I’m currently volunteering at Magen David Adom in Israel in Netanya. We started with a 10-day intensive training course where we learned everything we needed to know to go on an ambulance – how to diagnose and treat the patient.
We also met everyone who is volunteering for the next month from places all around the world. It was an incredible 10 days of serious learning which was both fun and helpful in preparation.
When we started our shifts – most people were nervous and we felt as though we didn’t know what to do, but within the first few minutes, we realised we knew just about everything. (Well, maybe not all the Hebrew terminology ). E veryone at the station was really friendly. The staff were all so welcoming.
We’re only 2 weeks into volunteering properly and I already feel like I’ve seen it all- some of the cases have ranged from a seven year old having inexplicable seizures, through elderly having trouble breathing or chest pains, to mentally traumatised patients who have experienced abuse or sexual harassment.
I also attended the scene after a suicide. This was way out of my comfort zone, though the care and sensitivity shown by the MDA team here is what I will always remember. I have helped intoxicated patients and have seen people suffering from hyperglycaemia.
At MDA, shifts last eight hours and, for overseas volunteers, they are either morning till afternoon, or can run overnight. I had my overnight shift and was offered another spot the next morning. I jumped at the opportunity! Little did I know that during the overnight shift we would receive nine calls -; meaning no time to sleep and constant work.
It was 7:00am – time to start my morning. I was exhausted, but I happily continued on, even though I was nearly falling asleep every time I sat down. This gave proof as to how tired I was. Numerous times, I was offered the chance to go home and sleep. Any normal person with that level of sleep deprivation probably would have accepted, but for some reason I felt the need to stay on till 3:00pm and complete a 16-hour shift.
At 2:58pm, we had just dropped a patient at the hospital and filled out all the forms. I assumed we’d then be going back to the station and I could finally go home and sleep. The last thing I wanted was another call! But at that moment, we received THE call.
The ambulance and drove at 160kph to a nearby location. The ambulance driver carefully explained to me that a woman had jumped from a twelve-storey building. I was prepared.
We arrived at the scene and everything happened so fast. I ran over to the patient with the oxygen pump set it up, while someone else gave compressions. There was no pulse and no breathing. Despite all our efforts, it made me realise that we at MDA cannot save everybody. As quick and as active and as responsive as the MDA team was, this was the reality and it was a sobering lesson. I don’t feel traumatised even though this experience was out of my comfort zone.
So far this has been an amazing experience, one where you feel as though you are actually helping and, at the same time, learning so much. Making this positive contribution and volunteering for MDA is amazing. At times it has been confronting, but also so rewarding. Because of the unbelievable sensitivity and empathy shown to all in the community, volunteering here is such a worthwhile experience – even on a sad day.