Mr. Shiu Reichmann, a veteran Queens Hatzolah member for the past 38 years, spoke about the intensive training that goes into becoming a Hatzolah volunteer, and he explained the process of any Hatzolah call in depth. “Well before the member arrives at the door, the volunteer could be in the middle of working, sleeping, helping around the house, or even eating a Shabbos meal. When the call comes over the Hatzolah radio, he drops everything to respond immediately. Your emergency becomes his emergency.”
He runs to his car, adrenalin pumping, and hyper-focused not to waste a single moment in his response. The member receives information from the dispatcher with the address and possible nature of the call. At times, due to the panic and concern of the family, the emergency could be different from what the caller told the dispatcher. The Hatzolah members don’t know what is really going on until they arrive. “Hatzolah members have to be prepared to help someone of any nature, any age, and from any cultural background.” His bags are filled with equipment ready for any emergency. He must act quickly while still respecting and being aware of the driving safety rules. Upon arrival, the member is not just an EMT or a paramedic, but a detective, as well. He must assess the level of severity of the problem and study the signs the body is showing. He will call for additional resources as needed. Next, he gains valuable information from the family or bystanders to determine what led to the emergency, what interventions may have been taken, and which medical history the patient may have. Often the members respond to a home where English is not the primary language and Hatzolah members who speak the same language or come from the same culture are helpful. Finally, the members decide on which hospital to transport the patient to, whether it is a local hospital or, sometimes, 40 minutes away.
Mr. Reichmann emphasized that Hatzolah members work as an elite team. There can be challenges with transporting the patient, like narrow walkways, steep stairways, unpaved floors, and deciding which specialty hospital is best for the patient. The Hatzolah volunteers often call the emergency room ahead of arrival to assure that the doctors are ready and waiting to treat their patient. They make all possible efforts when minutes count.
Mr. Reichmann pointed out that “when a Queens Hatzolah member responds to a call, he is not responding alone. He is responding with his whole family.” The family was disrupted from a Shabbos meal, left at the mall, or whatever was going on in the volunteer’s life at the moment. They see and treat every patient as one of their own family members.” Mr. Reichmann shared how his wife and family always waited up for him, no matter what time he returned from a call. “You can have back-to-back calls because once you are on the road you may be the closest ambulance to another call.” He shared how he feels fortunate that his son is also a Queens Hatzolah member. His children grew up with this lifestyle, and they feel it inspired them to perform acts of chesed.
Mr. Reichmann stated that currently Queens Hatzolah has 12 ambulances strategically located all over the Queens and Great Neck neighborhoods. The call does not end with dropping the patient off at the hospital. Oftentimes, the member will refuel the ambulance after completion of a call or restock the ambulance in order to assure that it is ready for the next emergency. The Queens Hatzolah ambulances are in essence a mobile emergency room with the Hatzolah members acting as field physicians.
Queens Hatzolah has over 150 EMTs and 20 paramedics who are phenomenally trained. This is not always the case with other emergency agencies. Often, with other ambulance agencies, the driver doesn’t have to be an EMT.
Queens Hatzolah has also implemented a night shift every night aside from Shabbos and Yom Tov. This ensures emergency coverage in record-breaking time and it has saved many lives.
Mr. Reichmann praised the incredible devotion of Queen Hatzolah volunteers and their families who selflessly dedicate their time for klal Yisrael. “It is a tremendous z’chus to be a part of Queens Hatzolah for the past 38 years and counting – going from one ambulance to a fleet of 12, and watching the organization grow and become a household name as it spreads its coverage area.”
Our community is made of so many people from so many different backgrounds: Hungarian, Polish, Bukharin, Moroccan, Persian, and Israeli, just to name a few. We have the merit to benefit from this amazing volunteer ambulance organization. We all have an obligation to appreciate the dedication and devotion of the Queens Hatzolah members. We must do whatever we can to help them sustain this lifesaving organization. Please donate generously.
As Rabbi Levy imparted, “There is nothing more important in Judaism than a Jewish soul – a Jewish life. Queens Hatzolah goes to any length to save any person in need!”
By Susie Garber