Stories from the Streets: Send in the Clowns
One of the more interesting things about being a volunteer first responder is that you never know when or where you will receive an emergency call. Whenever that call comes, you drop everything and rush out. Naturally, sometimes it can catch you at moments that are less than convenient.
Last Friday, after volunteering as a medical clown, I was on my way to a wedding and decided to leave my clown costume on as entertainment for the bride and groom. Backtracking a little bit, my sister was killed not so long ago in a car accident, and in her memory my parents donated money to members of our community to help young couples be able to afford weddings. This was one of the weddings that benefited from that donation. So for my family and me, this was already a very special occasion.
After the wedding I headed home to my apartment in Tel Aviv, and just as I was taking off my costume, the United Hatzalah emergency application alerted me to a car accident just a few streets away. From the information provided, it sounded like a serious accident, which is often a matter of life and death. I didn’t think twice about going. When I was a soldier, we used to call these moments “bowl flippers”—the times when even if you’re eating, you rush out, and if you accidentally flip your bowl over, you don’t stop to clean it up, you just keep going.
I ran downstairs, jumped on my ambucycle, and raced to the location of the accident. I was one of the first responders at the scene. I began treating one of the injured people who was lying in the street—he was still in the process of understanding what exactly had happened to him. With a c-collar on his neck, he was looking up at the sky. I followed protocol to the letter and began taking an oral history. I asked him where it hurt to see where his injuries were, so I could begin treatment. When he saw me he smiled and didn’t even ask why I was dressed funny. He just assumed it had something to do with the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim (which is celebrated throughout Israel by people wearing costumes and often makeup or masks).
Luckily for me the holiday is right around the corner (beginning Wednesday night), because otherwise I would have been stuck at a large-scale trauma scene dressed in sparkles and rouge without an explanation. Go try to explain that one to the patients or your fellow responders!
I, for one, am glad the holiday is so widely celebrated, as I didn’t have to explain my appearance, and no time was taken away from providing the much-needed treatment to my patient. On the contrary, my apparel raised the spirits of everyone at the scene. It was so effective—even at a trauma scene as scary as a serious car accident—that I am thinking about adopting it permanently.
I wish all of the injured a speedy recovery and a happy and healthy holiday!
Yishai David Turgeman is a volunteer responder with United Hatzalah in Tel Aviv, Israel.