IsraelSeen Exclusive: How I Found Myself a New Family
Dana Attias is a United Hatzalah EMT volunteer in training. On Wednesday night, Attias helped deliver a baby girl, the first that she has ever participated in as an emergency medical technician (EMT).
Just as Valentine’s Day was coming to a close, Attias volunteered to take an ambulance shift in her hometown of Tel Aviv. Being a divorced mother of three, she can’t always take on ambulance shifts and does most of her calls as they come while driving her own private vehicle. “Usually when I go out to respond to emergencies, my eldest daughter, who is 12 watches her younger siblings, but last night they were all with the family of my ex-husband so I spent my night off to doing what I truly love, saving lives with other United Hatzalah volunteers.”
Attias, who recently finished her training course and is in the middle of completing her Health Ministry mandated 100 training calls, is finishing off the process of becoming a full-fledged first responder and she is loving every second of it.
“Helping another woman give birth really inspired me. It was an incredibly uplifting feeling to be there for this woman and help her bring another life into the world. As a mother, this was one of my dreams. I always wanted to get into the field of medicine and helping others. This has been my dream ever since I was a young girl,” Attias reflected.
“I took a medics course in the military but I wasn’t able to finish it because I became pregnant with my first child. I always knew that I wanted to finish it I was never able to as I was too busy with my family. Now that my children are old enough I was finally able to allow myself to take the course and I did.” Attias said that she even asked her friends and everyone she knew on her 30th birthday that for a present she wanted someone to find her an EMT course that she could join, after having tried to volunteer with the national ambulance service and getting caught in red tape.
“Being a volunteer EMT means being a part of the most intimate moments of another person’s life as a guest,” Attias reflected. “I was at this person’s birth, I was the cause of this baby making its first noise and it was the first time I’ve ever seen or touched an umbilical cord. Even when I gave birth straightforward I never got to see or feel an umbilical cord, it is one of the most moving moments that I’ve ever had and I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this moment. I really enjoy being an EMT. I don’t see the volunteering as me simply giving to the patients, I see it as the patients also giving to me.”
Attias works as a cosmetician but her self-proclaimed passion is being a volunteer. “As long as I get at least one emergency call per day I am happy because it brings me such joy to help people and the adrenaline isn’t too bad either. Why should I go out and spend money, when all of these amazing people whom I’ve come to know and love, and whom I now consider my family, are spending their time on ambulances, or in their private cars driving around and saving people. To join an ambulance shift I get to be with my friends, or people who are even closer to me than my friends, I don’t have to spend money, and I get to have experiences that I will never forget all while helping others. There really is no contest there.”
Speaking about the delivering of the baby on Wednesday, Attias said it was a healing moment for all involved. “The United Hatzalah ambulance team was the first to arrive at the home of the family and the woman was very worried even before we arrived. When we got there she and her husband were very concerned as the birth was happening quickly and the baby was already partly outside the womb. They both calmed down considerably when they saw us. Things progressed quickly and the birth went without a problem. I took the child and brought her to her mother’s breast to begin nursing and help close the mother’s womb and expel the afterbirth. It was incredibly intimate and it left me revitalized as the previous call that we had been to involved a battered woman. Here I got to see firsthand on Valentine’s Day the two extremes that love can cause one after the other. In one situation love was taken to a dangerous level one that caused harm, in the other the healing effects of love had created a new life. It made me think of my own children and how much I love them.”
Attias shared a few other calls that she felt helped make her a stronger person while giving her an incredible insight into how important EMS first responders can be.
“When my first call ever occurred, I was standing in the checkout line in Rami Levy supermarket with my eldest daughter. Out of the blue, we heard screaming. I didn’t see anyone running away so I knew it wasn’t a terror attack. I sent my daughter over to see what had happened. She came back and said that she saw a lot of blood on the ground a few aisles back. I ran over and saw a man with a serious head wound bleeding profusely. I stopped the bleeding using the supermarket’s first aid kit. It was fairly straightforward but other people around me stood frozen in shock. Since then, I knew the power of my training and how important it is to be able to act in the moments that matter most. I have also become somewhat of a superhero to my daughter.”
“Another call transpired on Chanukah while I was in the middle of lighting candles with my children to celebrate the holiday. I ran out to respond to a CPR call that occurred nearby. When I arrived at the scene of the emergency I saw the person’s caretaker giving her CPR. I noticed that something was off and that the CPR didn’t look quite right. I intervened and before continuing compressions, I checked the woman’s pulse and breathing. To my surprise, in spite of the call telling me it was a CPR case and in spite of seeing someone already doing compressions, I found that the woman had a pulse and was breathing weakly. I checked her sugar level and it turned out that she was hypoglycemic. While still a dangerous situation, this did not yet require CPR. I gave the woman Glucogel and she returned to full consciousness.”
Attias wanted to thank the organization that, in her words, has given her so much. “I don’t say this lightly and I do say it to all of my friends. I feel that joining United Hatzalah was like receiving a family. On my very first day in my new chapter of Tel Aviv, there was a get together that involved a big welcoming for me with new friends asking about me and wanting me to share stories of my calls with them. I felt welcomed and a part of the crowd. There is no doubt in my mind that the people who apply to volunteer with United Hatzalah are each very special and unique. My children feel that they too are included and have become part of the larger family. My children are very supportive and they know how much of a positive impact this whole process has made upon me. I feel supported again, and for a single mother that is not an easy task. Ever since I began the training course the people who are volunteering with me have supported me and stood by my side. And that has continued with every person I’ve met throughout the organization. I feel that I owe a lot to this organization.”
Attias said that volunteering has given her a sense of belonging that she has not felt elsewhere. “Throughout my entire life, I have never really felt like I found my place, here in UH I feel that I have really become part of something much greater and everyone makes me feel like I belong. Going out to calls and seeing the smiles on the faces of your fellow volunteers gives me the feeling that they are happy to have me with them, even during some of the most urgent and darkest times that any of us will experience they want me there, and I want to be there with them to help others.”