My name is Netanel Tiram, and I live in Ramle, a city close to the center of Israel. One recent Saturday night I had just finished a series of calls and was headed downstairs to give my ambucycle a quick look over. I’d been very active recently and felt it would be a good time to check my oil and water levels and clean up the box in the back where I keep my medical kit and equipment. It’s important to do that from time to time. However, fate had other plans for me.
As soon as I made it outside, a neighbor came running toward me, shouting. “I was just coming to get you,” he said. “Come quickly! Come quickly!” He gestured frantically in the direction of an apartment down the street.
Just then my phone rang. It was my dispatcher, who had, based on the GPS of my phone, recognized that I was the closest responder to the medical emergency my neighbor was telling me about. I answered the phone to say I was already on my way. “Netanel, go quickly, they need you,” he told me. “An elderly woman has been discovered unconscious.”
I flipped on the lights and sirens of my ambucycle and sped to the location, reaching it in 30 seconds.
I raced up the stairs and into the apartment, where I saw a crowd gathered around the woman. I asked what had happened, and the woman’s caregiver told me he and the woman’s neighbors had been hesitant to initiate CPR, even with guidance from dispatchers manning the emergency hotline. I took a brief oral history from the caregiver while checking the woman’s pulse and breathing. I reassured the worried neighbors and asked them to clear the scene. My rapid field assessment found the 91-year-old patient was unconscious, her complexion bluish, but I detected a weak pulse and faint signs of breathing.
Thankfully none of the onlookers had attempted CPR. It appeared that there was something blocking the woman’s airway partially, but not completely. I asked the caregiver whether the woman had been eating before she collapsed, and he replied in the affirmative. This confirmed my suspicion that my patient was suffering a partial airway obstruction caused by food.
With that in mind, I carefully turned the woman on her side and provided a series of measured back blows. I cleared the blockage, secured a clear airway, and provided high-flow oxygen. Additional United Hatzalah volunteers arrived to assist me with the rescue. By the time the intensive care ambulance arrived over 10 minutes later, the elderly patient was seated, fully conscious, and breathing steadily.
This woman would most likely have died without the appropriate medical intervention. Thankfully I was nearby and able to help. My night of cleaning my ambucycle was put off for another day.
Netanel Tiram is a volunteer responder with United Hatzalah in Ramle, Israel.