Last week, a firefighter and a diving instructor walked onto a dock. No, this isn’t some alternative style of joke, it is a real-life rescue mission, one that resulted in the life a 45-year-old man and father of two being saved. Over the course of 2018, there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of fatal drownings across Israel, thanks to the efforts of these two volunteer EMTs and the other responders at the scene, this isn’t one of them.
Oren Kauffman is a firefighter in Eilat and Sophie Donio is a Diving Instructor and Animal and Diving Therapist in the city’s Dolphin Reef. Both volunteer with United Hatzalah as EMTs and both are ambucycle drivers.
Donio was the first of the pair at the scene. “I came from my house and was the second person on the scene after the EMT from the beach. He had already begun CPR and I joined him. We traded off performing compressions and assisted breathing. We worked in tandem in the intervening time until Oren was able to join us a few minutes later,” Donio said.
Kauffman was on shift as a firefighter. He has a standing arrangement with his commander that should a life-saving emergency take place while he is on shift and he is needed as an EMT, he drops everything and rushes to the scene on his ambucycle. Most often he’ll be joined by the firefighters afterward at the scene if they are required. Once he arrived at the beach, he immediately joined in the efforts.
Kauffman who is married and is a father of three said: “I work as a firefighter and volunteer wherever I can. I am proud to be a part of United Hatzalah and the Search and Rescue Units for the area. If I can save a life, or help someone in their time of need, then I feel like I have fulfilled my purpose for the day.”
Donio spoke about how the incident occurred. “The man was scuba diving with his two sons and they were pulled by the current out away from the beach. The children were swimming ahead of their father and saw that he wasn’t following closely. They finally noticed that he was in trouble and swam to him eventually pulling him to the Mykonos beach. The father’s air had run out. They brought him to the surface and signaled for help at which point the Maritime Police pulled the man and his sons from the water and brought him to the floating pier.”
Kauffman described the scene when he arrived at the pier. “I saw Sophie and the other EMT from the beach performing CPR and I joined in their efforts. The maritime police, who had pulled the man from the water began organizing the scene and clearing the gathered crowd from the floating pier to ensure that we didn’t all capsize. The ambulance showed up sometime later and brought a LUCAS compression machine that took over performing the chest compressions. Once in place, we put the man on a backboard and took him to a nearby diving club where we continued CPR efforts until the man was stable enough to be transported.”
“Performing CPR on a floating pier is not easy,” said Donio. “I’m very used to standing on a floating pier from my work at the dolphin reef, but it was still taxing. It’s different than doing a CPR in a home or on the street, we were all floating with a lot of onlookers trying to see what was happening. In addition to the crowds, we were facing very strong northerly winds and the rolling waves. Scene management became a priority and we needed to move the patient as soon as we could without interrupting the CPR. Hence the challenge,” Donio explained. “My experience in previous CPR cases helped me operate efficiently under the difficult circumstances.”
The man eventually revived in the hospital. “We don’t always hear what happens to our patients after they go to the hospital,” explained Donio, “but in this instance, I was called the next day by one of the other EMTs at the scene. He told me that the man had revived and I was ecstatic to hear that. Not all CPRs are successful, and it is very meaningful to know that I had a hand in saving someone’s life. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, but each time it is incredibly meaningful to me to know that this person will be able to go home to his family once again.”