Yesterday, United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Yoni Uziyahu, experienced something that no parent should have to go through. His son, only a year-and-a-half old, fell off of a table and suffered a severe head injury. The boy lost consciousness, stopped breathing, and almost died. Yoni, utilizing his emergency medical training, intervened and performed CPR on his own son. After bringing his son to the hospital as quickly as possible, the doctors told Yoni that the CPR he administered is what saved his son’s life. After the boy, Elie, was stabilized in the hospital Yoni wrote an open letter encouraging all parents to learn basic CPR. The following is what Yoni wrote.
“This morning I performed CPR on my year-and-a-half-old son. I performed CPR on my whole world.
For the past 20 years, I have been in the field of emergency medicine. I became a first responder when I was just 15-years-old and took my first emergency medical responder (EMR) training course. After that, I was involved in first aid in the army as a paratrooper during my mandatory service and then in Nitzanim in my voluntary extended service. After the army I volunteered as an ambulance driver and volunteer EMT with United Hatzalah, For the past 20 years, I’ve been helping others and saving the lives of other people.
But today, today was the scariest day that I have ever experienced. Elie Chaim, my son, was playing with his sisters when he fell backward off of the living room table and landed on his head and his back. He received a strong blow to his head, apparently a very strong blow, and suffered respiratory arrest.
My wife Inbal picked him up and immediately screamed for me to come shouting that he wasn’t okay. Something was definitely wrong.
I ran to them. I picked up my son from my wife’s arms. His head was lolling to the side and he was as blue as the sea. I checked to see if he was breathing and he wasn’t. He wasn’t breathing and he had no pulse. My training took over, and like a robot on auto-pilot, I began to perform on my child what I have learned and practiced for my entire adult life, and what I have performed on many other people.
I put him on a hard flat surface, made sure his eyes were aimed straight up at the ceiling, opened his airway, checked to see if there was a blockage, a few emergency breaths, and then starting chest compressions.
I told my wife to call for help and I grabbed the radio on my belt and in spite of it being Shabbat morning, radioed dispatch for help on whatever channel happened to be open at the time. Not even a minute passed and the first responder from United Hatzalah was inside my house helping me perform CPR. An ambulance team from the organization showed up two minutes later. We ran to the ambulance as I was holding my son in my arms and we flew to Kaplan hospital.
He began to breathe once more, but very faintly. His head was still drooped to the side and he was only semi-conscious. It was scary. The team of volunteers who accompanied me gave me as much support as possible and when we got to the trauma room in the E.R. Elie was already able to tell us that he wanted to sleep. But after a serious head injury, one is not allowed to sleep. On the way to being rolled to a C.T. scan, Elie nodded off. When we arrived at the C.T. scan I began to feel a sense of hope that Elie would be okay. He began to smile and we even succeeded at getting him to laugh. We had to sedate him for the procedure but I was assured that everything would be fine. It was only then that I was able to breathe regularly once again.
Thank G-d the test came back clean and it appears that Elie will make a full recovery. Perhaps this was G-d smiling at me and paying me back for all the people I’ve helped in the past. Perhaps it was my own personal miracle.
As I sit and write these words, I have not yet been able to digest what has happened to me today, at how close myself and my family came to a tragedy that would have reshaped our lives. It all occurred in an instant. How much internal strength is needed to deal with what my family and I went through? How sharp does one need to be to be able to respond in an instant and save the life of a loved one? My son stopped breathing because of serious head trauma. The breaths I gave him from my mouth to his are what saved his life. Children at his age aren’t always lucky enough to bounce back from respiratory arrest.
This story has made abundantly clear in my mind just how important it is for every parent to know first aid and basic CPR. If you don’t know how to do this, then go out and take a training course. They are short and United Hatzalah, as well as other organizations, offer them for free.
The other important takeaway is to listen to your children. It is true that we are often tired after a long day of work and errands, or on a Shabbat morning when the children haven’t slept at all. But we always need to listen to our children, especially when they alert us about something that happened to a different child. Our response time would have been slower had we not listened to the calls of our daughters who saw Elie fall.
This was a very hard day for me. Perhaps the hardest that I have ever lived through. Over the course of the entire day I kept going back to one thought, ‘What would have happened had I not been around at the very moment to help Elie? What would have happened had I not had the training I have? My children are everything to me and I don’t know how I would have been able to go on.”
For all those who are still reading, Elie is currently stable and under observation in the pediatric intensive care unit. The doctors keep telling me that the emergency breaths that I gave him and the early intervention were what saved his life. So please, as a father, I implore you, all the parents reading this, to go out and take a basic CPR class. Learn what to do when the worst thing you can imagine occurs because it just might occur and you will be the one closest to save your own child’s life.”
- Yoni Uziyahu