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Behind the Wheel at Ezer Mizion
Shmuel Strauss was hired as a driver. His job: to transport the elderly and disabled from here to there. But reading between the lines, he knew that an Ezer Mizion driver could do so much more.
“I often see the same people week after week and develop relationships,” he says. “One of my clients was a young mother of three whose husband had died four years ago. Now it was she who was battling for her life. I take her to the oncology clinic for treatment several times a week. Worries color her every waking hour. Will she…? What will be with her children afterwards…” Shmuel would speak warmly to her. His encouragement left her smiling, albeit wanly. One trip found her even more depressed than usual.
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The following includes a profile of the Alexander and Charlotte Herman Ambulance driver and moving stories he experienced in his role.
Deeper Meaning in Life
“Something very deep changed in my life after I became the driver of Ezer Mizion’s Alexander and Charlotte Herman Ambulance,” Amitai says. “It was a transformation from being busy with my mundane everyday chores, tasks and responsibilities to something much more profound. Life took on a totally new dimension and deeper meaning for me.
“I began meeting up with people who smiled at me like everyone else, but were living with the most excruciating pain and in the darkest circumstances. Their lives were racked with illness, suffering and in the shadow of the Angel of Death. Many of them were so sweet and nice, but after speaking to them a little bit I discovered how terribly lonely they were.
“I don’t know what it is that makes people feel comfortable and confident that they can talk to me as an ambulance driver and share with me their personal feelings and experiences, their anguish and hope, and come away relieved and empowered.
Sarah from Pisgat Zeev
“I was transporting Sarah, an 85 year old Holocaust survival who lived alone with her homecare attendant in Pisgat Zeev. Life was not “Easy Street” for Sarah throughout her 85 years on earth and perhaps that is why she was so negative, forlorn and lonely. She is not in touch with anyone. It was actually a neighbor who had made the arrangements for her to be transported by Ezer Mizion to her doctor’s appointment in Hadassah Ein Kerem.
“From talking to her, I heard that she was a prisoner in her own house, unable to get out at all. The last time she had crossed the threshold of her home was five months earlier. I was terribly shaken by the thought. “You don’t have to wait for a doctor’s appointment to call me and to ask to leave the door of your home!’ is what I told her. I left her my card and a short time later I got a call from Sarah. Her request was to be carried down three flights just to sit
in front of her building. That is all she asked for: to be released from the prison of her four walls.
“Carrying her down the three flights of stairs of her apartment building was all it took to release her from her jail. She was so happy, genuinely thrilled. We have developed a close relationship and I know that it means very much to her.
“Since then, Sarah has called me twice to request that I take her downstairs to sit in the sun for a few minutes. But the thought that she can do it any time and that I will always be there for her, is enough to make the difference from being miserable to being happy.”
Moshe B. and the Pain Clinic
Moshe B. is severely diabetic. As a result of his diabetes, he lost a leg and is wheelchair bound. Moshewas orphaned of his mother when he was a little boy. He lives with his elderly father in a ground floor apartment.
Moshe is transported regularly by the Alexander and Charlotte Herman Ambulance from his apartment in Pisgat Zeev to the Pain Clinic in Hadassah Har Hazofim where he is treated for his constant acute pain.
As Ezer Mizion drivers, one of our major principles is to make sure that we are always on time, because many of the appointments were scheduled months before…
I don’t recall why, but that morning I arrived with the Alexander and Charlotte Herman Ambulance at 6:30 AM to the pickup which was scheduled for 7:00 AM. As I approached the apartment, I smelled fire and saw Moshe busy with a raging blaze. As I ran near, his intentions became obvious to me. He was trying to end his suffering. The flames neared a gas pipe.
“I grabbed Moshe and quickly got him away from the leaping flames. I got hold of a hose and began spraying until I managed to put the fire out. Still with the goal of making it to Moshe’s appointment on time, I got him into the ambulance and we began speeding to the Pain Clinic.
“I watched him through the rear-view mirror and suddenly noticed that he was downing pills, one after another. I realized that he was in a state of extreme depression and would need professional intervention right away. But before that, I pulled over to the shoulder of the road and grabbed the lethal medication that he was overdosing himself with out of his hands.
“When we got to the hospital, I immediately spoke to the social worker who is involved with Moshe and told her what had happened that morning. I felt my presence there just when he expressed his despair, enabled me to get Moshe the medical and emotional support that he needed so badly. The hospital staff listened intently to whatever I was saying and rallied to assist in this delicate, dangerous situation.
“Since then, things have calmed down. A team of professionals is handling the case and there has been marked improvement.
“This incident has left a tremendous impact on my life and on my outlook on life. I am part of a team that is impacting on people’s lives in ways that are so significant and that I never dreamed that I would be part of as “just” an ambulance driver…”
On the Receiving End
Michael Emanuel, the second Alexander and Charlotte Herman Ambulance driver tells about Dr. Rites, a former American pediatrician who moved to Talbie following his retirement. Michael transports the elderly Doctor three times a week in the Alexander and Charlotte Herman Ambulance for dialysis treatment. Traveling together so frequently has created a friendly relationship between the ambulance team and their aged passenger.
“I am so moved by the personal touch and the caring you guys convey all the time,” the fragile doctor said. “This is worlds apart from the medicine that we find so commonly practiced that is technical and remote. You are so human and respectful. It is very difficult for me to be on the receiving end. Your warmth and positive attitude just make it so much easier for me and sweeten the bitterness that comes as part of my precarious health situation.”
The Wrong Fork in the Road
One day, I was on my way to pick up a patient from Hadassah Ein Kerem. By mistake I took the wrong fork in the road. I was no longer headed toward Hadassah. I was instead traveling on the scenic side of the road in the direction of Alyn Rehab Center and Residence for severely handicapped children. I was surprised at myself and upset that I would be late to my pickup.
As I approached Alyn, I saw a woman with a child in a wheelchair, waving her hands frantically. I understood she needed assistance, so I stopped and asked what I could do for her. She was very agitated and told me that she was on her way to the airport to catch a flight to Belgium for a long awaited appointment for orthopedic surgery for her child. The vehicle she had ordered for transport never arrived to pick her up and the clock was ticking away. She was afraid they were going to miss their flight and this significant opportunity…
I immediately agreed to take her and made alternate arrangements for the Hadassah pickup. I rushed with the mother and her child to Ben Gurion and as I was driving I contacted the airline to confirm that they were on their way. I was informed that the departure gate had already been closed. The mother was so desperate, I was not about to give up.
With tension rising, I phoned a friend who worked at the airport and explained the circumstances. He quickly worked behind the scenes and got back to me with instructions to drive directly to the Shalom Gate, which is designated for VIP’s. Arrangements were quickly made for the ambulance to drive straight through to the airstrip where a mobile lift carried the mother and child straight to the plane’s door. The following day I received a phone call: Surgery performed. Surgery successful.