The fact that Israel's three-member Magen David Adom mission to Thailand could introduce themselves as "Israel's Red Cross Society" - thanks to MDA's full membership extended last year by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement - opened doors as they helped the wounded from Sunday's plane crash in Phuket.
Assi Dvilansky, 10 years a paramedic, said that while MDA was increasingly recognized around the world as having outstanding expertise in emergency medicine and in coping with catastrophes, the organization's new status as a full-fledged member of the international movement was a definite plus, as staffers are treated with the utmost respect and as part of the Red Cross family.
No other countries sent medical missions to help out after the crash, he said, and MDA was earning much respect for its experience, talents and equipment.
Dvilansky returned to Israel on Wednesday after four days in Phuket to facilitate the treatment and return home of Vladimir and Isabelle Freilichman, the two Israeli survivors of the plane crash who are now at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer with spinal and hip fractures. Dvilansky said he was happy that neither of them had suffered neurological damage to their spines. He said the husband, a professional Israel Air Force staffer, had been "very brave" when, despite his injury and the threat of fire consuming him and his wife, he found the aircraft's emergency exit, forced it open and saved dozens of lives of dozens.
The paramedic said he has been to Thailand "about 50 times," sometimes for vacation but most to rescue sick or injured Israelis. He was in Thailand to help out with victims of 2005's tsunami, for example. But this visit was very difficult, physically and emotionally, Dvilansky said. Family members of the Israelis on the plane "cried on our shoulders, hugged us and hoped against hope that they had survived."
Dr. Dafna Givati, a physician who was part of the MDA mission and returned with Dvilansky and the Freilichmans, said that, ironically, she was going back to Thailand next week - along with her family, for a previously planned vacation. They will not visit Phuket, and intend to enjoy the experience despite her familiarity with the airport tragedy that cost so many lives.