Stories from the Streets: Working Together to Save Lives

Stories from the Streets: Working Together to Save Lives

By Ariel Ben David Aug 21, 2017

Friday at 10:30 the United Hatzalah dispatch alerts me to an unconscious man near where I live in Pisgat Ze’ev. I’m sitting with my family, having just finished breakfast. I look at my wife, she nods, and I take off. I rush to my car, which is a registered emergency vehicle, and head to the scene. I don’t need to punch in the address—I know where it is. The man is unconscious at our local synagogue; he’d stayed to study following morning prayers.

I arrive two minutes later, sirens wailing. The mobile ICU ambulance arrives just after me; it, too, was only a few blocks away. We head into the synagogue. We find the patient still wrapped in his prayer shawl and phylacteries. We begin compressions and attach a monitor—our patient is in v-fib. More volunteer first responders arrive, some from the Binyamin region in Samaria who were nearby, others from east Jerusalem. I’m shocked as a volunteer responder who lives in Carmel in Judea walks in. The town is some 37 miles from Jerusalem. 

A shock is advised, so we clear the patient and give it. Compressions continue, and we stabilize the airway and give drugs. Slowly the patient begins to regain a pulse. More drugs are administered, and the patient begins to breathe again. We help get him on the ambulance, and he is whisked away to Hadassah Har Hatzofim hospital.

After the Sabbath, I speak to the man’s wife. Thankfully she tells me her husband is conscious and well and on his way to full recovery. Our early intervention prevented any lasting brain damage. 

One of the things that inspires me most when I go out on these emergency calls is that I see our volunteers come from all over. Muslim, Christian, Jewish—it doesn’t matter who you are or if you know the patient. It doesn’t matter if you know the other volunteers as you kneel shoulder to shoulder trying to save a life. The mission unifies us, and we all work together like a well-oiled unit. People from different neighborhoods who don’t know each other come together quickly. It takes my breath away every time.

I am the deputy director of volunteer relations at United Hatzalah, and it’s my job to know the volunteers in the organization—know what makes them tick and what problems they may have and how to solve them. It is also my job to keep up morale and help support our volunteers when they need it. Whenever I go out on calls like this, it is they who uplift and support me by displaying their drive, their energy and their desire to help, no matter what they may have been doing when the call came. 

As is our custom after a rescue call, I break open a cold drink and pass it around to each volunteer who came to help. It’s a small token of the organization’s appreciation for their selfless work and a thank-you for the immense gift they’ve given me in their unified drive to help others. Their energy keeps me going. It is something we do for the patients and for each other.

Ariel Ben David is deputy director of volunteer relations at United Hatzalah.

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