The following is a letter written by Israel’s first deaf Emergency Medical Technician, who has saved numerous lives since she finished her EMT training course with honors six months ago.
I’m deaf, but I can still save your life.
My name is Nechama Loebel and I have been deaf since birth. For many years I have dreamed of becoming a lifesaving EMT. I have always wanted to help those in need of medical attention, but my dream had always hit roadblocks that prevented me from becoming an EMT. How would I be able to interact with sick and injured patients? How would I be able to maintain my own personal safety at the scene of a crisis situation? Everyone who I spoke to knew how to tell me exactly why I could not fulfill my dream, why I wasn’t worthy or fit for the job. But on the other hand, no one knew just how strong my desire to help others was and how much I wanted to give back to my community. No one that is, until I found United Hatzalah.
United Hatzalah’s goal is to reach and treat any injured or ill person in just a few moments, well before an ambulance can arrive on scene. Often it takes ambulance services many long minutes to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency, and that time can cause an unnecessary loss of life. At United Hatzalah, there are 3,000 volunteer EMTs, paramedics, and doctors who form a national network of lifesavers. The national and regional dispatch centers of United Hatzalah know how to locate each volunteer based on a GPS tracking system located in their phones. This allows them to dispatch the closest volunteers to any medical emergency anywhere in the country and at any time. The volunteers arrive in almost no time and begin to treat the man, woman or child in need of medical attention and stay with them until the ambulance arrives.
United Hatzalah looked at me differently, as an equal. They saw what I could bring to the job and not what I was lacking. They knew that I could not hear and that my condition could be a liability in the field. However, they were also stubborn in their confidence that with hard work we could get over this liability together. I took part in and passed my EMT training course with honors. During my fieldwork, the management of the organization made sure that I would always be working as part of a team of EMTs and paramedics to ensure my own safety. I have treated many people in a variety of situations including heart attacks, car accidents, a variety of injuries and many others. I am very happy to be a part of such a wonderful and inclusive organization that has provided me with the training and teamwork necessary to allow me to fulfill my dream of helping others.
On December 3rd we celebrated the International Day for people with a disability. My message on that day and on December 6th when I spoke to the Israeli Knesset about making Israeli society more inclusive to people with a disability was the same. If you come across a person with a disability and they tell you about their dream, think about the possible ways in which you can help this person succeed, and not about the many roadblocks in their way. Give people with a disability a chance. It will make our country, and every country a better place to live. At this point, I would like to say thank you to United Hatzalah for giving me the chance and the honor to save lives.