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Stories From the Streets: Missing Senior

Liran Mazkereth is a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT who lives in Tel Aviv and serves with the Herzliya team. On a recent Wednesday night, United Hatzalah’s dispatch and command center was alerted to an 80-year-old woman who was reported missing in Herzliya just after 11 p.m. She had last been seen six hours earlier, and given that she was suffering from diabetes and in a troubled emotional state, there was significant concern for her welfare.

It was reported that she was scared to undergo a scheduled leg operation and thus had fled from the hospital. Although she had cut off contact with her daughter and son-in-law, they continued to care for her from afar and notified emergency services that she had not returned to the hospital or her home.

United Hatzalah initiated its search and rescue protocol and in spite of the late hour began a massive manhunt in conjunction with the police and fire and rescue services. Mazkereth joined the search effort and was one of several United Hatzalah volunteers deployed around the area who began to comb locations the woman would likely visit. Just after 2:30 a.m., following several hours of searching, Mazkereth located the woman, who had wandered off and fallen asleep among discarded boxes and garbage behind a medical clinic. She had sought relief for her swollen leg but found the health center closed. The elderly woman was barely able to walk on the leg, so she decided to simply sleep nearby for the night.

Mazkereth immediately notified dispatch, and within minutes the other United Hatzalah volunteers and police officers who had been searching arrived at his location. They conducted a thorough medical examination, noting the clearly painful leg and the disoriented woman’s skyrocketing fever. They took her vital signs and stabilized her until an ambulance arrived and transported her back to the hospital.

Since the woman was suffering from a high fever, it was suspected that she might be a coronavirus carrier. Thus all of the EMTs who were present were warned that they should stay in self-isolation until the woman could be tested and the results returned.

“Fortunately, the test results came back negative,” Mazkereth reports. “But even if it had meant quarantine, it would have been worth it. Saving her life is worth it. As an EMS volunteer in the COVID-19 era, I put myself in harm’s way every time I go out there and respond to an emergency. We follow all the protocols we can to protect ourselves, but still there is always a chance of catching the virus. Regardless of the danger, we still go out there and do what we do, because otherwise people would not receive the help they need in time. I helped save this woman’s life, and there will be others. That is my purpose, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Devo Klein is 19 years old and doing her national service with United Hatzalah. She is from Israel and lives in a small town called Chashmonaim located outside the city of Modi'in. 

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