IDF officer who nearly died 12 years ago reunites with his savior

The near-death experience stayed with Yaakov Bar-Yochai, who spent years searching for the volunteer who saved his life.

Yaakov Bar-Yochal on the left, Meir Hajbi on the right (photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
Yaakov Bar-Yochal on the left, Meir Hajbi on the right
(photo credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)
Twelve years ago, Sderot resident Yaakov Bar-Yochai barely escaped death after being involved in a serious water ski accident that left him unconscious and not breathing. He was saved by a volunteer from United Hatzalah and spent years searching for him in vain. Recently, he managed to find him and the two were finally reunited.
When Bar-Yochai woke up in the hospital, after having crashed while water skiing in Eilat, he couldn't remember anything about the accident or the terrifying moments that followed. All he knew was what he was told: An EMS volunteer was the first to reach him and administrate CPR, miraculously saving his life.
But the near-death experience stayed with Bar-Yochai, who spent years searching for the volunteer who saved his life. Reaching out to head of the Eilat branch of United Hatzalah, Bar-Yochai learned to his disappointment that at the time of his accident there was only one United Hatzalah ambulance in the city and the volunteer operating it was not the one who saved him.
“I began my search for the person who saved me [...] three weeks after I was released from the hospital. I decided that I wanted to meet the person who saved me,” Bar-Yochai said. “Had it not been for this man I wouldn’t be here.”
Then, two weeks ago, Bar-Yochai finally found his savior: Meir Hajbi, currently living in Rehovot. The two men met and shared their recollection of what had happened on that fateful day.
“When I responded to the emergency Yaakov was unconscious, not breathing and had no pulse. I was 24 years old at the time, just after my wedding,” Hajbi recalled. “I was at home cooking lunch, and my wife was supposed to be coming home, but was running a bit late. All of a sudden I received an alert on my beeper from United Hatzalah that a person had drowned on Kisuki Beach [...] As soon as I got the alert, I ran downstairs, put on my helmet, grabbed my medical kit, and raced to the beach on my ambucycle [...] He was completely unresponsive. I began CPR. I initiated compressions, provided assisted breathing, attached oxygen, used an Ambu bag valve mask, and everything else we know from our training.”
Hajbi explained that several days after the incident took place, he called the hospital that treated Bar-Yochai and was told that the patient had recovered and was going to be transferred to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. At that point he put the story behind him and carried on with his life.
Bar-Yochai on the other hand, was completely changed by the experience and even decided to join United Hatzalah, the volunteer-based emergency medical services organization that was there for him when he needed it most. 
“When I decided to join United Hatzalah I knew that I had to find the EMT who saved me. I tried calling everyone I could to help me find him. People had difficulty because he had moved out of the chapter and no one seemed to recall who it was. We knew it was an ambucycle driver but there was only one of those in the city and that was the previous chapter head who had also moved on and he had confirmed that it wasn’t him. I tried again and again. Only recently did I find out that it was Meir. We grew up together in the same town, in Netivot. Our families know one another very well.”
The ambucycle is the invention of Eli Beer, founder and current president of United Hatzalah, and was developed as a means of rapid emergency response. Its design also means that it can reach areas that traditional ambulances cannot. Volunteers of United Hatzalah receive an ambucycle when joining the organization, which remains close to them at all times in case of a nearby emergency.
Bar-Yochai who works as an IDF officer in the Air Force, concluded by explaining where he finds the strength to leave his family even when he's off duty and rush out to respond to medical emergencies.
“People ask me all the time, where I find the energy and wherewithal to respond to emergencies when I am home with my family and away from my base. This is the answer. I received my life back as part of a miracle. A miracle conducted by God but carried out by Meir. It is my responsibility to give back and be a part of the miracle process to help others just as I was helped," Bar-Yochai said.