blog_ben_zajacBen Zajac
Ben, a 21 year old from Melbourne,
volunteered for Magen David Adom
spurred on by his interest in emergency medicine.
He writes here about his experiences ….

March 2014


I decided to participate in the Yochai Porat program because I had a keen interest in Emergency Health and wanted to get a first-hand experience at understanding the world of paramedics.

The initial training course allowed me and the other volunteers to get a glimpse into the possible cases that we may be dealing with, but didn’t scratch the surface in terms of explaining the emotion and stress that would come from just one day of work.

I was so eager to start working and seeing interesting cases, but I remember me and my team, on the day, had to wait over an hour for our first call to come in, which was just a basic call to a school to come and see a boy who had fallen over in the playground. He was obviously in a state of distress and wasn’t talking to us when we arrived, so we simply loaded him onto the backboard and took him the children’s hospital.

One very important thing I learnt straight away from this first call was that being a medic or paramedic on an ambulance isn’t just about providing medical support to the patients, but rather a significant portion of the job involves being an emotional support and being able to deal with varied levels of distress with any particular call.

Throughout the five week volunteering period, I slowly gained confidence in myself as someone who could deal with more troubling situations, as I improved my Hebrew and became more accustomed to the different MDA procedures. However, on my last day of volunteering that confidence was severely tested when we were called in for an electrocution case, where two men were seriously wounded. I was lost and confused and wasn’t entirely sure what I should be doing. But I knew from my previous experiences that, because I was wearing the MDA shirt, people had faith in me and, when they saw the ambulance coming, they trusted that things would be okay – and thankfully they were.

January 2014


I decided to do the MDA course because I’ve had a strong interest in emergency health for a while and have been seriously considering it as a career path.

I felt that deciding to get first-hand experience, in a country to which I have such a strong connection, is such a unique and privileged opportunity. Not only does it allow me to explore my curiosity of ambulances and emergency health, it also provides me with the opportunity to be of service to a community of which I’ve become a part in Haifa over the past 7 months.

I was slightly skeptical about how much I could possibly learn in 60 hours of training but, with the perspective of hindsight, I understand that this was only the very beginning of the learning process, as so much is taught and learned in the field.


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I remember my first call. It was to a school where a ten year old boy had fallen over and hurt his back. It was pretty clear from the start that there was nothing too serious that had happened to him, however he wasn’t talking or giving any response to our team of medics. I realised then that this position was more than just physically treating a patient. It was about helping them emotionally to feel comfortable and confident that they will be ok.

One of the most interesting calls I had was to a middle aged woman who had chest pain. When we arrived, she had an extremely rapid pulse and arrthymias. It was clear that she was suffering from Angina Pectoris or possibly an MI. So there was only limited treatment that we could give her. But the basic life support team, of which I was a part, played an integral part in providing first response treatment and calm her down as the Natan (advanced life support) was on the way with more intensive medication. When they arrived, it was incredible to watch as they injected the various medications which had an almost immediate effect on her pulse, allowing her to be calm and walk down to the ambulance.

A sad call that I received was to an elderly lady who had fallen over in a park. She had broken her nose and possibly other bones in her face. She was covered in blood and in a state of shock. When we arrived we cleaned her up and took her to the hospital, however, when we got to the hospital and asked if she had family to call, she told us she didn’t – which was quite challenging to deal with as she was in a lot of pain, but had nobody to stand by her side but us. Yet there was only just so long we could stay there before we had to go to another call.