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Patient Care

Stories From the Streets: Cliff Rescue

Moshe Raveh was just packing up his equipment. A volunteer EMT for United Hatzalah in the town of Shlomi, he’d attended to a medical emergency on Shabbat afternoon and had just finished treating the patient when he received another emergency alert regarding a life-threatening incident near the Keshet Cave, a popular natural attraction.

Despite being more than nine kilometers away, Raveh was identified as one of the closest first responders to the incident. He left the building where the previous patient was being loaded into an ambulance, jumped on his ambucycle, and raced down the highway to the cave. Raveh parked where the trail began and continued down the path on foot, hoping to find where the incident took place. 

“After quickly walking down the path for a few minutes, I arrived at an area where the path makes a sharp turn that if you miss, you can fall over the edge of the cliff,” recounted Raveh. “I noticed there was a tourist group on the trail, and a man standing at the edge of the cliff told me his daughter had fallen into the ravine below. A police officer had also arrived and asked if I knew the path and if I could accompany him down. As a local resident, I knew the path down into the ravine, and I took the police officer and another bystander who had offered to help down the path.”

The three found the girl on the edge of a precipice, unconscious and unresponsive. “The first thing we did was move her away from the cliff so neither she nor we would fall,” said Raveh. “We brought her to a wide outcropping of rock where we could lie her down and begin treating her. We were worried about the steep drop on one side of us and not falling over the edge, and also about the gathered crowd on the cliff above us knocking rocks down on top of us. At the same time, we had to treat the girl for her injuries.” 

It had taken Raveh more than half an hour to arrive at the park and reach the girl from the time the emergency alert went out. “I don’t know exactly how long she had been lying there before I got to her, but it was at least 30 minutes,” he said. “I tried to open her mouth to insert an oropharyngeal airway so I could more easily provide oxygen, but she was suffering a major spasm in her jaw due to the fall, and we could not open her mouth. I placed the mask over her mouth and nose and turned the oxygen on. It took some time for other rescue forces to arrive. Once there was a paramedic at the scene, he sedated her, and only then were we able to open her mouth to insert the oropharyngeal airway.

“We managed to stabilize her at the scene, and then the IDF’s Search and Rescue Unit 669 arrived with a helicopter to medevac the girl to Rambam hospital in Haifa. The whole operation took close to three hours. I responded to the incident around 2 p.m., and I only returned home in time for Arvit (the evening prayer at the end of Shabbat). My family told me they were curious as to where I was, but after they prayed they turned on the TV and saw the incident reported on the news and knew exactly where I was and what I had done.” 

Raveh said that the incident, while not his first serious trauma call, still was a bit unusual. “I’ve been an EMT for a long time. I’ve already responded to plenty of medical emergencies where I was the first responder at the scene for a long time and had to treat a seriously injured patient by myself. Today’s incident was no different in that respect. However, it was certainly challenging and difficult to reach the girl on the edge of a cliff and treat her there without being able to get her any other help until the helicopter arrived to transport her. While it is not how I imagined spending my Shabbat Chanukah afternoon, I’m happy I was able to go and that I had the training and equipment necessary to help save her life and stabilize her while we waited for transport.”

Raphael Poch is the international media spokesperson for United Hatzalah, Israel’s national volunteer EMS organization. 

 

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