My name is Lahav Peled, and I’ve been a volunteer with United Hatzalah for a bit more than a year. I live in Kiryat Tivon, a town near Haifa in northern Israel. My family and I were visiting my wife’s parents in Qatzrin over the intermediate days of Pesach, and as we were sitting down to eat, my Bluebird device alerted me to a man choking near my location. I dropped my fork, made my apologies for leaving, and rushed out of the room. I got into my car and drove to the address listed on the map that had popped up on my phone.
Qatzrin, while the capital of the Golan region, is not a big city, and I arrived at the scene fairly quickly. When I walked in the door, I found a grown man trying to care for his elderly father. The older man’s lips were blue, and I saw there was a food tray nearby. I asked the son what had happened. He explained that he lives alone with his father, and they have no other family. His 84-year-old father is everything to him, and the man cares for him by himself.
I could tell he was very agitated. The father didn’t seem to be breathing but still had a pulse. I asked the son if his father had eaten anything, and he replied in the affirmative, adding that he’d stopped speaking a few moments ago and started turning blue. I checked the older man’s airway, and indeed he was not breathing—some of the food was lodged in his throat.
I picked the man up from his chair and performed the Heimlich maneuver. A piece of food shot out of his mouth on the fourth squeeze. The father began to cough and breathe once more. The son began to thank me profusely. As we waited for the ambulance to arrive, I looked after the father, provided him with oxygen, and calmed the son. The danger was over. HIs father still needed to go to the hospital for further care, but for now he was stable.
The Golan Heights and the city of Qatzrin in particular are relatively far from any hospital. It took about 15 minutes for the first ambulance to arrive. Had I not been around to help this man, it is likely he would not have finished the holiday.
This was the first time I had ever performed the Heimlich maneuver on someone. I’ve saved lives before, via CPR and other instances, but this was the first time I saved a life by myself.
It is the greatest feeling in the world to know I have saved a person’s life. I’m a police officer in my day-to-day job, so I am accustomed to emergencies, but saving someone’s life with my bare hands is still a relatively new feeling. This is what I joined United Hatzalah for, and I can say without a doubt that as of today, every call I have ever responded to, all of the hours of training I’ve undergone to get here, they are all worth it knowing this man is alive and his son will not mourn today.
Lahav Peled is a volunteer with United Hatzalah in Kiryat Tivon, Israel.