IDF mobile medical care units, on duty even during Passover

IDF (Zahal) ICU in action, Photo: IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson Archive

“Our priority is saving lives” these young teens are prepared to save lives of soldiers, residents and travelers at all hours and all year round

Date: 08/04/2012, 3:55 PM     Author: Hadas Duvdevani

Meet the Aravah region’s military intensive care unit (ICU): An IDF (Zahal) mobile medical unit that serve as the primary medical response for anyone injured in the region, located in the Jordan River Valley. Since 2008, the IDF (Zahal) ICU soldiers are on constant alert, even during Passover, ready to treat residents, travelers and soldiers within as little as two minutes.

The mobile unit is equipped with special portable care kits that include smaller childcare equipment. Their duty goes beyond treating wounded soldiers. In order to assist the civilian population, the Military ICU has to be ready for everything, whether it is treating children or the elderly.

“People in the south feel safe. All travelers and residents in the region are safe thanks to the Aravah Division and the Military ICU,” said Aravah Division Medical Officer, Cpt. Yadid Shohet. He spent Passover on base with the ambulance on call, as usual.

The Ten Plagues of IDF (Zahal) mobile medical care units

“They can call us up for anything- a four-year-old’s asmtha attack, dehydration on a school trip, or a car accident,” described Staff Sgt. Yoni Tabakman, a paramedic in the unit. Pelvic fractures, stomach bleeding, back injuries, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, epilepsy, vomiting, asthma, heart attack, and head injury are ten plagues paramedics see often.

Due to their proximity to the most dangerous road in the country, Route 90, prone to terror attacks and more, they mainly deal in traffic accidents. They see flooding, overturned vehicles, motorcycles that have lost control, front impacts, side impacts, back injuries, driving at high speeds, and unsafe passing.

However, first and foremost they are an army ambulance, always equipped with weapons, helmets, and a bulletproof vest, and attended to any operational needs. These commonly include accidents during patrols, soldiers that come under attack, or are hit by improvised explosive devices.

A senior medic at the battalion, Staff Sgt. Moti Kobel said that “By day we are the military ICU, by night superheroes,” but the truth is they are heroes all the time.

“Two hours after I arrived on base on my first day here, we responded to a severe head-on collision,” said Sgt. Kobel. Without any mental preparation he had to manage the incident and treat the wounded. Overtime, experience and professionalism take over. Incidents continue to be difficult but the soldiers manage to operate in a detached manner. “Our mindset is to help as much as possible. You can’t stop and think things like ‘she’s my sister’s age’ because then you can’t function,” said Sgt. Kobel.

Cpt. Shohet added that, “in the end these are 19 to 21 year old kids, who need to make a radical change in the way they think. In the end you need to detach from everything and just give the best care possible. The Aravah’s military ICU squad has a lot of experience and they do a wonderful job.” He added later “I can keep my peace of mind because these soldiers know what is expected of them.”

Travelers and residents are in good hands

The Aravah region is over 200 square kilometers and due to a lack of nearby hospitals the IDF (Zahal) ICU must take full responsibility. The soldiers must determine in real time whether an injury is severe enough to require a helicopter evacuation “For example if we see that there is heavy traffic, or if it is a holiday you’ll know to expect a traffic jam,” said Sgt. Kobel.

The military ICU is a family. In many cases in the army, you can say that working together leads to special friendships, but when the work is directly related to human life these friendships takes on a different meaning. As the only ICU in the south, everyone feels a personal commitment. “We care,” said Sgt. Tabakman simply. “It is personally important for us to maintain the equipment and the ambulance,” adds Sgt. Kobel. It is a commitment, to each other, to the region, to the ambulance and to their profession.

“It’s not taken for granted,” explained Cpt. Shohet. “This concern comes from a deep understanding as to why they are here. This team is active, serious, and respected; it is to their credit that they are so dedicated.” They are trained extensively and know how to work together. They eat, sleep, wait, and work together all the time. They work together seamlessly, avoiding any personal challenge.

So for this Passover and the next, when you are travelling on route 90, you know you are in good hands. Happy holidays!