When you meet an everyday person who does something incredible, it can take your breath away. Ronen and his wife Neomie are two such people. Both volunteer as EMTs for Israel’s national volunteer EMS organization, United Hatzalah, and they collaborate to make their volunteering as well as their personal lives work for both of them in an incredible way. This is their inspiring story:
Neomie and Ronen have just celebrated the sixth anniversary of when they met. It was towards the end of May in 2010. Neomie was living in Rishon Letzion and was traveling to a friend’s book reading in Tel Aviv when she realized that she left her cell phone with the address of the book reading at home. She stopped the cab that she was in and got out in order to take a cab back in the other direction. She was waiting at Azur intersection for a taxi back to Rishon Letzion when Ronen, who works as part of a task force to find and reclaim stolen cars, drove by. He saw her standing there in a suit, which was uncharacteristic as that particular intersection at the time, according to Ronen, was often occupied by gangs and criminals. In order to get her out of the dangerous intersection he offered to give her a lift home to pick up her phone and then drive her back to the book reading in Tel Aviv, after he dealt with the stolen car. Neomie initially refused to get into the car as she didn’t take hitchhikes. Ronen refused to leave until he could give her a lift, as he didn’t want anything bad happening to her at the intersection. It turns out that Ronen was the more stubborn of the two, as Neomie eventually agreed to the lift. As promised, Ronen took her to pick up her phone, and then drove her back to Tel Aviv after he dealt with the stolen car in Rishon Letzion. On the way back, Ronen told Neomie that if she was looking for something serious she should call him. She did and they began dating a few weeks after their initial meeting. On the 19th of June, they met for their first date and have been together ever since.
Both Ronen and Neomie are currently volunteer EMTs with United Hatzalah. They decided to become volunteer EMTs together and enrolled together to take the United Hatzalah medics course over three years ago. Neomie recalled the story that prompted them to begin their lives as EMTs.
“We were coming back from a jeep tour and our car overheated. We pulled over to the side of highway 42 for the car to cool off when a car stopped in the middle of the highway. A woman got out of the car, screamed “help me,” and fainted. Right there in the middle of the highway and right in front of us.” The couple didn’t waste any time in trying to help the woman.
Neomie continued the story. “Ronen pulled the woman to the side of the road and lay her down in the bus stop. He then returned to drive the car to the side of the road as well. We called an ambulance and the first people to arrive were EMTs from United Hatzalah.”
Ronen said that the speed of the United Hatzalah responders, who arrived a long time before the ambulance was able to get to the scene (12 minutes), really inspired them both. “It really affected us and influenced us. While we didn’t know how to help this woman or what medical procedures to do, here were medics who arrived just minutes after we called and were able to help. We decided then that we would become medics, learn how to help people, so that if and when we needed to do so, we would know how in the future.”
The couple enrolled in the first United Hatzalah course that was held in Bat Yam, where they were living at the time and still do to this day. “We have always been involved in rescuing people,” said Ronen, who was working with the Jeep division of Zaka prior to becoming a United Hatzalah EMT. “Whenever someone needed help Ronen went,” said Neomie. “He still does.”
Shortly after completing the EMT training course, the couple got married. “We arrived at the Chuppah in an ambulance with a convoy of United Hatzalah ambucycles” explained Ronen, with a satisfied sense of nostalgia. “The night of our wedding we received a call from the dispatch center that there was an unconscious person on the next street over from us. We immediately responded to the call. We performed CPR on the unconscious woman for a very long time, after which she was taken to hospital. By the time we finished, it was 3 am. We decided that since we were up we would simply keep responding to emergency calls.” Ronen said that the couple continued to respond to calls for the next 24 hours straight. For the both of them, it would become a pattern of how they lived their lives, by saving others.
As active United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs Neomie has been adopted by the Fischel family of Los Angeles, while Ronen has been adopted by Joseph and Leila Gitler formerly of Teaneck, New Jersey. “Since our wedding night, I have been going to calls continuously. I go to between 200-250 calls each month,” admitted Ronen. “No matter what the situation is, I believe that each and every person when they are in trouble is worth my time to save them.”
When the couple had a child in November 2015, it simply added to the life-saving family. Ronen and Neomie decided that they would invite Eli Beer, the Founder and President of United Hatzalah, to be the person who holds the baby during the circumcision ceremony, the Sandak.
“Each night when I go to sleep, Ronen leaves and goes out on his ambucycle in a central part of the city where he can head out to as many calls as he can each night. He calls a friend who is also a member of the ambucycle unit in the area and the two wait together for calls to come in and then rush out to help people,” said Neomie.
“Our city doesn’t have a clubhouse or specified location for all the volunteers to sit at together while we are waiting for calls, so we head out to parks,” said Ronen. “I stay there responding to calls all over the Bat Yam, Tel Aviv, and Rishon Letzion area, and we continue to respond to call after call, night after night, until we get too tired to drive. That’s when we head home to go to sleep.”
Ronen says that weekends, just like when they got married, are usually the days with the most calls. “On Friday nights and Saturdays those are when the most emergencies happen. So I stay out from 10 pm until 4 am each Friday night.”
“He is a night owl,” said Neomie, “so it works for us. I get the sleep I need and he isn’t stuck at home climbing the walls,” she added with a smile.
“To volunteer as an EMT, that anyone can do, but to let your spouse be a volunteer EMT is a huge responsibility. It means you have to allow him or her to be gone, even at times when you need them, and that is not a simple thing.” The system that Neomie and Ronen have worked out seems to be working well, according to Neomie, and it has been working for some time. “When I need him, he is here, unless he is in the middle of saving someone.”
At times the job can get frustrating, but according to Neomie it is always worth it in the end. “When I need him in the house and the baby is crying and I call him and he takes an hour to come home because he has a call, that is frustrating, but it is also satisfying. I am happy that I can help him and be a part of his acts of saving lives.”
With the new baby at home Neomie’s volunteering as an EMT has dwindled a bit but she still makes an effort to go out on calls whenever she can. Occasionally I take a babysitter and Ronen takes the United Hatzalah ambulance or I just sit behind in the back seat on Ronen’s ambucycle and we both go together and save lives”. Both Ronen and Neomie are proud to be parents once again and proud to support each other when they go on calls. “Ronen goes to between 200 – 250 calls per month, and that is a huge story in itself,” she explained. “He wouldn’t be able to do that without me allowing him to do so, and supporting his efforts, no one can. Likewise, he supports me when I go on calls or when we go on calls together.”
“At United Hatzalah we live to save lives,” said Ronen, “That is the signature sentence I use whenever I write any facebook post. It sums up my feelings about my work with the organization. I believe that every medic who signs up with United Hatzalah believes in this ideal. It is for me at the very heart of what I do and why I joined the organization.”