THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
Volunteering with Magen David Adom has been a rewarding and incredible experience. I’m currently on a gap year program and, in my summer months, I was given the opportunity to choose to volunteer with MDA. As someone who plans to study medicine and has a passion for volunteering, MDA seemed like the most exciting choice. After completing the intensive 60 hour course, I was finally qualified to be an ambulance volunteer.
From the more common calls of hypertension, bodily pain, weakness and suspected stroke, to stabbings, overdoses, CPR’S, suicides, drowning and psychosis, in two short months, I saw more than I’d ever imagined I could. I saw women who had jumped off buildings, men who had drowned in the beach, babies having seizures, and a woman who’d been brutally assaulted. I held the hands of women in labour, and personally performed CPR on an elderly man, and even received Shabbat invitations from friendly patients, and hospitable drivers.
As a volunteer with MDA, you are given a unique insight into the true cross-section of Israeli culture you might never see otherwise. And although it is difficult seeing people in their most vulnerable state, knowing that you have the basic training to help them is an incredibly rewarding feeling.
There is one call, however, that stands out as being one I will never forget. It was about 1:00am, and the driver, Talia (another MDA Chul volunteer) and I got called to a park for a drug overdose. We found a Charedi woman lying on the ground, yet almost completely lucid. After telling us how many pills she had intentionally taken, we managed to convince her to come to hospital. While the driver was driving, the woman swiftly removed her top and was using it to strangle herself. The driver stopped the ambulance in the middle of the road, and we all unsuccessfully tried to pry open her hands. Only after I was about to cut her shirt, did she let go. We continued on the hospital and, about 10 minutes later, in what felt like a second, she had removed the sheet from the bed and was attempting to smother herself.
This time, the driver was unable to stop the ambulance and my friend and I couldn’t tear away her hands. Using the basic Hebrew we had, we spoke to the woman, urging her not to end her life. She relaxed her hands, and said, “Why do you care?”. It was at that moment when I realised that my ability to help people in MDA was not predominantly in a medical way, but also in a humanitarian way. I had more to offer letting this woman know that I care what happens to her, and that I believed that her life is worth saving, than I could offer in any other way.
The true power of the MDA Chul experience lies not in the more “exciting” calls, but rather in the small details. Forging relationships with Israeli volunteers and drivers, holding a patient’s hand, chatting to them about their life, and even helping the drivers fill out forms and carrying equipment is where we all have the power to make the biggest difference. What I can only fully comprehend with the benefit of hindsight is that I gained and learnt more from the past two months, than I could ever hope to give.
This experience has been amazing and invaluable. The care and sensitivity of the drivers and volunteers is amazing to watch, and I encourage anyone who is thinking of volunteering to definitely give it a shot. I just want to say thank you to everyone, both at the station and in the course, who made this experience so worthwhile. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.