As I arrived at the Tel Aviv station for my first shift with MDA, I felt my stomach churning. I was greeted by two friendly 16 year old Israeli volunteers and an overtired driver, who had just done the night shift.
As we sped over to our first call, I heard the siren and looked around for another ambulance. Stupidly, I suddenly realised that the noise was coming from our ambulance. I was surprised by the calmness inside the ambulance, as the others continued laughing and chattering in Hebrew, even turning up the music and singing along.
Annoyingly, our first two calls were cancelled just as we arrived. But our third call was from a lady, alone in her house, who had fallen and was bleeding from her head. For the first time, I realised just how vulnerable an ambulance patient is. There I was, standing in her house, looking at the photos on her fridge and trying to figure out who this woman was.
We backboarded her and took her to the back of the ambulance. I watched, feeling helpless, as the two Israelis operated mechanically. I felt like an observer, completely useless. And then I noticed the tiny quiver in this patient’s lip, a tear developing in her eye, and the fear in her face. I gave her my hand. She held onto it until we arrived at the hospital.
The next call for the evening was a pregnant woman, who had started contractions. My job was timing those contractions. To everyone’s relief we got her to the hospital before she gave birth.
Our final call of the day was a little bit of a medical mystery. We were called to a homeless man, who was sitting in his wheelchair surrounded by his own bloody footprints. He was wearing old, wornout slippers. His foot was inflamed, raw and scabby. It was not a pleasant sight! He had made an bandage out of a plastic bag which was covered in pus.
The driver instructed him to take off the bandage and slippers. As the man obeyed, to my horror, I watched as a few hundred white and slimy little maggots scurried from his foot, while others continued to burrow into his skin. I went through every nook and cranny in the ambulance to find as much disinfectant as possible, five bottles, which we poured on the patient from a distance. We then bandaged up his leg. The man didn’t want to come to hospital, so we had to leave him where we’d found him. (Later that week, I walked past the same man, and noticed that his bandage was still clean and intact.)
I can definitely say after that, that no matter how prepared you are, nothing can prepare you for some of the things you’ll see!!