suddenly returned. The patient was whisked away to the hospital in serious but stable condition.
The very next afternoon a 52-year-old woman in the supermarket was checking out when she collapsed to the floor in midpurchase. The cashier screamed, shoppers panicked, and a level-headed worker called emergency services. Once again the residents of Beit Shemesh saw me flying through the local streets on my ambucycle. Arriving in 90 seconds, I joined another United Hatzalah volunteer who had begun CPR on the pulseless woman right there in the checkout aisle. Other medics arrived as well as the police, who distanced curious onlookers from the immediate area. I attached the defibrillator pads, and the device advised a shock. The woman’s body jerked from the powerful electric jolt, after which we resumed compressions.
An ambulance arrived, and the crew joined the battle. Finally, after 25 minutes of strenuous CPR and one more shock from the defibrillator, we succeeded in restoring the woman’s pulse. We stabilized and rushed her to the hospital for further emergency care. The next day I heard the woman had regained full consciousness and was scheduled to be released.
As a volunteer with United Hatzalah, I never have a “normal” day. I don’t know what emergencies I will get called to and how painful they will be. I therefore always have to maintain a relaxed state of mind, mixed with professionalism and readiness. Often the calls come in at the most inconvenient times, but I still rush out to answer them, hoping they won’t mess up my plans too badly. Even when they do, I don’t keep score. I go and try to provide whatever help I can. The moments of true satisfaction are sweetest when I get an instance of successful CPR or see the worry ease on the faces of the patients and their loved ones when I rush in and they know someone who can help has arrived.
What really drives me, as a person who volunteers, is the encouragement and support I and my fellow volunteers receive from the organization. It supplies us with everything we need. I always hope I will meet people at happy occasions, but even when it is during medical emergencies, I try to greet everyone with a smile and help lift up their spirits as well as treat their injuries or illnesses.
Avraham Levinger is a volunteer responder with United Hatzalah.