A little boy's life is hanging on the line

Can Hatzalah's connections really save the day?

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon at the Pineview Hotel in Woodbourne. Guests leisurely strolled across the grassy grounds; children playfully ran after one another in the bright sunshine; and on the far end of the parking lot, the Katz family set up their portable grill to enjoy a hearty barbeque lunch.

The Katz children watched from a safe distance as the flames flickered and danced across the grill. The tantalizing aroma of sizzling frankfurters wafted through the air. Yaakov Katz smiled and gazed upward at the jagged mountain skyline. He planned to enjoy every single moment of this relaxing family activity.

Little did he know that the seemingly tranquil day was about to be rudely disrupted.

Three-year old Dovy happily bit into his lunch. He began chewing the frankfurter and swallowed eagerly. A bit too eagerly. The thick chunk of meat suddenly lodged in his throat. Dovy gasped. He coughed. He choked helplessly, and within seconds, he blacked out as the oxygen supply to his lungs diminished.

Yaakov turned around just in time to see his precious child turn blue in the face, feebly attempt to gurgle for help, and keel over onto the parking lot's hard asphalt surface. An avalanche of bewildering thoughts frantically raced through Yaakov's mind.

pat his back and loosen the food! Maybe I should give him a few thrusts to the stomach? Or just breath right into his mouth. Try loosening his shirt collar! Do I remember hearing about something called a Heimlich Maneuver?

But to a frenzied parent witnessing their child lying unconscious, nothing ever seems to make sense. So Yaakov did the next most sensible thing - he whipped out his cellphone and called Catskills Hatzalah.

Asher Levy was standing at a gas station about a mile away, topping off up his trusty Honda Odyssey with a full tank, when the call came blaring over the emergency radio. "Any Catskills units available to respond to a call in Woodbourne for a child choking?"

He grabbed his radio and quickly keyed in: "Catskill 57 responding, mobile from down the road!"

As Asher started his ignition, fellow volunteer Michael Fischberg was already responding from the other side of town in a Catskills Hatzalah ambulance. By the time asher peeled out of the parking lot and flipped on his siren, he was overtaken by yet another member, Leiby Beller, who sped right past him toward the Pineview Hotel.

Leiby was the first one to arrive on scene and found little Dovy Katz hanging limply in his father's trembling arms. After swiftly placing the lifeless child on the ground and trying to find some vital signs, the longtime Hatzalah volunteer shook his head worriedly.

There was no pulse to be found.

While delivering a few sharp abdominal thrusts in an attempt to loosen the chunk of food blocking the boy's airway, he turned to Asher who just pulled up in his minivan and shouted, "We have a Code in progress, we'll need medics on a rush!"

Asher popped open his tailgate door and pulled out a heavy oxygen tank from inside. Like a well-trained team, he began administering oxygen to the young patient while Leiby started doing CPR in an attempt to keep Dovy alive. But they both knew that their courageous efforts alone wouldn't save the boy; the obstruction wedged deep in Dovy's throat needed to be removed immediately. The skills of a trained paramedic would be required.

As a seasoned paramedic, Naftali Weber had seen more than his share of choking victims. His mind was already racing about treatment he'd be implementing - all while driving to the call, monitoring the squawking radio, veering around traffic and handling the winding mountain roads.

Meanwhile, Michael Fischberg skidded into the parking lot noisily and jumped out of the ambulance to assist the crew. Naftali followed along with a bulky ALS (advanced Life Support) bag slung over his shoulder and kneeled next to the patient. Reaching into the bag, he pulled out a pediatric laryngoscope - a device used to obtain a view of the airway and create a pathway for oxygen - and gently inserted into the boy's narrow throat.

After determining that the airway was completely blocked, Naftali reached into his bag once more and pulled out a pair of Magill Forceps, a scissor-like contraption that requires special training to use. Slipping it into the boy's airway, he deftly maneuvered the tool and, without damaging the nearby vocal cords, carefully extracted a 2-inch thick wedge of bloated frankfurter.

Little Dovy gasped ever-so-slightly as oxygen began to enter his body once more. But he was still unresponsive. The danger was far from over. He needed immediate medical care from a hospital specializing in severe pediatric emergencies. And the closest such facility was Westchester Medical Center - over an hour's drive away.

Asher Levy spoke into the radio again. "C-Base, can we get a helicopter out here?" His plan was simple. Have a Medevac helicopter land in the parking lot and transport the patient to Westchester. However the stark reality was anything but simple.

"Sorry," was the reply. "The closest helicopter is already on the way to another Hatzalah emergency in White lake involving a possible head injury. The next available helicopter is about 30 minutes away."

Asher frowned and pushed a few buttons on his cellphone. Within seconds he was speaking with a senior 911 official to determine whether the helicopter could be contacted while in the air and diverted to Woodbourne, as Dovy's medical situation appeared to be more serious. After hastily speaking over the radio with fellow Hatzalah paramedics at the White Lake emergency, it was confirmed that the helicopter would land in Woodbourne to pick up Dovy; the other patient was already stabilized and would wait for the next helicopter.

Thanks to the wide network of resources possessed by Catskills Hatzalah - and their ability to establish an open channel of communication with local 911 officials at a moment's notice - Dovy was transported to Westchester Medical Center, where he was admitted to the pediatric ICU and received the timely medical care he needed to recover completely.

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He grabbed his radio and quickly keyed in:"Catskill 57 responding, mobile from down the road!"