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Calm, Cool, Connected

Gila Arnold

Hatzolah volunteers are the pride of the frum community, ready any hour of the day to drop what need be to assist in a medical emergency. Yet behind the dedicated medics, there are a slew of volunteers who play a quieter, but no less vital role. They are the voices on the phone, calming nerves, collecting information, and sending help at a moment’s notice. Meet the Hatzolah dispatchers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When Sari K. heard the phone ring, she picked it up and answered as usual. “Hello. This is Hatzolah. Where are you located?”

The boy on the other end of the line gave her his address — and complained that he was vomiting. Then the line went dead.

Sari immediately dispatched the emergency medical responders to the address he’d provided, then tried calling back, but there was no answer. Minutes later, she got a call from the EMTs: They couldn’t find the address.

“We didn’t know what to do,” Sari relates, “and were wondering whether to give up. After all, it didn’t sound very serious. But we said, ‘Something here sounds funny.’ Why is a kid calling Hatzolah just because he’s throwing up?”

So the men kept looking, and their perseverance paid off. Eventually, they found the boy’s house — and a serious gas leak. By the time the emergency responders arrived, there was no oxygen left to breathe, and the boy and his family were lying unconscious on the floor. Another few minutes and the situation would have been fatal.

It’s all in a day for Hatzolah, the international emergency response organization that rushes expectant mothers to hospitals, bandages injured children, and is often first on the scene when tragedy strikes. But behind the ambulance and the brave emergency medical teams, there are the dispatchers, the unsung heroes of the Hatzolah operation, the first point of contact for the harried and the frantic.

So what’s it like being the voice on the other end of the line? What inspires a person to dedicate countless hours toward such a high-stress volunteer position?

“I was always interested in anything medical, and loved helping others,” relates Chavi Gorman, who has been a dispatcher for Hatzolah inLos Angelesfor the past five years. “I’d worked in a school for many years, and was particularly good at dealing with the children who were crying or hurt. When someone asked me if I’d consider being a dispatcher, I jumped at the idea.”

Esther Weissman* ofLondonalso cites her love of the medical field as what attracted her to the job, and she explains how her involvement came about. “My husband, now a retired Hatzolah member, was at the time the chairman of the committee that decided they needed more dispatchers. So he volunteered me for the job.” Twenty-five years later, she is still at it, saying that it suits her personality and interests well.

Sari K., on the other hand, was more hesitant about dispatching being a good match. “I didn’t consider volunteering,” she relates. “I didn’t think my personality was right for the job. But then my son received a blow to his head, and Hatzolah was there within about a minute. I decided that I have to be a part of this.”


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