Swords Of Iron

258th day of fighting

October 7th – Paramedic Oren Wacht

Dr. Oren Wacht, a paramedic in the Negev Region, volunteered for a life-saving shift on the morning of October 7th.

“I was at home in Be’er Sheva that morning. When the sirens began I called the MDA dispatch center and requested to join a shift. EMT Amir Abu Siam came to pick me up and together we started to work on a MICU. At the request of the dispatch center we traveled to Ofakim and from there to the helipad.

We treated many soldiers and police officers. The majority of them were fairly young. They all suffered from gunshot wounds, some from several injuries. At times we evacuated 3 casualties together.

On several occasions, the dispatch center told us that there were terrorists behind us or on the road we were taking. In retrospect, I found out that at some points there were terrorists at our locations mere minutes before or after us. There was a feeling of uncertainty. I dislike violence but I am armed. We really felt the threat, especially since all of our casualties were wounded by gunfire. But we also knew that there’s no one else who can provide treatment. It was clear we had a job to perform.

It has to be mentioned that all of the soldiers who were brought to us had received excellent initial treatment from the military’s medics and also from their fellow soldiers. Thanks to those life-saving treatments on the frontlines, while everything was still occurring even before the ambulances arrived – lives were saved. Most of the survivors made it because of those treatments. Casualties arrived at us in serious condition, 4-5 bullets from an AK-47 isn’t something you usually survive, yet they made it – thanks to the initial treatment.

Something really memorable from this event was the connection we felt we established with all of the casualties. We all feel some deep connection to this situation, from a national point of view, but that was something different. I thought about the fact that nearly all of the casualties I treated were my kids’ age.

On route to one of the first incidents we had in Be’er Sheva, a siren was heard. We stopped at the side of the road and ducked to protect ourselves. An IDF ambulance stopped next to us, and out of it came several soldiers suffering from an anxiety attack. I had been in a war once and undoubtedly the experience helps. You gain the ability to handle it. After the first case we reached I was able to somewhat comprehend what it is we will probably see today, so whoever saw these kind of things for the first time must have had much more of a difficult time in handling it.

One of the casualties, who was in very serious condition, was a medic in a special IDF unit and he reached us after getting shot 5 times. He was fully conscious with tourniquets and bandaging. He told me he couldn’t take the pain anymore and asked me to sedate him. He had received painkillers before he reached us but they didn’t help. I sedated him and transferred him to the helicopter. The helicopter’s team later informed me he survived which made me very glad.

I also remember a policewoman who reached us with her friend who was shot in the neck and miraculously it didn’t hit any important organ or artery so we triaged him as in mild condition. Then we discovered that the policewoman who escorted him here was herself shot in the arm, she lost blood and was still bleeding, yet she didn’t say anything because she thought her friend was in worse condition than her. Such determination. Such dedication. She didn’t say a word, didn’t think of herself at all.

At times we were alone with 4 or 5 casualties and no ambulances were coming so we had to manage them by ourselves. Everyone worked incredibly through all of the difficulties, even at the dispatch center. We worked like a well-oiled machine, which is all thanks to the people’s dedication. We did everything we could, we have professional, reliable, calm and awesome people.

An important thing that I saw that was being done, as opposed to the years before, is the mental health support. The scenes we witnessed are very harsh and could cause some very difficult trauma. But the support began immediately. We are being called and written to, we are cared for. It is important to legitimize those feelings, the difficult emotions, talk about those things, to ask for help and support. Don’t be shy.

I think that what we did there wasn’t bravery. That is our job and we did it the best way possible. And it is not weakness to ask for help, we should not be afraid of it. Not just MDA teams in particular, everyone went through some difficult events that day. We are human, we are allowed and should know to ask for help.

 

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