My alarm was set for 8:45 on Monday October 4; I was packed and ready to leave for 10 days of isolation at the Beit Yehudah Hostel in the outskirts of Jerusalem for the Magen David Adom training course.
The Medical Track was participating in this training course in order to become first responders for MDA (Magen David Adom), the Israeli Red Cross organization. The eleven of us arrived at the hostel filled with nerves because we really had no idea what to expect. We were told it was going to be grueling, at times difficult, but most of all exciting. While we sat in the lobby waiting for registration, many questions were running through my head:
Will the language barrier prevent me from learning important material?
Who will I be living with for the next 10 days?
What is going on back at campus?
What if I don’t pass?
We were introduced to our madrichim who are all volunteers and instructors for Magen David Adom. Before we even got a chance to unpack our bags and meet our roommates, we began learning CPR. We were taught how to check for consciousness, how to correctly administer breaths and how to do proper chest compressions.
We were able to practice what we learned on “Annie” dolls that respond like real humans, sans a heartbeat. The running joke of the whole program was no matter how well we performed CPR, we were never bringing the Annie doll back to life.
At the end of the first day we all gathered outside and stood in a chet formation (Israel’s alternative to the semi-circle, the 8th letter of the Hebrew alphabet) overlooking the city of Jerusalem. The director of the MDA Overseas Program greeted us and yelled, “Welcome MDA 98! Congratulations on completing your first day of training!”
We sang Hatikvah and it sent chills down my spine because I realized I was in Israel singing its national anthem when normally I sing Hatikvah back home in my synagogue. What a powerful realization. At night we studied (to all the parents reading- we really did!) We also got to know the other people on the program, some from other youth movements and others who came to Israel independently for the sole purpose of volunteering for MDA.
Our schedule was as follows: Wake up for breakfast at 7:30, learn from 8:30 to 12, lunch from 12 to 1, learn from 1 to 5, dinner from 5 to 6, learn from 6- 8:30, Hatikvah at 8:30. Some nights we continued learning and others, we were off for the rest of the night.
Although sitting and learning for hours each day was tiring, the curriculum was packed with useful, life-saving information. We learned how to detect if someone was having a myocardial infarction (heart attack), angina pectoris, pulmonary edema, elevated intracranial pressure or a concussion. We learned the signs, symptoms and dangers of drowning, hanging, poisoning, asthma and so much more. We also learned a plethora of new Hebrew words.
On the final day of the course we had a written and practical exam to determine whether we had absorbed and understood all the information. All of the Young Judaea chanichim passed the course, making us all officially MDA
First Responders! Congratulations!
I really enjoyed the 10 days. I learned a lot, met new people and cannot wait to volunteer on the ambulances in Bat Yam.
From Your First Responder,