One recent Friday just before Shabbat began, an Israeli hiker fell approximately 40 meters while trekking up the Bashisht mountains near the town of Old Manali, India. As one of the rabbis who works out of the Chabad house in Old Manali, I was notified about the event.
In addition to being a rabbi, I am a trained EMT and volunteered for United Hatzalah when I lived in Israel. The organization was gracious enough to give me a bag of medical equipment to keep with me here in India should the need arise. On this Friday it did. When we were notified about the emergency, I dropped what I was doing, grabbed my medical kit, and headed up to the mountains to reach the hiker, who was seriously injured.
It took me 50 minutes to reach the fallen man. I flagged down a passing motorbike and told the driver I needed to get as close as possible to the specific waterfall where the man fell. The driver took me as close as he could, and then I was left with no choice but to hike the rest of the way. It was a steep two-kilometer climb, almost directly up, with a full medical kit on my back.
When I reached the patient, I provided initial medical treatment, including spinal stabilization, an intravenous line, and bandaging his numerous wounds. After this I helped organize the rescue efforts to bring him safely out of the mountains and to a local hospital.
The hiker sustained a serious head injury, a chest injury, and other injuries to his back and limbs. He received a series of tests at the hospital, and I stayed with him until the results came back. In a foreign country, it is always better to be at a hospital with an advocate who speaks your language and can look after you. For me it is just part of doing what I do.
When one serves the community, as a rabbi or otherwise, it is important to be able to provide for the needs of those you serve. In this instance I was able to serve in a different capacity in order to help save a life. Both physical lifesaving and spiritual lifesaving are important, and I am thankful I can do a bit of both.
While this isn’t something that happens here every day, being able to be there even for one person in their time of need is enough of a reason to do what I do and be an emergency first responder and spiritual guide. It was gratifying to be able to help this man. I hope my next endeavors of assistance will not be as dramatic as this one.
Menachem Bakush is a rabbi at the Chabad house in Old Manali, India.