Cycles for Life: Israeli First Responders Ride to the Rescue

January 14, 2020

by: Kathy DeGagne, BFP Staff Writer

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A call comes into the command center. There’s been a terror attack in the Old City of Jerusalem. Two people have been stabbed, one critically, and the terrorist is still on the loose. First responders jump into action, and within two minutes, paramedics arrive on the scene to stabilize both victims, armed only with their protective vests and medical equipment.

Two minutes? Sounds like an impossible emergency response time in a congested city like Jerusalem, especially during rush hour. The secret to such a swift response is a “mini ambulance” called a medicycle—two- and three-wheeled scooters equipped like a standard ambulance with all the necessary equipment to save a life, minus the space for a gurney. The medicycles are equipped with cardio pumps, defibrillators and other life-saving medical equipment. It’s an Israeli innovation that has helped save countless lives.

Medicycle paramedics span the gap between their arrival on the scene as first responders, stabilizing and prepping the patients for transport to the hospital, and the arrival of the regular ambulance. Without the help of the first responders, at least one of the victims in the Old City terror attack would have succumbed to his wounds.

The Difference Between Life and Death

Medicycles have made a massive impact in emergency response times—so critical when a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. These small, maneuverable vehicles can weave in and out of stalled traffic and squeeze through the narrow alleyways of the Old City where normal vehicles can’t navigate. And they can get there fast.

Medicycles are one of the many ways that Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical and blood services, stays on top of medical emergencies in the country, from terrorist-related incidents, traffic accidents and natural disasters to the birth of babies.

When a “101” emergency call comes into an MDA command center, the nearest first responder team is dispatched to the site. The dispatcher is also a qualified medic and can give emergency first aid instructions to bystanders over the phone before paramedics arrive.

The most suitable vehicle to handle the type of emergency and the terrain is dispatched to the scene. First responders can arrive on site by medicyle, seabulance (a marine rescue boat on the Sea of Galilee), tomcar (all-terrain vehicle used to negotiate deserts, unpaved roads and narrow passageways), helicopter, jeep, ambulance, MERV (mini-electrical response vehicle) or electric bike.

Teaching the World

MDA was established in 1930, and since that time the organization has honed its abilities in emergency response to the point where emergency and security organizations from all over the world come to Israel to learn about MDA innovations. The organization has also helped other nations such as Chile set up their own national emergency medical services and has trained professional first responders and civilians in the US. Sadly, the need for civilian first responders in America has grown due to recent increased terror attacks targeting Jews.

Medicycle Services Are Free but Costly

The medicycle services are completely free to all of Israel’s nine million people—Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze and everyone else. The volunteers of MDA are blind to race and religion and come from all faiths and ethnicities themselves. Saving lives is their sole priority.

One Muslim volunteer told the Jerusalem Post that he was motivated to become an MDA volunteer as a way to help his community in Jaffa. Another volunteer was the first Druze female paramedic to operate a medicycle, serving several communities in the Golan Heights. In 2018, the first Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MDA first responder was added to the team with rabbinic approval.

Each medicycle in the 600-plus medicycle fleet costs over US $35,000, including state-of-the-art lifesaving equipment. MDA is not funded by the Israeli government and depends on donors to provide medicycles and other medical equipment. Bridges for Peace has been able to donate two medicycles (as well as two ambulances), thanks to the generosity of Christian donors from all over the world. Understanding the positive impact these vehicles have on emergency response times compels us to do more—with your help. Please continue to bless Israel by donating to this critical need.

The Passion to Save Lives

Every 15 seconds, MDA paramedics are dispatched to the scene of an emergency. All the medicycle first responders are volunteers who must drop what they are doing at home, at work or at leisure and respond immediately to the call. While attending a terrorist incident, the first responders are often targets of terrorism themselves, yet they manage to treat victims and transport them to safety despite the danger.

There is a Jewish saying that those who save one life save the whole world. Arguably, there is no better illustration of the biblical mandate to be a light to the world than the MDA paramedics whose sole mission is to save lives.

The courageous men and women of the medicycle unit need your quick response today. Please give generously to support the important work they do to save Israeli lives. Click here to DONATE.

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