By Mordechai Schmutter

Hatzolah rescued me about three or four times today, so, overall, I’d consider it a productive day. Though I thought I’d be rescued way more than that.

Don’t worry–I’m okay. Last week, my wife found out that Hatzolah was seeking five volunteers to pretend to be patients at a training session. So I signed up. I figured, “What’s the worst that could happen?” You know, besides for something medically wrong actually chas v’shalom happening to me, like if I’d fall down and break something, and everyone would think I was acting. I’d be yelling, “Ow!” and they’d all be clapping.

“Very nice! What a great actor! Ok, now help us skootch you onto this stretcher.”

As it is, this is probably how I’m going to die someday, iy’H. I’m going to keel over, and everyone is going to think I’m kidding.

But apparently, a lot of people were scared of this happening, because the only other patient who showed up, besides me, was a yeshiva guy whose mother signed him up because she’d decided he should make something of his off-Shabbos.

But volunteering for this thing was as close as I’ll probably get to being in Hatzolah. I’m too squeamish to actually be part of their organization. If I’d be a member of Hatzolah, they’d have to load me into the ambulance with the patient. Or, if there wouldn’t be room, they’d have the patient drive my car to the hospital. I’d be the only Hatzolah guy to do the procedures with his eyes closed.

But that was kind of the point of the training–so they could do these procedures with their eyes closed. These were all things they’d already learned before–things that are important to know like the backs of their hands, but things that baruch Hashem don’t happen often enough for them to stay in practice. In Hatzolah, you have to memorize these techniques so that they’re second nature and you can do them without thinking. You don’t want to be standing there in an emergency with the patient screaming and me fainting and you trying to recall something you read six years ago for the EMT test.

And thanks to the training, I also learned how to be a patient. For example, I know to wear comfortable clothes.

“Wear comfortable clothes,” the guy told me beforehand. Like patients get to pick. Whenever you call Hatzolah, they’re like, “We’ll be right there. Wear comfortable clothes.” If you don’t have any, the hospital will provide you with a comfortable cloth that opens in the back.

The reason they wanted me to wear comfortable clothes is that they’d spend most of the session tying me up. Most of the training was about how to immobilize patients, using things like slings, splints, and neck thingies (this is the technical term) and backboards and medieval torture devices and apparently cravats. They were very into immobilization, like every patient is constantly trying to escape. Or maybe they need to immobilize you so you don’t go around touching all the stuff in the ambulance. It’s kind of like packing things in boxes so they don’t break in transport. That way, if the hospital says, “Hey! This is broken!” they could say, “Oh. He was like that when we found him.” Also, if you’re immobilized, you’re usually not thinking about your injuries. You’re thinking about how various things itch.

They also had to practice wrapping patients who were still in their cars. Cars are the most complicated scenario, because it’s like the most confined space you ever have to deal with, as far as how many Hatzolah members can fit in there with the patient. We used a minivan the instructor had brought along that belongs to his in-laws, and it had the seats taken out so more Hatzolah guys could pile into the back. I actually don’t know how many Hatzolah guys were back there, because they put my neck in a collar.

But before I got into the car, I got to meet the dummy. It turns out that the local Hatzolah does own one practice dummy, which is the most battle-worn dummy I have ever seen in my life. Its chest is caved in, it’s three different colors, and it looks like, at some point, it might have been on fire. It also has no hair, no forearms, and only one leg, with, for some reason, a shoe that is in better condition than the actual dummy.

So yeah, they did have a dummy, but apparently, they’d needed volunteers anyway, because there was no way they could practice arm splints on him unless they found his arm.

Another thing I found out the hard way, when I tried to lift the dummy, was that it weighs 200 pounds. They specifically design it to feel like a 200-lb. patient, that carries, for some reason, about 75 pounds in his head.

So the scenario they practiced was this: I was in the passenger seat of the minivan, and the dummy, who had supposedly been driving the van, was on the ground next to it, because that’s where they’d dropped him before the training session, and he was very heavy. The idea was that they’d rescue the dummy first, and then get to me. I wasn’t a priority, because he was in much worse shape, clearly.

But I didn’t wait in the car to be rescued. It was hot in there. So I came out and offered to help load the dummy, because I felt bad. You don’t make other people carry things while you just sit there. And I knew that thing was heavy. But they didn’t really let me help, because apparently this is against Hatzolah bylaws.

Once they loaded the dummy into the ambulance, I got back into the car so they could rescue me.

Then they pulled me out of the car, sideways, onto a stretcher, and told me I was heavier than the dummy. They had to lift on three.

And that was the other point of the retraining. They already knew everything that was said at the session, really. They knew that, for the most part, the head of the patient has to go into the ambulance first, and that before you start dragging people out of cars, you should make sure all the cars are in park. They knew how not to pass out when they see injuries and how to understand the words that come out of the radio, and how to make that “KCHT” noise when you’re done so the other person knows you’re finished talking.

But they had to practice working together. Because when you and a bunch of friends carry a person out of a car or an apartment, it’s not like carrying a couch down a flight of stairs, where you’re like, “Let’s tilt it. Okay, let’s hold it sideways and see if we can get it through. How about if we stand him up?” You have to know how to work together. There’s a lot of “One… two… three.”

“Wait. Are we lifting on three, or after three?”

“Well, standard Hatzolah practice is after three.”

“Do you have your end? I don’t have my end.”

After that, I’m not entirely sure what happened. The sun was in my eyes, so they put my yarmulke over my face. I think that’s what the Hatzolah manual says to do. (I don’t know what the goyishe EMTs do. Maybe they use a trivet.) But the next thing I knew, they’d loaded me into the ambulance next to that creepy dummy. Whom they’d decided to immobilize, because, apparently, he creeps them out too.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

But I learned things too. I learned that being a patient is not nearly as fun as it looks. I learned that adults are not meant to be lifted by their armpits. And I learned a lot about immobilizing and carrying people. I just don’t have any of the medical training to go with it. So if you have an emergency and call me, I can probably carry you around. Otherwise, just call Hatzolah.

But don’t be a dummy. Support your local Hatzolah. Or, if you can’t, then at least be a dummy. Ï–

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to


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