Receiving sincere gratitude, directly from the heart, is a powerful gift; one which is driving me to achieve my dreams. I experienced this gratitude while working for as a student volunteer for Magen David Adom, the ambulance service in Israel, from May 7 until June 26.
Arriving in Israel, I spent 10 days training in Jerusalem with newfound friends from Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, and the Netherlands. There was a real sense of people uniting from around the world to help Israel. In the training course, I learned skills such as CPR with an oxygen mask, backboarding for spinal injuries, taking vital signs, and applying tourniquets, as well as basic anatomy and kinematics of various traumas and diseases.
After completing the training and passing a Hebrew test, I was stationed in Haifa, a port on a mountain by the Mediterranean, and a model of coexistence in Israel. I lived in an apartment that doubled as a bomb shelter, with a student from Louisiana. I had to survive in a foreign culture on my own. This involved grocery shopping and navigating through the public transportation system. I experienced what it truly feels like to live in Israel.
Another aspect which one would not be exposed to on an ordinary trip to Israel is the coexistence between Jews, Muslims and Christians who work together to treat individuals regardless of their background. All that mattered was that human life was being saved. To me, this was a pure sign of peace.
My time spent in the ambulances was filled with action. For example, I had to apply an automated external defibrillator and perform chest compressions on a patient in cardiac arrest. I also dealt with a couple of suicide attempts, one of which involved me pulling back an individual who was trying to run in front of a bus. Other cases involved strokes, severe Alzheimer’s disease, drug abuse, and observing a death declaration. One of my favourite cases was bringing a woman in labour to the hospital. I remember giving her water and having her squeeze my hand. I was overwhelmed with such naches from feeling that I helped to bring a new life into this world.
If you want to volunteer for Magen David Adom, I think it is important to understand several things. The first is that simple gestures, such as providing words of comfort, make enormous differences for those who are in need who may fear for their well-being. Second, you will need to see individuals as human beings whose lives are vibrant beyond their disease, injury or medical emergency. Third, and most important, call your parents frequently to tell them about your experiences. I am thankful that mine sent me on this program in Israel, as it helped me to discover my true passion to becoming a physician. When I say this, I mean it straight from my heart.
Visit www.mdavolunteers.org for more information about Magen David Adom’s program for student volunteers aged 18 to 30 or contact Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-858-2632.