Lakewood Paramedic Simcha Shain Takes Flight: A Role Model for Helping Others
When you spend some time talking with Simcha Shain, and ask about his life, two things become readily apparent.
One, the man stays so busy that he must have an aversion to free time.
And two, he has dedicated his life to performing essential and often life-saving acts of chesed for all sorts of people.
Simcha is a native of Lakewood, who left briefly to attend yeshivot in Cleveland, Denver and Adelphia. Upon completing his schooling, he quickly found one of his abiding passions in life—emergency medical services. He joined the Howell Township Ambulance Squad in 1993, the Lakewood Hatzalah Squad in 1996, the New York Chevre Hatzalah in 1998 (he’s worked with the crews that cover Flatbush and the Catskills) and United Hatzalah (based in Israel).
In 2007 he helped found Lakewood’s volunteer Hatzalah paramedic program, the only volunteer Hatzalah paramedic program in the state; the training is more demanding than regular EMS training and the certification program for the squad is far more rigorous. Paramedics are trained to provide life-saving services to patients in critical condition that EMS squad members are not trained to offer, such as intubating patients, administering medicines, stabilizing and treating injurious wounds and transferring patients to the hospital.
In 2016 he helped found Hatzalah Statewide, a service to provide Hatzalah-quality EMS support to people traveling anywhere in New Jersey or in areas nearby—even in communities without Hatzalah chapters. There are now close to 300 medical professionals affiliated with the Hatzalah Statewide team (for more information on Hatzalah Statewide, see hatzalahstatewide.org).
As if this EMS activity weren’t sufficiently taxing, Simcha also serves as a paramedic one week each summer at Chai Lifeline’s Camp Simcha, in Glen Spey, New York. He also volunteers as a medic at Lakewood’s Special Children’s Center and accompanies groups from the center in an annual trip to Israel (except this past year, due to COVID-19).
Somewhere in the middle of all this, Simcha found time to get married and build a family. He and his wife, Elana, have six children, one of whom is now married with two children of her own. Elana is a fitness instructor with her own busy personal fitness practice, Power Hour by Elana. Simcha describes her as “always supportive” of his life-saving work.
To help provide for his family, Simcha initially co-owned three area pharmacies with a close friend and fellow Hatzalah paramedic, Shlomo Zakheim. They later sold the pharmacies and, on Shlomo’s advice (Shlomo passed away on Rosh Hashanah in 2013), and inspired by the saga of his friend Yochi Ruby (who passed away in 2019 after an unsuccessful struggle to secure a lung transplant), Simcha decided to go into the airflight business to assist people in serious medical need.
Simcha first founded Paraflight and later founded OrganFlights.com. The two companies provide four different services. For patients in critical condition, Paraflight offers an air ambulance, which Simcha describes as a “private jet ICU in the sky.” Paraflight also offers a medical escort program for non-critical patients, on commercial flights, providing a doctor, nurse or medic to travel with the patient to their destination.
In addition, for business clients without medical needs Paraflight offers concierge corporate flights that limit the hassles of going through airport screening and wait periods.
OrganFlights.com provides patients and transplant centers with air and ground transportation to allow the most seamless and timely transportation of organs, recipients, transplant teams and family members possible.
Both Paraflight and OrganFlights.com draw on a team of skilled professionals including Simcha, who is CEO, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Merlin (vice chairman and EMS fellowship director at RWJ Barnabas Health/Newark Beth Israel Medical Center), Medical Director Dr. Van Amerongen (board certified pediatric emergency medicine physician), Chief Flight Physician Dr. Josh Schwartzbaum (attending physician and associate director of EMS at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York), Flight Physician Dr. Alex Feldman (assistant professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and board certified in pediatrics and neonatology), Chief Flight Nurse Beth Coyle (nurse practitioner with an MSN from the University of Southern California and three years’ experience as an emergency room RN), Chief Flight Scheduler and Coordinator Denise Souraj-Ramjohn (BS in aviation management and FAA aircraft dispatcher’s license, along with emergency response and crisis management training) and Director of Special Projects Sarah Scharf (master’s in public health from Rutgers University with experience as an administrator in telehealth and air medical transportation).
Both Paraflight and OrganFlights.com are growing, successful businesses: Simcha estimates that each year Paraflight provides 100 medical escorts, 400-500 concierge corporate flights and dozens of air ambulances, while OrganFlights flew 150+ organ-transplant flights in 2020 and hopes to fly over 750 flights in 2021, as they just launched an aggressive national expansion program. OrganFlights.com recently created a new app, available in the Android and Apple app stores, that allows transplant centers to communicate directly with OrganFlights whenever there is a need and allows the company to send requests to aircraft operators.
Asked about the most challenging airflight-aided medical situation either company addressed, Simcha quickly identified the “twins from Beachwood”—two preemies born in a Texas hospital with numerous medical complications in the summer of 2017. The mother, Sue Morales, sought to return to her husband, Ty, and two other sons, and their home in New Jersey, but needed specialized medical support to make the journey. With the help of flight and ground teams assembled by Paraflight, and financial support from the Toms River Jewish Community Council, the family was able to reunite in New Jersey before Christmas (the family is not Jewish).
Simcha’s unparalleled drive to perform acts of chesed earns him praise from many people who know him. “I’ve had the honor to work and collaborate with Simcha for the last five years and I am proud to include him in my circle of dear friends,” said Dr. Nathan Zemel, founder and CEO of Hatzalah of Essex County and Founder and CEO of Hatzalah Statewide. “Simcha personifies the title ‘mensch’ and is universally respected for his dedication and commitment to Klal Yisrael.”
For more information on Paraflight, see http://paraflight.aero. For more information on OrganFlights, see http://organflights.com.