Split-second decisions by paramedics undoubtedly saved the life of Chaim Silberstein’s pregnant 21-year-old daughter wounded in a terrorist attack in Israel in December, as did the massive amount of blood she needed at the hospital.
Silberstein, a former IDF medic, gave a dramatic personal account of the impact Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical and blood service, has on the lives of Israelis every day, whether it’s after a traffic accident or a terrorist attack, as in his daughter, Shira Ish-Ran’s case.
He was the surprise guest speaker at the gala of Canadian Magen David Adom (CMDA) held on May 23.
The Montreal Jewish community took an interest in this drive-by shooting by Palestinians that took place outside the Israeli settlement of Ofra on Dec. 9. Shira Ish-Ran’s husband Amichai, who was moderately injured by a bullet, is a dual Canadian-Israeli citizen. His mother Galila (Charness) is from Montreal, where her mother and three siblings still live. Five other people, also standing at the bus stop, were hit with shrapnel.
Silberstein said tragically his first grandchild did not survive. Shira Ish-Ran was 29 weeks pregnant.
The wound to her thigh severed an artery and vein. The MDA, which has a station about 100 metres away, was on the scene in less than a minute. The paramedics decided not to stabilize her, but rush her to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem.
But the road to the city was blocked; MDA alerted the IDF and the ambulance was cleared to use a special security route.
“Normally it would take 40 minutes,” Silberstein said. “They arrived at the hospital in 19.” If it had been five minutes later, Silberstein said his daughter would not have survived. She underwent six hours of surgery and a C-section. She required 50 units of blood, he said.
Fortunately, that amount of blood was immediately available, he said, thanks to MDA.
The baby boy died three days later. His grandfather calls his death murder. He was named Amiad Yisrael which means “our nation of Israel is eternal.”
Silberstein said the infant, also a Canadian citizen, was the youngest victim of terrorism in Israel. “The forces of evil like Hamas will stop at nothing to try to kill Jews and uproot us from our historic homeland and eternal capital,” he said.
In contrast, the MDA are “the angels in white” and IDF, which arrested the perpetrators shortly after, “the angels in green” who cherish life, he said.
At one point, 80 per cent of the blood circulating in her body was from transfusions, he said. Meeting the press for the first after the ordeal, Ish-Ran said that she felt the blood of all the Jewish nation had literally become part of her.
Silberstein later told The CJN that while the couple is improving physically, whether they will recover 100 per cent is still uncertain. Emotional healing is taking longer.
Ish-Ran had been a guide at Ammunition Hill, the national memorial site, but she cannot do that now because walking for any length of time is out of the question, he said. Her husband had just completed Hesder, a program combining yeshiva study and military service.
Ensuring that there is always a sufficient blood supply in Israel was the objective of the evening, held at Le Windsor. Proceeds will go toward the new underground Marcus National Blood Services Centre now under construction, described as the first of its kind in the world.
Eilat Shinar, director of MDA’s blood services, said the facility will safely store more than 500,000 units of blood in premises that are bomb- and earthquake-proof. It is at a depth of 15 metres, beneath three concrete ceilings. It’s also where blood will be processed and distributed throughout the country, including to the IDF.
The current aboveground blood centre in Tel Aviv, now operating above capacity, was built in 1986 when Israel had half the population it has today, she said. The people is expected to grow to 10 million by 2030.
And it is now known, she added, that Tel Aviv is within the range of terrorist missiles. The new one is some 20 kilometres away.
The estimated cost of the new centre is $175 million.
CMDA national president Michael Levine noted that a unit of blood costs $180 each, which means the 50 Ish-Ran received amounted to $9,000.
MDA, which will mark its 90th anniversary next year, is a self-supporting non-governmental organization that relies heavily on donations from around the world. Although its operations are not government-funded, the Knesset in 1950 mandated MDA to provide all emergency medical and blood services.
In addition to its professional staff, MDA relies on 22,000 volunteers.
The gala, MCed by radio host Aaron Rand, was co-chaired by Arlène Abitan and Leslie Lenetsky. Guests were entertained by mentalist Oz Pearlmann.