Under attack: Israel’s national EMS treat the wounded under fire
Magen David Adom paramedics and EMTs are being targeted as they assist the victims of the terrorist attack
Magen David Adom (MDA), is a national EMS organization on the front lines of the war.
On the morning of October 7, 30 minutes before the night shift was about to end, MDA emergency phone operators began receiving calls of injuries along the Gaza strip and the settlements of the Western Negev, under the cover of rocket barrages.
MDA teams immediately started responding to hundreds of emergency calls along the front lines, arriving via ambulances, medicycles, specialty vehicles and their own private vehicles.
Responding units found themselves targeted by the terrorists who ambushed them on their way to treat the wounded.
In besieged areas, the phone operators – experienced EMTs and paramedics – provided medical instructions for initial self-rescue and treatment for hours until MDA teams were able to reach them.
Amit Mann, a 22-year-old MDA paramedic, was treating the wounded at the community clinic in Kibbutz Be’eri. She was able to contact the MDA call center, reporting she was trapped with the injured and the dead as terrorists attempted to break into the clinic, before she was shot and killed.
EMS1 spoke with Daniel Pollack, Adv., MDA’s training center coordinator, who shared these reports from the front lines in Israel.
Tragically, Mann was not the only medic lost during the early attacks.
Senior EMT Aharon Chaimov, 25, was shot and killed in an MDA ambulance on his way to treat the wounded in his city, Ofakim, during a surprise attack.
Senior EMT, Aviya Hezroni, 69, was shot and killed by terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri.
IDF soldier and MDA volunteer, Lior Levy, 19, was killed in a battle in the Gaza Envelope.
MDA volunteer Staff Sergeant (res.), EMT Saar Margolis, was killed in action in Operation “Iron Swords” while serving as a member of the security standby team in Kissufim.
IDF soldier and MDA volunteer, EMT Shir Biton, 19, was killed in battle in the Western Negev Communities.
The MDA paramedics are still being targeted. On October 13, a rocket fired from Gaza hit near the fence of the MDA station in the city of Sderot, destroying four ambulances. Additionally, nine MDA ambulances and one medicycle were hit by shrapnel.
MDA’s massive logistical response
Though hundreds of staff members and thousands of MDA volunteers have been called up for emergency reserve duty in the Israel Defense Forces, Pollack reported MDA is deployed on the highest alert all over the country and is ready to respond on any front – along the Northern border, Eastern borders, in the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip and on the home front.
Since the initial attack, MDA personnel have seen more violence and casualties, and have used up equipment worth tens of millions of dollars within days, Pollack noted.
The MDA Blood Services exhausted its supply and began collecting blood donations from all over the country, more than tripling the number of units collected per day during peacetime.
Evacuation teams have been working non-stop to transport the wounded to hospitals in the center and northern areas of the country, via helicopters, ambulances, MICUs and special vehicles, allowing hospitals nearer to the conflict zone in the south to continue to receive further casualties.
In addition to the ongoing medical response, MDA has launched massive logistical coordination to continue providing services during the conflict. The organization’s teams are prepared for about 3 months of fighting, Pollack shared, as they are working to fill the logistics depos.
Within 3 days of the initial attack, MDA had established another missile-protected emergency call center to reinforce the number of phone operators on shift.
The organization called upon all volunteers from recent years and requalified them through online courses, e-learning platforms, Zoom and limited class meetings to refresh their required knowledge. MDA is recruiting new volunteers, training them for different assignments and integrating them into the organization’s many arms.
MDA has received offers of support and assistance from large numbers of volunteers, including EMTs and paramedics from the various Hatzalah organizations in the U.S. who want to help on Israeli ambulances. MDA has had a strong relationship over many years with the Hatzalah organizations. Sharing knowledge and training during times of peace has led to an influx of offers of help during times of war from these EMTs and paramedics, as well as doctors from across the world and from multiple specialties. Several of these volunteers have already arrived in Israel, and have started active duties with Magen David Adom.
In addition to treating the casualties, MDA personnel are carrying out extensive humanitarian activities: delivering medications to households, collecting food and essential equipment for residents displaced from their homes and for soldiers and ambulance teams in combat zones. MDA personnel are also assisting in moving the bodies of those killed in the attacks and in notifying families of the fallen.
The organization launched a free e-learning platform for an emergency first aid course as a service to the public. Within hours, thousands of civilians were registered and received expedited training on the treatment of common injuries in combat situations.
Through its volunteers (many of whom are youths), MDA is conducting stop-the-bleed and first aid trainings in shelters and protected areas to bolster the communities’ resiliency.
The emotional toll of war
Pollack, who serves as a section manager at MDA’s training department, was inspired to join EMS as many paramedics are – by a life-changing event. As a teenager, Pollack saved his mother’s life by performing the Heimlich maneuver. He began volunteering at MDA at the age of 16.
He’s worked as a dispatcher and paramedic with the organization, before passing on his passion as an instructor. He is still an active paramedic, volunteering as an ALS first responder with his service car and occasionally riding the ambulance.
Pollack’s wife, a former EMT-I, works for MDA as well, as director of the organizational and evaluation department.
Since the attacks began, the couple have been juggling between the war efforts at the MDA National Operations Center/HQ and home with their three young children – who are home, as schools are closed, and are frightened. “My 7-year-old son specifically said he doesn’t want to die,” Pollack shared with EMS1.
As they have an MDA service car, the Pollacks are equipped with a bullet-proof helmet and vest – standard equipment for MDA vehicles, but something Pollack wishes the general public had access to.
“Almost every Israeli – Jews, Christians, Druze and Muslims alike – has a relative or friend who was murdered, injured or is still missing,” Pollack said. “The war is affecting us all, mentally and physically. We cannot even imagine the long-term consequences for years ahead.”
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In less than 100 hours since the beginning of the war, many of MDA’s ambulances have been damaged or destroyed and an enormous amount of medical equipment has been consumed, including stretchers, bleeding control devices and blood collection equipment.
“We are in desperate need for more of the above,” Pollack noted.
MDA is seeking medical equipment including:
- Automatic ventilators
- Combat tourniquets (e.g. Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT)
- Ambulance cots (specifically the Ferno 28Z model)
- Monitors/manual defibrillators (Lifepak 12 or 15, or Corpuls)
- Blood bags for collecting donations
- Mobile beds for donating blood
MDA is also in need of ambulances (including used vehicles). Due to Israeli and import standards, the vehicles must meet the following specifications:
- Left-sided steering wheel
- Automatic transmission
- Chassis from 2022 or 2023
- Made by Chevrolet, Mercedes or Ford (other models may also be possible, but the specifications of the ambulance must be forwarded to MDA in advance)