Its around 8 AM and we’re sitting on the couch in the station watching TV. The loudspeaker comes on and a dispatcher says “Dan 58 urgent call. Dan 58 urgent call.”
We dash out of the station and into the ambulance. Within minutes we arrive at the scene- an apartment building in North Tel Aviv. The three of us, an ambulance driver/ EMT, EMT, and driver in training, slip on gloves, grab the equipment and jump out of the ambulance. There are police men and firefighters standing outside the building. They begin to brief us on the situation.
A 50 year old woman with mental illness lives in the apartment. Her door is locked and no one has heard from her or seen her for the past 2 days. Her daughter and sister are there and frantically tell me that they’ve been calling her and knocking on her door all morning but there has been no answer. The firefighters open the ladder and climb up through the window of her apartment. They unlock the door for us and we enter. We find the patient, lying on the couch with drugs all around her. I take her pulse. There is none. She’s freezing, exactly like they describe in the movies. Her sister pushes past the cops and into the apartment screaming “Do CPR. Don’t just stand there, do something!” The driver looks at me and tells me to take her outside.
I get her some water and sit on the steps of the building with her and the woman’s daughter. They look at me in shock and ask me how long she’ll have to be in the hospital. I respond and say that I’m not a doctor and I can’t confirm death but I have to be honest and say that she had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. CPR won’t help because she’s clearly been dead for a few hours at least. They collapse on top of me, sobbing.
I’m 18. This is my second day as an EMT.
When I decided to do my national service for Magen David Adom, I knew it would be tough but as I sat there hugging them and trying to calm them down, I realized that it was going to be a lot tougher than I thought.
The real test came when immediately after this ordeal we got another call. A bad car accident with multiple people wounded. We sped away without any time to process or discuss what we had just seen. The accident was between two cars at a busy intersection. There were kids in the car and by some miracle all were only lightly injured. I got out of the car still traumatized from the earlier case, forced a smile and proceeded to assess the injuries. Later, when all the patients were in the emergency room the mother of the kids came up to me, hugged me and said “Thank you for remembering my sons’s backpack.” And like a true Israeli, invited me for shabbat.
Looking at the grateful mom and the kids, I realized that it’s the little things that really matter. The cup of water I gave to the grieving daughter and the backpack I remembered to take out of the smashed car. I’m not a superhero but the mom looked at me like I was one. And that makes it all worth it.
Aliza Davids is from Baltimore and is currently doing Sherut Leumi in Magen David Adom.