On Thursday afternoon, a woman in her 40s in Rosh Tzurim, a religious kibbutz south of Jerusalem in Judea, experienced shortness of breath after eating a snack. She was unaware of suffering from any allergies, and rushed outside to ask her neighbors for help. On the way, her skin began to break out in a rash. The neighbors called emergency services.
Down the block, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Tzvi Barkai was in the middle of teaching a class of clinical students via Zoom when his emergency alert application began to chime. He apologized to his students, telling them he would be back soon, and rushed outside to his car, drove quickly down the street, and arrived in less than two minutes to find the woman surrounded by a crowd of distressed neighbors.
Tzvi quickly made his way through the crowd and assessed the woman’s condition. She had an enlarged tongue, a rash in multiple locations on her person, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, a high pulse, and difficulty speaking – clear signs of a severe allergic reaction.
Having recently undertaken specialized training in responding to anaphylaxis––a serious, potentially fatal allergic reaction––Tzvi knew that once two systems in the body are affected, the allergic reaction becomes a case of anaphylaxis, for which and the immediate treatment is a dose of epinephrine.
Epinephrine is administered via EpiPens and other injection devices. Tzvi quickly pulled the EpiPen he carries with him in his medical kit and administered it to the woman.
“It took about five seconds for the medication to have its effect,” Tzvi recalled. “The woman’s pulse slowed down and her blood pressure rose. The rashes began to subside and she was able to breathe and talk again. It was incredible to witness.”
The woman’s condition stabilized as the medicine continued to spread through her system and by the time the ambulance had arrived, approximately ten minutes later, the woman was stable enough to be transported to the hospital where she would receive continuing care and assessment to determine what caused the reaction.
“During the training class I attended, EpiPens, including the one that I used on Thursday, were donated by the Eichen family to all emergency first responders in attendance,” Tzvi said. “The Eichen family were therefore my partners in saving this woman’s life today, and I want to thank them.”
“Anaphylaxis has a very simple, easy, and lifesaving treatment, but it can only be done if the responders carry EpiPens. Without it, one can only hope and pray that an advanced life support responder who can administer epinephrine without an auto-injection device is nearby and can treat the person in time. Otherwise, the person could very well die. We need more of these tools to save lives.”