Here are some past articles on Hatzalah of Union County which have been
published in the JEC News & Views.
1. In a Time of Stroke/In a Stroke of Time
The cell phone buzzed at 8:26. It was my son Yehoshua, but I was in the middle of Maariv. I didn’t take the call. A minute later he called again. I rushed through the davening and called him back. “What’s up Jack?” I asked. The reply stung my ears. “Mommy doesn’t feel well. Her speech is slurred and she feels dizzy. Her hand and her foot are numb.”
I told him that I would be right there. The symptoms screamed STROKE and I didn’t want to lose a second. Jay Shuman didn’t know what hit him when I grabbed his sleeve and pulled him toward the door at Elmora Hills. I told him what my son had said and I ran for my car. He radioed Hatzalah Dispatch and the race began. I was home in a minute and Jay followed me in the ambulance. Lee Niren always has to be the first one on-scene, and he was. Pinchas Garber pulled up and the trio entered the house. Lee started the line of questions that an EMT must ask to determine the course of action to be taken. I prepared for the ride to the hospital without having the time to be nervous.
All of the guys from Hatzalah make fun of me. I’m the dispatcher who has never taken a call. They always know that on my shift they can take it easy. The Elizabeth community will be quiet for a few hours. This was not to be the case that night, we were on the bus – that’s the ambulance for those of us in the know – in minutes. We waited briefly for the Elizabeth paramedics to show up to give their assessment while the hospital was notified to expect a probable CVA (stroke). So much was happening around us, and the Hatzalah volunteers calmly and quietly went about their work. The fear was real. The terror was real. My wife was losing her ability to speak in front of my eyes. And yet somehow the gentle manner of these volunteers kept things in control. Nobody panicked. There was a job to be done.
The rumors about Jay driving like a maniac are not all true – just some of them. Lee’s manner and tone of voice were so reassuring that a sense of calm seemed to pervade the back of the ambulance. I knew that the situation was critical and that time was of the essence, but I felt that we were not alone. We were amongst friends.
We arrived at Overlook Hospital in Summit and Hatzalah sprang into action again. We were in the Emergency Room quickly. Another ambulance group had a patient ahead of us. Lee interjected that he had a probable stroke and we moved quickly into the trauma area. Doctors and nurses surrounded us in a blur. This was an everyday occurrence to them, but to the uninitiated it looks like chaos. IV and EKG and BP. It was a jumble of alphabet soup. Quietly, the team of Hatzalah slipped away, leaving us in the capable hands of the Overlook Emergency Room staff.
Unknown to me, one of the coordinators who had come to our house after the initial group had arrived remained for a few moments. After the ambulance had pulled away, he knocked on the front door to tell my youngest daughter, “Don’t worry, your mother is in good hands.” Hatzalah prides itself on rapid response, rapid treatment and rapid transit. You can put a stopwatch on them to see how they do. The assurance that was given to my daughter has no measure. How do you calculate the value of such caring and kindness?
Back in the ER the work was feverish. My wife was getting worse as each minute ticked by. I could read in her eyes that she understood, but she could not speak a word. After a CAT scan was performed the call was made to administer tPA. It is a clot-busting drug, the product of genetic engineering. It had the power to dissolve a clot after the onset of a heart attack or a stroke. The caveat is that there is a three-hour window in which it is effective. At three hours and ten minutes after the onset of symptoms the drug cannot be administered. Hatzalah had gotten Pearl to the hospital in plenty of time, and twenty minutes after the drug was started she began to speak. She was transferred to the Neuro ICU. With the tPA she was stabilized and the healing began. The ICU staff was marvelous. The nurses cannot be adequately described, and each one was kinder than the last. Pearl was able to speak to our daughter in Israel to assure her that she was getting better. Pearl’s nurse said that the condition had been good for two-and-a-half hours, and she suggested that we all get some sleep. My daughter and I left the hospital at 2:30 in the morning. The nurse called at 6:30 to tell me that Pearl’s condition remained good.
Later in the day, during visiting hours the neurologist stopped in to evaluate the patient. She told us that she did not know how we had gotten Pearl there so quickly. “What is the name of the ambulance squad?” she asked. “I want to thank them.”
Imagine. The head of the stroke center at Overlook Hospital wants to send a thank you letter to Hatzalah for their quick transit. Genetic engineering is a miracle. TPA is a miracle drug. None of the miracles mean anything without Hatzalah.
The cardiologist who saw us a few days later put it differently. “The speed with which you got here is the difference between you and me holding a conversation or me talking and you looking back at me.”
We have much to be thankful for in Elizabeth. The response from the community has been overwhelming. The Tehillim that were said and the learning that was dedicated to a refuah for Pearl are of inestimable value. Rabbi Dombroff dedicated the learning at Elmora Hills on Shavuot for her refuah. She may be the only person ever to have the learning from a barbecue dedicated to her. It is an honor that we cherish. The watchful eye of HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the obvious source of our good fortune. We have been blessed.
I have no words to adequately express my thanks. The volunteers from Hatzalah are priceless assets to this community. We can be proud that such people exist in our midst. “Don’t worry, your mother is in good hands” is not an idle promise. It is backed by dedicated people whose work is a work of love and skill. Each and every one of us can sleep a little easier. Don’t worry. We are in good hands.
Mr. Mark Ricklis
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2. Who's on First?
We operate under a cover of confidentiality. A code of silence. A binding gag order. Because of this, few know that
Hatzalah of Union County answers, on average, about a call a day. They usually come in bunches. Good karma days,
bad karma days. Days of quiet followed by sheer madness. Just when you thought it was safe to get undressed, relax a little bit, and sleep with
both eyes closed. Fahgetaboutit. The alert tone sounds, followed by the voice of the dispatcher: “Any members available for…?” The adrenalin
rush begins in earnest. My hands begin to shake involuntarily like Tom Hank’s character in Saving Private Ryan, as he approached bloody
Omaha Beach in an LCV. It’s not that I’m nervous or scared; it’s just the excitement of it all.
I key up my handheld radio as fast as I can. I have come to realize that I would have faired very poorly as a Jeopardy contestant.
I consider myself reasonably intelligent, well read, and a bona fide whiz at all sorts of esoteric nonsense and trivia (i.e., useless information). All for naught.
A slow buzzer finger would have doomed me to certain defeat and to the garbage heap of wannabe’s, runner-up’s and other assorted losers. Must
be some sort of hand/eye coordination thing. So too, with my Motorola handheld. No matter how close I am to the bugger, someone else always
seems to beat me to the draw. Usually Niren (aka Union-8). It has become a running joke. U-8 will not be late. U-8, first out of the gate.
U-8 has got a date. With U-8 there is no wait. I don’t know what his secret is. Maybe he has some sort of super-secret surgical implant which
allows him to telepathically communicate with his radio transmit button mere nanoseconds after an alert tone is sounded. Could he be living in some
steroid-enhanced state which gives him the upper hand? It’s a mystery to me. In any event, I am relegated to being the Avis of the responder world.
Perpetually number two.
The race begins, and I’m already playing catch-up. Almost always, the call comes when you least expect it. Why did I take my shoes off so
early? Why didn’t I leave my pants hanging on my closet door? Why did I take my equipment out of the car? Where did I leave my keys? Is this
a dream? What was the address? Do I know where I’m going? Why am I so slow? My wife, if asked, would respond with one of her typically
insightful observations: “Perhaps it’s because you’re 50 years old, out of shape, and out of sorts, oh silly man”. All of this is rendered academic as I climb
into my vehicle and begin to navigate my way out of my driveway and through the streets of Elmora Hills, on my way to yet another call. I turn a corner
and realize that I have arrived at my destination. I am greeted by the incessant flashing of Niren’s blue light. Is this my fate, to always be a step behind U-8?
Patient contact is established, and all of these mundane, petty concerns melt away. Time to take care of business, and remarkably, you handle it.
You walk through a threshold and you are immediately sobered by the cold hard fact that you are responsible for the care of another human being.
Usually a member of your own community, but it really doesn’t matter. The seriousness of the situation hits you in the face, and you do what you have
been trained to do. The Prime Directive: Patient Care. Quiet confidence, competence and compassion. No thanks are necessary; you see it on the
faces of the patients and their loved ones; the incredible relief that comes from knowing that they are among friends who really care what happens to them.
This is what we do. Who’s on the scene first? What’s the difference (as long as it’s not Niren)?
Jay A. Shuman
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3. The Event That Izzy Built
The First Annual Hatzalah of Union County Soiree is now history. The Soiree (including that silly French word) was
the brainchild of Izzy Mintz. Izzy’s basic idea was this: Let Us Entertain You. In The World according to Izzy, if you want people to
support an event in a big way, it helps to entertain them. Show them a good time. Give them a reason to venture out on a chilly night; some
bang for their buck. If you build it, they will come. If you promise an unforgettable evening, and deliver on the promise, they will show up,
and they will be happy that they did.
And that’s exactly what happened. Correctamundo, Izzy. First, you fatten them up for the kill. Start things off with a tasty fleischig buffet,
followed by a musical interlude featuring the music of Eden, a hot new Jewish band (who generously donated their time and considerable
talents). Keep things in focus with words of chizuk form our Mora D’Asra, Rabbi Elazer Meir Tietz. Throw in some wine tasting for good
measure, courtesy of the Man in the Bright Blue Suit. Next, the headliner: Chicago City Limits. Funny doesn’t even begin to
describe the improvisational extravaganza we were treated to. The room, packed to the rafters, rocked with laughter. Top off the evening with
a $5,000 raffle (Mazel Tov, Mrs.Kreiman) and a scrumptious dessert buffet. What a fabulous night!
Yes, it was quite a night. Izzy was right. If you build it, they will come. People in and outside of our community came out in big
numbers, and the Soiree was a resounding success. Over 600 people attended a fundraising event in Elizabeth (alright, it was
Union, but why quibble?). Can you believe it? How did this happen? In large measure, it all came together because of Izzy; because
of his leadership and hard work. You may not know Izzy, because he has only lived in Elizabeth for a short while. He’s also easy to miss,
because, like me, he’s vertically challenged, and also because he goes about his business in a quiet, humble, unassuming way. Izzy, who had
no previous kesher with Hatzalah or its members, took the proverbial ball and ran with it. Maybe he did it because he knew
it was a worthy cause, or perhaps just because that’s the kind of person he is. Izzy worked and worked and worked some more. He was
our own personal Energizer Bunny. He led by example, and those who worked with him learned to love him for his selflessness, his good humor,
and for his basic sense of decency.
Izzy also had his helpers. Our Soiree committee was small, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in tireless
effort. Izzy’s Army. A lean, mean, party-making machine. Thank you Eliyahu and Hindy Hecht, Lee and Rachie Niren, and my wonderful,
energetic, talented and good humored wife, Franki. Thank you to our Rabbinical Board for your constant support and sound counsel.
Thank you to the ever-present Harris Saltzburg, phtotographer extraordinaire. Thank you to the JEC and to Rabbi Kanelsky of Bris Avrohom
for allowing us to park our ambulances on your premises. Thank you, Nachum Segal (via our own Mayer Fertig) for the plug on “JM in the AM”
(www.jmintheam.org). The Soiree was sponsored, in part, by the friends of Mitch Merlis,
a very special man who is fighting for his life. In the zchus of their considerable generosity, may Mitch have a full and complete refuah.
Thank you to all of our generous sponsors, donors, volunteers, responders, dispatchers and to everyone in and outside of our special
community for supporting Hatzalah of Union County.
See you next year!
Jay A. Shuman
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4. The Jacket
Shabbos Parshas Shemini, April 17, 2004. Mussaf is over. From my second row deluxe box
seat (B101), I’m walking up the aisle, out of the main shul. I’m minding my own
business. Most of the crowd has already dispersed. As I head towards the center of the sanctuary,
out of the corner of my eye I see Josh Stroock, a rather colorful character, lingering near the
bimah. As I walk past, he abruptly stops me, which is strange in and of itself because I
barely know the guy. This is not going to be a brief exchange of pleasantries, I tell myself; he
wants something. My fears are immediately confirmed. Josh, along with Mayer Fertig and Steve
Rabinowitz, who have joined in the discussion (ambush?), ask if I’m interested in joining
the fledgling Chevrah Hatzalah of Union County. I ponder the question, wondering why they would
consider a middle aged, overweight, out of shape specimen like myself a viable candidate. I
discover the solution to this riddle during the course of our brief conversation. They’re
desperate. It turns out that the course for new EMT’s is beginning in two days, and they
are short a few warm bodies. Ignoring my more sensible inner voice (don’t do it, fool!) I
accept the challenge. My motivation? Not the desire to do good, to help fellow Jews, to save
lives; no, none of these, I confess. I want the Jacket. I need the Jacket. You know the
ones I’m talking about. Those nice Land’s End ones that all the guys in Hatzalah
wear. Cool patches, reflectors, personally embroidered. To die for. For this I sell my
soul for the next six months.
As I walk up Livingston Road towards my house on Summit, I wonder how I’m going to sell this
to my wife. After almost twenty years of marriage she is well acquainted with my periodic spells
of insanity, but this is a bit much. Have I pushed the envelope one time too many? The course will
require me to attend classes every Monday and Wednesday from 7:15 11:15 pm, not to mention
study time, emergency room rotations, and who knows what else. As luck would have it, as I approach
my house, I see that she is sitting on our front step, talking to one of our neighbors. I walk
past, offer a perfunctory Good Shabbos, nice day out, I just joined Hatzalah, and slither into the
house, thankful that the conversation with our neighbor has distracted her attention, at least
momentarily, from my bombshell. My reprieve is short lived. A few minutes later, she is
confronting me in our living room. I’m half expecting an explosion or, at the very
least, some biting sarcasm. Something along the lines of “So now I can expect even less
help from your lazy, miserable, worthless carcass”. To my relief, she is very curious
and supportive, despite the fact that I have made a major decision which impacts on the entire
family without consulting her ... a sin which should, truthfully, carry the severest of matrimonial
penalties, the cold shoulder.
She does ask why I want to do this. I tell her about my desire to do good, to help fellow
Jews, and to save lives. I don’t mention the Jacket.
The next six months are a whirlwind. Long hours in the Mesivta Beis Medrash listening to burned
out EMTs and Paramedics tell tired war stories. Slide shows. Teachers who can’t teach.
Students who can’t stop asking stupid questions. I stay awake by munching on Mike
and Ike’s, Hot Tamales and other assorted goodies generously supplied by my dear friend and
fellow junk food junkie, Lee Niren. (Lee, incidentally, is not the least bit interested in the
Jacket; his obsession is the Badge). Module exams, midterms, practical exams. For the first
time in many years I experience the recurring dream that I have a test the next day that I’ve
totally forgotten about and am not prepared for. Do I need this? In a moment of clarity I
realize that, yes, I could fail. I may be in over my head. My children enjoy watching me
sweat. In a poetic role reversal, they wait for my test results, ready to pounce on me if I
falter. They’re enjoying this way too much. My natural stubbornness takes over.
No way I’m going to lose face over this nonsense. I’m not a quitter. I dig
in for the duration.
I survive the course. Pass the written final and practical exam, despite the fact that one
particular sadomasochistic examiner tries to trip me up during the AED (Automated External
Defibrillator) portion of the exam. One more hurdle, the National Registry Exam.
Obsessive/compulsive to the end, I study non-stop for two weeks. I even spring for a review
book, a rip-off at twenty bucks. I see multiple choice questions in my sleep. Exam
day arrives, and I want to vomit. Freudenberger finishes the two hour exam in what seems
like five minutes, with Niren not far behind. Can’t figure out if it’s because
they’re both brilliant or if they just don’t have a clue. Probably a little of
both. I try to focus. I sweat it out to the bitter end, finishing about ninety seconds
short of the two hour limit, convinced that I tanked it. I can hardly sleep the next few
nights, but avoid the urge to check the National Registry web site to see if the results are
in. No problem, others do it for me. Niren calls me every few hours to tell me the
results have been posted (not). Lee’s having fun, and at my expense. I get even with
him the following Sunday when I say to him “The results are in………you
can save a bunch on your car insurance with Geico”. He only hears the first four words
and starts running like a chicken with it’s head cut off, only to return a few moments later
to ask if I was serious. Revenge is sweet.
The results are in, for real, on Erev Succos. I pass, as does everyone else in the class, Baruch HaShem! My wife, supportive and proud to the end, posts the results for all to see on the wall of our succah. I breath a huge sigh of relief, grateful to the Ribono Shel Olam for allowing me to survive this ordeal.
Now it is time to put our new found skills to work. Before that can happen, though, we need to
raise some serious amigo money. Ambulances, medical equipment, and communications
systems don’t come cheap. When the Chevrah Hatzalah brochure arrives in the mail, please
take the time to read it carefully, and consider a generous donation. Twenty five of your neighbors
are ready to provide state of the art emergency medical services to our community. Twenty five
souls prepared to do good, to help their fellow Jews, and to save lives. Plus one who wants the
Jay A. Shuman
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5. Big Step Forward
It's a big step forward for the future of Chevra Hatzalah of Elizabeth. The first training session for prospective volunteers was a marathon four-hour affair held in the JEC on Thursday, March 25. Professional-level CPR and defibrillator skills which are a prerequisite for EMT school were taught. Members of the JEC faculty were also invited to attend at no cost to the Yeshiva.
More than 20 people are enrolled in the rigorous Emergency Medical Technician training course. It is scheduled to begin shortly after Pesach at the JEC, which is providing classroom space and storage for equipment. This will allow volunteers to spend as much time as possible at home, even while devoting hours to Hatzalah training. A number of other volunteers already hold the required certifications to join Hatzalah, which plans to begin offering Pikuach Nefesh services to the JEC community early in 2005.
David Plotkin is a Paramedic and longtime volunteer for Chevra Hatzalah of Queens. He donated his time and skills to teach the CPR course. He began by stressing how important it is to call for help in an emergency even if you are unable, or unwilling, to become personally involved. Particularly in the case of cardiac arrest, Chas V'Shalom, he said calling an ambulance is the single most important thing you can do to help, even if you know CPR or have a defibrillator.
A generous family which prefers to not be publicly named donated the other related costs of the evening. They paid for all instructional materials, for mannequin rentals, and for the per-person cost of official certification, which is good for two years.
Our children show up for the first day of school with sharpened pencils, new notebooks, and a bright smile, but students in EMT school must come prepared with a stethoscope and a blood-pressure cuff. Each Hatzalah volunteer is now ready for school, with the equipment donated by the same generous family mentioned above.
Now that training is underway, the coordinators of Chevra Hatzalah of Elizabeth can turn their attention to fundraising. This is a crucial matter. A lot of money will be needed to cover Hatzalah's start-up costs. In general terms, the needs include Hatzalah's 24-hour emergency number, radio communication between dispatchers and volunteers, ambulances, a defibrillator for each volunteer's personal vehicle, insurance, and all other necessary equipment and supplies.
How important is Hatzalah to our community? One future volunteer received Chizuk about that just minutes before the CPR course began. He was called to assist someone suffering from a serious heart-related condition. It took approximately 20 minutes for a 9-1-1 ambulance to arrive to transport the patient to the hospital.
It bears repeating that this shouldn't reflect poorly on the excellent professionals who staff the municipal ambulances. There are simply not enough resources to respond quickly to every call 9-1-1 receives. Hatzalah's goal is to provide an emergency response time of three minutes or less within the JEC community. When you are asked to help – and you will be asked – please consider helping as generously as you can.
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6. Why Do We Need Hatzalah Anyway?
"Elizabeth already has an ambulance service, and my taxes pay for it. Why do we need Hatzalah? Couldn't all that money go to better use?"
Someone who's raised a lot of money for community projects recently asked this to one of us, the Hatzalah coordinators, and maybe you've been wondering, too. It's a fair question that needs an answer soon, before a fundraising campaign for Hatzalah can begin.
Here's a fact: someone who calls 911 in Elizabeth isn't always going to wait a long time for an ambulance. Usually, but not always. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Wait, lucky? Just how much do we believe in luck, anyway? Anachnu Ma'aminim. Doesn't everything happen according to Hashem's plan? If He wants someone to have an ambulance respond quickly to their door, won't He make it happen? And if Hashem decides someone's time in this world is up, it's up. Even Hatzalah can't save everybody.
We've always been taught, Hashem helps those who help themselves.
We all know if we want to eat, we have to work. Few of us sit on the front steps waiting for manna from heaven to fall on the lawn. More to the point, if we're sick we don't wait for G-d to work his will from afar and, hopefully, send a cure. We go to the doctor. We take our medicine.
The question of whether or not we should go to the great expense of starting Hatzalah here falls directly into the same category.
Someone who suddenly becomes desperately ill is going to live or die according to Hashem's plan, alone. But does that mean we should leave a stone unturned in trying to save them? A 911 ambulance could be down the block, true, but the fact is their response time is twelve minutes, on average. An EMT who works on a City of Elizabeth ambulance told us eight minutes was one of his quickest responses, ever.
Well, that's fast enough, you might say. And anyway, it will never happen to me. I'll never need an ambulance. Hopefully, you never will. But what if you do? What if your wife, or your husband, or your child, or your grandchild, or your parent, does need help, and really quickly?
In a life and death situation every second is a lifetime, and not just because the clock seems to slow while we listen for a siren. Every second could make a crucial difference in the outcome. Eight minutes is an awfully long time. Without oxygen, the brain begins to die in as little as four minutes. Severe bleeding sends a person into shock in less time than that.
Hatzalah rescue squads around the world respond is less than three minutes, usually in about two. Our community's Hatzalah organization intends to achieve the same near-instant response because we will use the same plan, written about in the JEC News & Views in the past. When a call comes in, fully-equipped Hatzalah members will be dispatched directly to the scene in their private vehicles, while others pick up an ambulance to back up the first responders. Boruch Hashem, many lives have been saved which could have been lost waiting for 911, and even for other volunteer squads which respond only by ambulance.
Here's something else to consider: in Elizabeth, there is sometimes no 911 ambulance available. Period. When that happens, help must be summoned from neighboring towns, depending on availability. You might be deeply and unpleasantly surprised to learn just how common an event that is in Elizabeth.
Hillside's ambulance response can be faster, at times. But with a municipal ambulance in Hillside there comes a big bill in the mail. And insurance doesn't cover all of it. Sure, it will cost money to keep Hatzalah operating, lots of it, but no one will ever be billed for the service, and no one will ever have to hesitate before calling for help, to think about money and wonder: is this really an emergency?
Ask your friends and relatives in New York City or Monsey or Lakewood. Seriously, ask them. They'll probably say you can't put a price on the peace of mind Hatzalah brings.
For that reason, nearly twenty-five of our friends and neighbors have been spending eight hours a week in EMT school, and more time studying, and they plan to continue to do so until after the summer. A number of other people are already certified EMT's, and several physicians have volunteered as well. When Hatzalah begins early next year, IY"H, many of them will find their lives have changed, always being ready to drop what they're doing or jump out of bed to answer a call for help.
Countless hours have been spent on planning and preparation so far, and the work is far from done. But these men and women who are ready to be Hatzalah responders and dispatchers believe in what they're doing, and believe that they can make a very important difference in individual lives and in our community.
Mayor Bollwage agrees. The Mayor met with us, and with Rabbi Elazar M. Teitz and Gordon Haas, at City Hall last month. He pledged his full support and to sign any paperwork necessary to get the organization up and running.
Please give this matter careful thought, as if lives depend on it. They do. If you are among those who believe Hatzalah is important for our families, share your point of view with others. If you still don't see the point, please don't just criticize and leave it at that. You are urged to discuss this with the Rav or with a friend who is involved in the organization. If you have e-mail please write to
and include day and evening phone numbers. We will respond gladly via e-mail or telephone, or perhaps face to face, to try to address your concerns.
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7. The Ubermedic
The Ubermedic is a paramedic. In the world of Emergency Medical Services, paramedics are a significant step up the food chain from EMT's. They are kings of the street. The Ubermedic knows this, and in a subtle, unspoken way, he makes sure I know it. His very presence mocks and taunts me. This, at least, is what I'm thinking as I begin my first ambulance ride-along in Queens, accompanied by fellow rookies Josh Itzkowitz and Adam Neustadter. Three newly minted EMT's, crammed into the back of the big yellow beast, Q-01. The Ubermedic is there too, hovering over us, scrutinizing our every move.
Our first call comes in almost immediately, even before the Ubermedic has had an opportunity to finish his show-and-tell presentation of the equipment in the back of the ambulance. The call comes in over the radio, and I am transfixed, like a deer caught in the headlights of a redneck's pick-up truck. I start to shuckle back and forth. My lips mouth the words of our sacred mantra, faster than a Bais Yaakov girl saying Tehillim: “A-B-C, airway, breathing, circulation; A-B-C, airway, breathing, circulation; A-B-C, airway, breathing, circulation". A subliminal message from the Ubermedic arrives in my cerebral cortex: “Shut up already. Get a grip. If you soil yourself, Shuman, I'll rub your nose in it". I put the mantra on hold, and say Kaddish instead.
I ride up front, next to the Ubermedic, as we speed through the streets of Rego Park looking for the address provided by the dispatcher. The Ubermedic used to know this neighborhood like the palm of his hand, but his five plus years of exile from Queens have, it would seem, taken their toll. Itzkowitz and Neustadter fumble with the map in back, as we weave in and out of traffic, lights flashing, siren intermittently blaring. It's scary and more than a little fun. I'm beginning to enjoy this, because I sense what might be the first chink in the Ubermedic's armor. Can it be that we are lost? My glee is short-lived however, as he adapts and improvises by whipping out his ever-present cell phone and speed dials an unknown voice from the past for an assist on the directions. We're at our destination faster than you can say MapQuest.
Our first patient is a man in his seventies who woke up feeling dizzy. His wife also noticed that his speech was somewhat slurred. The left side of his mouth appears to be drooping. The Ubermedic interrogates us, looking to see if we have sized up the scene correctly. We remain mute. The Ubermedic hints that we should be thinking stroke. Well duh, I could have told him that. The Ubermedic tells us to move the patient onto a stair chair. I draw the short straw and get to lift the front end, which means I'm walking down the steps backwards, with nothing but emunah and the Ubermedic behind me. “Don't forget the picture frames on the wall", the Ubermedic reminds me. I'm touched by his concern for the personal property of others, but how about some sympathy for my aching lumbar region?
Our second call teaches me a valuable life lesson. If you are looking for gratitude from everyone you help, you are in for some very serious disappointment. Oblivious to the fact that his wife's condition was deteriorating rapidly, the husband of patient number two is very upset with us because we diverted her to the closest emergency room rather than to his destination of choice, a community hospital some distance away. On a more practical level, I learn that oxygen tanks don't necessarily explode when you drop them. Sometimes, if you're real lucky, they bounce! Almost as high as those Hasbro Superballs I remember from my youth. Fortunately, the Ubermedic's back is turned, so he misses this cool trick. If he didn't see it, it didn't happen, right?
I have noticed, in my brief life as an EMT, that EMS folks share a common trait: A morbid sense of humor
about their work. Maybe it is a defense mechanism. Maybe it helps them cope with the fact that they see
horrible things and deal with terrible tragedy on a regular basis. Black comedy aside, they all know that
it is a serious business they are engaged in. In a similar spirit of levity, I hope this article makes
you smile a little. I do have an ulterior motive, however, and that is to sell you on the importance of
Hatzalah. Hatzalah is all about Jews caring for other Jews; responding on a moments notice; rushing to
whatever scene they are called to, because someone in the Kehilla needs help. The responder may be your
neighbor, someone who sits a few rows away from you in shul, or someone whose children are classmates of
your own children or grandchildren. Yes, Hatzalah volunteers are trained emergency medical services
personnel. But they are much more than that. They are people, like you, who look at the world through
the prism of Torah, and who understand and know how to deal with halachic issues which may arise in the
context of medical emergencies. What is the value of such an organization to a frum community?
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8. When to Call
Your son just took a dive onto the hard kitchen floor and cut himself over his eye. He's bleeding heavily but you remember hearing that cuts on the head often seem worse than they are. But does he have a concussion? Will he need stitches? Should you call 911? In many Jewish communities just across the Hudson the answer is obvious. Call Hatzalah.
An elderly relative just isn't feeling right. It's Shabbos afternoon. She doesn't want to make a fuss; she doesn't want to bother anybody. But she might be having a heart attack or a stroke. What should you do?
The JEC community (Elizabeth, Hillside, Union, Roselle Park) is on the verge of having the same answer to that question that has existed for years in the five boroughs of New York City, the Five Towns, Lakewood, the Jewish communities of the Jersey Shore, Union City, Los Angeles, Montreal, Mexico City, London, Johannesburg and Jerusalem.
The comfort and relief of calling Hatzalah.
Trained and fully equipped Hatzalah volunteers the world over respond directly to medical emergencies in their private vehicles, while a Hatzalah ambulance is simultaneously dispatched. Hatzalah is virtually always on the scene in three minutes or less at a time when seconds count. Municipal ambulances often take much longer.
But Hatzalah is about much more than a quick response. It's the embodiment of 'Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh' – all Jews are responsible for one another. It's about Jews caring for each another with genuine concern and compassion in times of need. It's about ambulance crews that do more than just bring patients to the hospital - they make certain immediate care is provided in the emergency room.
Recently, nearly 50 people attended an informational meeting about Chevra Hatzalah of Elizabeth. At this writing, a second meeting is planned. Nearly 20 people have expressed interest in joining the organization. Extensive operational and fundraising plans are underway. Hatzalah of Elizabeth hopes, with Hashem's help, to begin responding to calls in January 2005. For more information email
Note: Please do not send credit card or related information via email.
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9. You Must Remember This
by Mark Ricklis, November 2011
How do you react to a sight? How do you react to a sound?
A beautiful sunset can make you pause for just a moment. The sound of raindrops softly falling on a spring day can bring a sense of calm.
Flashing lights and blaring sirens make you snap to attention. If you are walking the first reaction is “Stop!” If you are in the car you turn the radio off. You check the mirrors. “Where are the lights? Where is the siren coming from?”
When you see or when you hear an ambulance, what thoughts come immediately to mind?
For most of us the first thought is “Get out of the way!” “Let them through!” Someone is in trouble and the best way that we can help is to make their passage as easy as possible. It is an instinctive behavior at a time when we are aware that precious seconds can help to save a life.
When we see the Hatzalah ambulance an additional thought comes to mind. “One of my neighbors is in trouble. Someone is hurt or sick. Thankfully, Hatzalah is there to help.”
After the ambulance passes one more reaction should take place. Why not stop for a moment and say a perek of Tehilim? Take a little time before you go on your way. Somebody needs your help. Someone inside that ambulance needs your tefilos - right now.
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