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Hatzolah heroes respond to sky-high emergency



Two visiting Hatzolah paramedics, who met each other for the first time on board a flight from Newark to Johannesburg on 20 June, ended up saving a man’s life when he experienced a life-threatening medical emergency.

The patient, an Afrikaans-speaking, middle-aged South African man, collapsed a couple of hours into the flight and required urgent medical attention. Upon seeing him collapse, Hatzolah volunteer emergency medical technician, David Platschek, from Rockaway Laurence, New York, immediately sprang into action. He alerted Hatzolah colleague Mendy Litzman from Sydney, Australia, about the situation, and the two experienced volunteers immediately attended to the patient, stabilising him and saving his life.

“At one point, the plane was going to make an emergency landing possibly into Senegal, but thankfully, we were able to prevent this from happening,” said Litzman.

The two Hatzolah members were en route to a Hatzolah conference in South Africa. They knew that both were on board the flight, but they had never met in person before.

Litzman swopped seats with the patient, giving up his seat in Premium Class so that the paramedics could assist the patient over several hours.

The patient, who at first collapsed in the bathroom requiring the door to be removed, experienced several complications throughout the flight.

Hatzolah communicated with the captain and flight attendants of the aircraft throughout the ordeal. At all times, information was relayed to medical officials, who were kept abreast of the patient’s vitals.

“We worked on him for about 12 of the 15-hour flight. He needed attention,” said Litzman. However, they were so busy saving his life, they didn’t get to find out exactly what his name and surname was.

“The flight attendants were so grateful, and thanked us for our dedication,” he said.

At a certain point, a Jewish American plastic surgeon from Texas in first class also offered the paramedics assistance upon hearing of the onboard emergency.

The entire crew gave the paramedics a standing ovation at the end of the flight, with the pilots on board congratulating them on their professionalism and dedication.

“We treat everybody equally with the same love. The pilot said he had never had such a good medical team on board a flight before which was able to provide long-term care and stabilise the patient,” he said.

Rabbi Ari Shishler of Chabad Strathavon who was onboard during the dramatic rescue, posted a photograph on Instagram of himself with the two paramedics laying tefillin.

“Hatzolah volunteers from Sydney, Australia, and Long Island, New York, made a tremendous Kiddush Hashem on our flight from Newark to Johannesburg today.

“The pair, headed to the international Hatzolah conference hosted by @hatzolahsa in South Africa, responded to a serious medical emergency a few hours into the flight. They attended to the high-risk patient throughout the long-haul flight, keeping him safe and ensuring that we didn’t have to make an emergency landing on the way. Crew and passengers were grateful and highly impressed at their professionalism and care. And we got to daven together in the middle of it all.”

Litzman told the SA Jewish Report, “It was a great Kiddush Hashem to be able to step up as religious Jews to help out in such a crisis. The adrenaline gets going, and during the flight it literally was a case of doing whatever needed to be done without hesitation to keep treating the patient. I think the full magnitude of what happened hit home once we landed. We were dealing with a really sick patient, and we’re just grateful and proud that we managed to keep him stable and safe until landing in Johannesburg. Day in and day out, this is what we do in Sydney and New York Hatzolah. Now I can say that Hatzolah treats patients 37 000 feet (11 277m) in the air as well!”

With assistance from local Hatzolah, arrangements were made for the patient to be transported by regular ambulance to a Johannesburg hospital once the plane landed. He is said to be recovering.

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