Stories from the Streets: 30 Meters from Disaster
I volunteer a lot. I have become a volunteer EMT and dispatcher in both Israel and Australia, which I guess may be a bit unusual for some, but I see it as a responsibility. I am currently staying in central Jerusalem for a visit, and while I’ve been here I’ve been fulfilling my duty by responding to emergency calls in my area with my fellow United Hatzalah volunteers. They seem to be nonstop: In the past week alone I’ve responded to more than 70 emergencies.
I believe helping people is something I have a responsibility to do. Thanks to United Hatzalah, I have both the knowledge and tools to do so, even when I just come back to Israel for a visit.
As a volunteer responder I go on calls whenever I can, and as a dispatcher for both countries, I also help notify other responders of emergencies in their vicinity by utilizing cutting-edge technology on my smartphone and Bluebird communication device, as well as a synced tablet. It is all very advanced but very easy. With a touch of my fingertips, I can dispatch responders half a world away.
Last Tuesday I received notification of an emergency in Jerusalem. I began to forward the location to fellow responders in my unit. I looked down at the address I was typing and realized I was standing just 30 meters from the incident.
The emergency took place when a man was unloading a safe from the back of a truck. The safe fell off the truck’s loading ramp and knocked the man unconscious, also causing severe internal injuries.
I rushed over and arrived in less than a minute. I gathered some bystanders to help me leverage the safe up and off the man, using the back of the truck for support. It took the ambulance 20 minutes to arrive. We were very lucky that advanced life support volunteers who live in the community responded to help stabilize the patient. While he has a very long road of recovery ahead due to some very serious internal damage, at least we were there to help stabilize him and make sure he was no longer in life-threatening danger.
This incident certainly left a mark on me. I have been a first responder for some six years, since I was 16 years old. I have never seen anything like the situation we dealt with on Tuesday. It was a case where, had we not been there with immediate intervention, the person would have died. While I have aided in life-threatening situations before, the severity of the crush symptoms in this case was something I have never seen. I will always remember how it felt at that moment, to realize I was so close and be the first on scene to help save the person’s life.
I set a goal for myself of responding to 70 calls in a week and dedicating the acts of kindness and help to Israel’s 70th birthday. That is how I started out, but in the end I responded to close to 100. I guess Israel will have to stick around for a few more years.
I don’t believe in simply visiting somewhere or going on vacation and putting everything behind me and relaxing. Wherever I go I try to help the people around me. Like many other first responders, volunteers as well as medical professionals, it is in my blood and has become a part of who I am. At this point it’s a need I have to help people however and wherever I can.
On Passover I was in Sydney and was asked to help United Hatzalah in Israel with a special project. As I had gone through dispatcher training with the organization, they asked me to log in as a dispatcher from Australia during the festival and Shabbat in Israel. Due to the large time difference, I was able to perform the duties of a dispatcher before and after the festival from where I was. It is truly amazing what we can do now with the advanced LifeCompass and Bluebird technologies the organization possesses. I saw the emergencies on my screen here in Australia and was able to dispatch people in real time in Israel. It has become a much smaller world.
I am also a registered EMT in Australia and volunteer with the local Hatzolah EMS organization in Sydney. Growing up in Sydney and seeing the local Hatzolah going out to emergencies all the time, I was fascinated by the field of emergency medicine. When I turned 16 I began to take training courses and volunteer, and ever since it has been a part of who I am. I owe my love of this field to Hatzolah Sydney. It is a terrific organization and one I am happy to be a part of. It and Israel’s United Hatzalah have taught me what it means to save a life and how much of an impact I can have—sometimes from only 30 meters away.
Dovi Meyer is a volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah in Israel and Hatzolah in Sydney, Australia.