How a Jewish Volunteer Medical Service Saves Lives in New Jersey

May 13, 2019 | Brandon Fuller
About the author:

Since 2015, United Rescue, an emergency medical-response organization based on Israel’s United Hatzalah—which in turn developed out of volunteer ambulance services in ḥasidic neighborhoods of Brooklyn—has operated in Jersey City in cooperation with the municipal government. As an all-volunteer philanthropy, United Rescue receives payment from neither the city nor its patients. To Brandon Fuller, it has been an unqualified success:

On the afternoon of January 2, Yehonathan “Yoni” Guigue received an alert on his cell phone: there was a person lying on the ground, feeling unwell, a few blocks away. Within 90 seconds of receiving the notification, Yoni was on the scene. He quickly ascertained that the man before him—unconscious, without a pulse, and not breathing—was in cardiac arrest. Yoni enlisted a police officer to help with chest compressions and alerted Jersey City Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the life-threatening nature of the incident. Using defibrillation, Yoni saved the patient’s life, getting a pulse back just before the paramedics arrived.

Yoni is one of more than 100 volunteers equipped and trained by United Rescue, a pre-ambulance emergency-care service that uses a smartphone app to alert its volunteers when they’re near the scene of a health-related 911 call. . . . With an average response time of two-and-a-half minutes, United Rescue volunteers arrive at least one minute before an ambulance in over 50 percent of calls—a difference, as Yoni’s story suggests, that saves lives. It’s time that Jersey City’s much bigger neighbor across the Hudson take notice. . . .

As New York City works to improve the response times of its emergency medical professionals, it should conduct a borough- or neighborhood-wide pilot of United Rescue’s program—testing whether the service effectively complements EMS, and planning to scale it up if it works. If United Rescue can do for New York what it has done on a smaller scale for Jersey City, it will save lives and promote the volunteerism that can strengthen communities across the city.

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