Over the past six weeks I have had the wonderful opportunity of volunteering with Magen David Adom, the ambulance service in Israel. I have had a once in a lifetime experience being emerged in Israeli culture, improving my Hebrew, but most importantly being a first aid responder to the sick. Here is a snipet from my diary of some of the calls I received over the past six weeks.
Our first call for the night was at 2:45am (the shift started at 11:00pm). We got the call to attend an elderly patient who had pressed her emergency button so MDA were automatically called. When we got there the police were waiting outside the apartment building. My driver used a Swiss knife to unlock the door to the building. When we reached her apartment, the door was locked. We banged loudly on the door many times and rang the doorbell for a solid ten minutes. No response. The army medic with me starts saying things like: “maybe she is dead” or “maybe we need to do cpr.” About 15 minutes after us arriving the fire department arrived to break down the door. At this point the next door neighbour opens his door to see what the noise is all about. He tells us there is a back door to her apartment which we can access through his apartment. The fireman enters her apartment by climbing over a wall separating the two apartments. It was really cool to see. He opens up the front door for us and we enter. The lady, about 83 years old, is sitting on her couch asleep with headphones on. My driver takes off her headphones. I can hear the music playing through them from about a metre away. No wonder she didn’t hear the banging on the door! He starts speaking to her but she is startled and says: “Who are you? What is this?” in English. I knew it was my time to step in because my driver didn’t speak English. I explained to her why we were there and asked if she was ok. She said she was feeling wonderful and apologised for pressing the button by accident. At least my English finally came to good use at MDA
I’m on the Natan ambulance (like our MICA) this morning with two paramedics and an army medic. We got our first call to a man having a seizure. When we got there we saw him lying on the side of a road having a seizure. His body was having a full spasm and he was foaming a lot at the mouth. One eye was closed filled with the foam from his mouth and the other was wide open. One paramedic prepared the iv and put the needle in his neck. I wondered why he did this instead of the arm and assumed it was because the medicine would work faster if administered through the neck. The other paramedic connected the man to the cables of the heart monitor so we could monitor the heartbeat. This machinery is only on the Natan. They asked me to do the oxygen. I got an oxygen mask and connected it to the tank and when I went to put it on his face there was foam everywhere. I was instructed to clean the foam from his face but it just kept coming. I put on the mask and cleaned him every few seconds. The paramedics administered a range of drugs including one to stop the spasms, which came into effect. We took him to the ambulance and searched his pockets for his ID. Instead we found illegal drugs. In the ambulance the paramedic administered more drugs and we connected the ambo pump and performed assisted breathing. We put in an airway and had to use a suction and catheter for all the foam that just kept coming. The nurses and doctors cut his clothes off and began treatment and we left the room. We had to clean everything thoroughly from the foam. I asked the paramedic why he put the iv in his neck and he responded: “he has stuffed up all the veins in his arms from self administering drugs”. He also told me that the seizure was a product of an illegal substance he had been taking and probably overdosed on. When I went back in to the hospital after cleaning the ambulance I saw the police by his room. The hospital must have called them about the drugs.
We received our first call only ten minutes after arriving on shift. It said on the tablet ‘fear for a man’s life’. I asked my team what it was and they said a man has fallen inside his apartment and no one could enter as they don’t have a key. When we got to the site a fire truck was already there and I could see a fireman climbing up a ladder entering the third floor apartment through the window. We went up the stairs. When we entered the apartment the fireman was in there as well as a couple of police officers. A 92 year old male had fallen over in the shower on Saturday morning (it was now Sunday morning) and no one had been in to help him. He was lying naked on the floor covered in something brown (we will leave it at that). After showering and getting him dressed we took his vital signs and took him to hospital. His glucose levels were high and I was surprised seeing he hadn’t eaten or drank for over 24 hours but then I found out he had diabetes. He looked very healthy for a 92 year old and was cracking jokes in the ambulance.
The clock hit 6am after a busy night shift (I’m meant to finish at 7am). We were on the way back from the hospital. We get a call that read childbirth. I didn’t get my hopes up because last time I had this call I got super excited but it turned out we got the lady to hospital in time so I didn’t see anything interesting. As we were entering the apartment building with the equipment, my driver said to me: “Romy do you know why we are here?” to which I responded: “yes, there’s a pregnant lady”. He replied rather enthusiastically, “NO THE BABY IS OUT!!’ My heart suddenly raced, I was so excited. For the first time I would see a new born baby straight out of the womb. When we entered the apartment the mother was lying in her bed very calm with her new born baby daughter in her arms. Everyone was healthy. She had given birth in her bed. We were all saying mazel tov. As I was the only woman on my team I was instructed to help place the baby into an aluminium blanket to keep it warm but as I was about to hold a newborn for the first time the Natan arrived. They got out all the equipment and called in the father who cut the umbilical chord. There were seven first responders, two family members, one mother and one baby in the room and everyone had a huge smile on their face (ok except for the baby). We put the baby into the aluminium blanket and into the mother’s arms and then they were taken off to hospital in the Natan. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day. While I didn’t know the family at all, I walked away feeling very fulfilled and grateful for the experience.