Last Friday I realized a dream—a dream that God would allow me to save someone’s life. I mean from start to finish—not just as part of a medical process but to actually save them with my own two hands.
I have been a paramedic for the past 20 years and participated in countless CPR cases. Some of them have been successful, others were not. I have participated in saving lives many times—as part of a team that did its job and passed on a live patient who survived their ordeal with the help of doctors in hospitals as well as first responders who arrived before and after me. But over my many years, I have never yet been the person who arrived first at a scene where a person was dead. I had yet to be the person who connected my defibrillator to them and became the messenger of God primarily responsible for bringing that person back.
For years I have dreamed of doing this, and every time an EMT or paramedic wrote a story in our social media group that they responded to an emergency, brought a patient’s pulse back, and a few days later that person was released from the hospital without any neurological damage, I felt happy for them. But in my heart I desired that one day I would be able to be that person who wrote this story. Last Friday that day came.
Neighbor in Need
I was in the middle of cooking for Shabbat. It was 5:21 p.m., and I received a phone call from my friend’s husband who lives in the building opposite me. I was on the other line, so his call went to my call waiting. He called me again. It went to call waiting again. I switched calls and answered him, but the line went dead. A second later there was a knock at my door. At the door was their eldest son, age 12. In an incredibly calm and collected voice, he said, “My mother hit her head. She is bleeding and unconscious.”
When I heard this, my husband and I ran to our car, grabbed my medical supplies, and rushed over to their house. When we got there we heard screams: “Over here! Over here!” We ran into the room and found my friend Michal, a 38-year-old woman, unconscious. She was not breathing and had no pulse. Her quick-witted husband, who had taken one of my first aid courses many years ago, was performing chest compressions. I alerted dispatch to the situation and began a full-on CPR. I attached a defibrillator, which recognized a heartbeat and applied one shock. I began ventilating my friend as her husband continued compressions. Then we switched.
In minutes the room filled with United Hatzalah volunteer first responders and ambulance teams. Together we conducted a synchronized CPR for the ages. As we took over CPR from my friend, my husband, who is not a trained first responder, took the man aside and began to calm him and helped him calm the children. I kept telling my friend she had to come back to us—she had to come back to her husband, her children, her community, and her friends. After 17 minutes of CPR and four shocks, she finally listened to me and came back.
Her vital signs began to look good again, and the ambulance crew took her to the hospital.
Social service representatives from the city arrived and asked how they could help the family.
That Shabbat was not an easy one on a personal level. My husband and I were worried about our friend’s condition, and we helped her family cope any way we could. As we are not able to use our phones on Shabbat except for emergencies, we had no way of knowing what was transpiring in the hospital and how our friend was doing. Together with other neighbors, we watched the children while the father accompanied the mother at the hospital.
I finally spoke with the husband on Saturday night and heard that my friend’s situation was not looking good. We were asked to pray for her full recovery. “The doctors don’t know what caused her to collapse,” he said, “and they don’t know how long her brain went without oxygen. They can’t tell me if or when she will wake up. We need a miracle.”
I spread the word around our community that the family was in need of our continued help and prayers.
On Tuesday we got word from the hospital that my friend woke up and was breathing on her own. She was able to recognize her husband and even spoke to her children. There were no words to describe the joyous feeling I had. When her husband told me the news, we both began to cry tears of joy and happiness. There was no doubt the compressions I had taught her husband had helped and that our intervention and beginning CPR so quickly were what saved my friend’s life.
I thank the Lord who gave me the chance to be one of his messengers and save the life of my friend. I thank United Hatzalah, the organization in which I volunteer, for giving me the training, equipment, and ability to save a life. I also want to thank my husband, who is also a volunteer with the organization and helped me realize this dream and every other dream I have.
To everyone else I say, go learn first aid, because the day will come when it will be your turn to save a life. It may even be the life of someone you hold very dear to your heart—you will need to know what to do.
Sivan Mashiach is a paramedic with United Hatzalah in Israel.