Stories from the Streets: From One Mother to Another
My name is Dana Atias. I am a single mother of three and run my own business as a beautician in northern Tel Aviv. I began volunteering with United Hatzalah as an EMT last year, and I now also run the organization’s Ten Kavod project, which reaches out to the elderly in the city. Under the program EMTs visit numerous elderly people each week to check on their health and provide needed companionship.
One night at about 2 a.m. two weeks ago, I was jarred awake by my United Hatzalah communications device. A child was convulsing in a nearby building. Being a mother, I know how much this can cause a parent to worry, so I jumped out of bed and raced to the address. Although the home was tucked away on a small side street, I knew the area well, as it was still within my neighborhood. I found the building almost immediately. It had taken me less than three minutes to arrive at the scene.
The convulsing child’s worried mother met me halfway down the stairs. She was crying hysterically, and I immediately knew I had two patients to deal with. “My son is dying,” she choked out as she led me up the stairs to his room.
The 9-year-old boy was thrashing wildly in uncontrollable convulsions. At first glance he looked familiar to me. It took me a second, but I realized he was a friend of my own son Ohr, who was in the same class. I quickly turned to the mother, who was hyperventilating, pale as a sheet, and looked close to fainting. “Your son is seizing,” I told her. “He’s not in imminent danger. This is relatively common.”
My words didn’t seem to calm her down, so I continued. “There have been three incidents of convulsions in the area just this last month,” I attempted to assure her.
I turned back to the boy and made sure he was safe and would not injure himself during his convulsions. I told both parents that the convulsions would pass, but for the moment it was important to protect the child from hurting himself. I then began reassuring the mother, utilizing breathing techniques and asking her simple questions she could answer in an affirmative fashion as I worked to maintain the safety of the child. Finally the mother began to calm down.
While I protected the young boy and ensured an open airway, I asked the parents if the child had been sick recently. A few moments later the intense seizures subsided, and the boy slowly began to return to himself. He looked at me and seemed to recognize me a bit. I could tell he was confused and frightened. “I’m Ohr’s mom,” I told him gently. “Everything’s going to be OK.”
Meanwhile, another United Hatzalah medic arrived, and I told him to go to the entrance of the building to direct the arriving ambulance—I would stay with the patient. Soon enough the child was on his way to the hospital for evaluation and continuing care.
Once both the child and his worried parents were cared for, I returned home to catch some sleep. Later I found out from Ohr that his friend had been diagnosed with epilepsy and was prescribed medication to control it. The boy’s mother sent a message through our sons thanking me for my help that evening. She said my prompt arrival, caring intervention, and calming manner made all the difference to her and her husband in their time of crisis, and she felt safer in our neighborhood because she knew if anything happened, I would be there for them.
In truth, I will.
Dana Atias is a volunteer responder with United Hatzalah in Tel Aviv, Israel.