EMT saves 95-year-old grandmother during family Hanukkah dinner

Rafael rushed over to where to commotion was and found his 95-year-old grandmother who looked pale, choking on some of the food that she just ate during the dinner.

 United Hatzalah volunteers responding to an emergency at night (illustration) (photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
United Hatzalah volunteers responding to an emergency at night (illustration)
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)

During Hanukkah dinner with his family, Rafael Ifergan, a United Hatzalah EMT, was suddenly called to help by worried family members on Monday.

Rafael rushed over to where to commotion was and found his 95-year-old grandmother who looked pale, choking on some of the food that she just ate during dinner.

The veteran EMT immediately started performing the Heimlich Maneuver on the poor grandmother, who suffered from a completely blocked airway.

The distraught grandma was unable to stand on her own, so Rafael enlisted the help of two other family members to hold her up while he administered the Heimlich Maneuver in the hopes of dislodging the food blocking her airway. 

While still assisting his grandmother, Rafael instructed one of his family members to get the medical kit from his car and another to call for emergency services and ask for a mobile intensive care ambulance.

After repeated attempts at the maneuver, Rafael succeeded at dislodging the food which flew out of his grandmother’s mouth.

The grandmother's condition stabilized

Being able to breathe again, the older woman’s condition stabilized just as additional United Hatzalah EMTs arrived at the scene and helped Rafael give medical treatment to his grandmother.

"It is always amazing to save a person’s life as an EMT. This is even more true when the person is my own grandmother," Rafael recounted after the incident.

“It is always amazing to save a person’s life as an EMT. This is even more true when the person is my own grandmother.”

Rafael Ifergan

They checked her saturation levels and provided her with high-flow oxygen when the mobile intensive care ambulance arrived a few minutes later, and Rafael’s grandmother was transported to a nearby hospital for further checkups and observation, but the danger had passed.

"Being an EMT gives me immense satisfaction, to be able to save people’s lives is to fulfill one of the biggest mitzvahs (commandments) that exist," he said. "United Hatzalah is my second family and today the training I received there helped me save someone from my first family."