A few weeks ago, a woman in her 50s suffered chest pains in her home in the city of Akko, and her relatives alerted emergency services.
One of the first to respond to the emergency was United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Chen ben Yehuda. Chen, 43, of Moshav Netiv HaShayara, uses a wheelchair to get around.
“My story began a few years ago when I started having back pains. I underwent an unsuccessful surgery which damaged my spine. After a while, I decided to go through another surgery which worsened my condition, causing numbness in my right leg. Since then, I have been using a wheelchair,” Chen explained.
Chen had to learn to live with his disability. “Before my injury, I was always an active person, I used to work in a government office and was always on my feet,” he said. “It was hard to transition from that to sitting in a wheelchair all the time. I started looking for ways to contribute to my community and saw on my moshav׳s Whatsapp group that a United Hatzalah EMT course was opening. I decided to trust my gut and sign up. At first, people looked at me weirdly, thinking a person with a disability couldn’t be a first responder and save lives. But my instructors in the course kept telling me nothing is impossible and supported me, which helped me believe in myself,’’ Chen said.
He completed the course successfully and began responding to emergencies on ambulance shifts in and around Akko.“I found tricks that help me provide medical assistance comfortably and overcome my disability,” the volunteer explained. “For instance, I put on knee pads so I can get on my knees to perform CPR. I am used to getting on and off the ambulance and the ambulance crew is used to putting my wheelchair into the ambulance or taking it out. It all happens very smoothly and efficiently.”
Chen talked explained his motivation for volunteering with his disability and said, “The medical field has always fascinated me. After I joined the EMT course I was exposed to a lot of knowledge and experiences and I enjoyed it very much. When I was out in the field on the ambulance shifts I saw people in need of help, I learned how to provide assistance and see the influence of my help. I found it very satisfying.’’
Chen continued, “I don’t feel any less of an EMT because of my disability, I feel better because I’m living proof that a man with a disability can do what any other person does. I strongly believe that giving is also a way of receiving, I provide medical treatment and I receive satisfaction and happiness. It pushes me to continue volunteering and saving lives.’’