Photo Credit: United Hatzalah
Rescue teams administering CPR in a soccer field under a rocket attack, May 11, 2021.

On Tuesday night, as Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip was raining down on Israel, United Hatzalah volunteers continued responding to medical emergencies wherever and whenever they occurred. In the town of Givat Shmuel, a few miles northeast of Tel Aviv, the air raid sirens began to wail just before 9:00 PM. The head of the local United Hatzalah chapter, Asher Tzvi Shwed, was at home with his family and quickly collected his sleeping children, together with his wife, and rushed them to the bomb shelter.

As the family waited for the siren to end, Asher Tzvi’s emergency communications device began to blare, alerting him to a medical emergency nearby. Half a mile away, a 46-year-old man had been jogging in a soccer field before the air raid siren, when he suddenly collapsed. The soccer team on the field saw his collapse, which coincided with the siren. Not sure if the man had collapsed because of a panic attack or the stress of the exercise, the players called United Hatzalah’s Dispatch and Command Center for help.

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Asher Tzvi made sure his wife and kids were safe and raced out to his ambucycle, wearing protective headgear and a bulletproof vest.

Arriving less than a minute later at the soccer field, Asher Tzvi found the group of soccer players crowded around the unconscious man, together with two members of the local search and rescue team who had been in the vicinity. The soccer team members had used the defibrillator at the field, provided by the town council, and administered one shock. Asher Tzvi quickly took over the CPR effort and began chest compressions. Just then a second air raid siren sounded. The team paused the CPR to move to a more secure location near the wall of the stadium.

“The sirens never stopped,” Asher Tzvi recalled. “It was complicated because one minute I was performing CPR and the next I was on the ground covering my head. We were completely exposed out in the field, and we were able to see the rockets flying above us, most of them being intercepted by the iron dome system.”

Asher Tzvi was quickly joined by additional medical personnel, and two more shocks were administered from the defibrillator. The team continued with compressions and provided assisted ventilation. A few minutes later, a mobile intensive care ambulance arrived, and the paramedic administered adrenaline. An IV line was attached as well, and the man’s pulse returned but was unstable. The patient was then loaded into the ambulance, still with a sporadic pulse, and was taken to the nearest hospital while undergoing CPR.

Asher Tzvi admitted “it was terrifying to perform CPR in an open field during a rocket attack. Rockets were flying over our heads non-stop and the siren kept going. We were performing compressions while wearing bulletproof helmets and vests and that, too, was tiring. Even more terrifying was the fact that we were hearing the explosions, as rockets were being intercepted by the Iron Dome battery.”

“I did it because a person’s life was on the line and I was hoping to help him live despite the dangers all around us,” the EMT volunteer said. “In my ten years of volunteering as a first responder, I have never done anything like this before, and it is an experience that I will never forget.”

Asher Tzvi and the other first responders returned home safely to their families after the man was transported to the hospital.

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