My name is Gil Rabi. I’m a professional singer, and I live in the city of Holon with my wife and four children. One recent Friday night, just as the Jewish New Year began, I had an experience I will never forget.
I was sitting down to the festive evening meal with my family when my United Hatzalah communication device alerted me to a medical emergency nearby. I looked at my phone and saw the emergency involved a cardiac arrest three streets down from my house. I told my wife what was going on as I grabbed my helmet and riding jacket. I rushed out the door to my ambucycle. I felt a twinge of sadness at having to abandon my family in the middle of our holiday meal, but I knew a life was hanging in the balance.
As I raced to the address, I focused on the protocols and procedures I would undertake once I arrived: Check for a pulse and breathing, attach a defibrillator if necessary, begin compressions, use assisted breathing after another person joins, etc. Two minutes later I was there.
I raced up the stairs and into the apartment. I saw a middle-aged man lying on the floor, his teenage son performing chest compressions. The sight was truly heart-wrenching, but I had to put that aside and focus on treating the patient. I rushed over to the man and, after checking for a pulse and finding none, attached a defibrillator and then relieved the son and took over compressions. A few moments later another United Hatzalah volunteer, my friend Lior Eskenasy, raced through the door and got down next to me and began ventilating the patient. A moment or two later, two other United Hatzalah EMTs, Chaim Tapiro and Yosef Sasson, also joined.
We did two revolutions of CPR, and the defibrillator paused us to deliver a shock. We checked for a pulse but didn’t find one. We continued CPR and were joined a few minutes later by a mobile intensive care ambulance team. Its crew joined our CPR in progress, attached a heart monitor, and told us to pause CPR while the monitor analyzed the patient. To our joy the monitor found a pulse. We ceased compressions and continued assisted breathing for a few moments. Then the patient began to breathe on his own. To our surprise, he even opened his eyes and began to show signs of regaining consciousness. The paramedic looked at Eskenasy and me and said, “I don’t think you two have anything to worry about this year, as God will judge you favorably. After all, you just helped him inscribe another of his children in the book of life.”
We helped the ambulance team prepare the patient for transport and carried him down to the ambulance. Once he was loaded, Eskenasy got on board as well to accompany the team to the hospital, as they were only two people and needed the extra assistance.
I can’t explain the feeling I had as I drove my ambucycle back home and walked into my living room to see my family still waiting for me. When I told them what had transpired, the glow on their faces must have mimicked my own.
It is extremely rare to have a cardiac arrest patient wake up so quickly after receiving CPR. To be a part of saving someone’s life just as the new year began, on a day Jewish tradition believes is the day God sits in judgment and we pray to be inscribed in the book of life, is something that will stay with me forever. It will be the high point of my year and a goal I will strive to achieve every time I respond to a medical emergency.
Gil Rabi is a professional singer and volunteer responder with United Hatzalah in Holon, Israel.