Wednesday, May 25, 2022

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I hear a siren blasting along the street it definitely unnerves me. Especially if you live on a busy street as I do, the sirens probably are heard more often coming from afar, getting closer and then I sort of wait to see how far away the siren will go by its sound.

Both the Bergenfield and Teaneck communities are blessed more than words can explain by having both BVAC and TVAC—our two volunteer ambulance corps. As I live in Bergenfield, I must concentrate my remarks on my experience with BVAC.

Every time that a Yom Tov rolls around, it admittedly jogs my memory, as in the past few years it was on Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot that my beloved Mordechai needed to be hospitalized suddenly.

I would say that in our last encounter, which was on Sukkot of the past year, after calling 911, it literally did not take more than 60 seconds to have at least three volunteers from BVAC respond. Note the word volunteer. All of the men, quickly joined by several others, were wearing kippot.

Everyone understood the significance of having to be rushed to a hospital on Yom Tov and what the repercussions would be for the family. In a weird way, it was comforting to feel as though professional family were there to help us get through this scary time.

Recently there was a beautiful article written in The Link about a family that each year after Pesach collected and dispersed gluten free groceries to whoever needed them. An amazing act of chesed. True, in our community these acts go on each day—be it in a more visible way, such as Tomchei Shabbos or Project Ezrah, or a less noticeable way, such as the beauty of 12-year-old (now 13) Gavriella Sandler reaching out to those who she believes need a boost with her “Give Sunshine” initiative.

Yet we all know that medical emergencies are the ultimate in worry, concern and heart-wrenching moments. I can speak from experience, believe me. These men acted so selflessly, getting up from their Yom Tov seudot to come rushing over, leaving behind families and their own pleasures. How does one properly thank them? One of the times that we were “rushed” to the ER at Englewood Hospital, only the patient was allowed to enter due to COVID. The family (including me, the wife), were told that we had to stand outside (and not even in a waiting area—thank you, COVID). Several minutes after they brought Mordechai in, Ahmos Silvera, the young BVAC deputy chief who I am proud to say is a graduate of Yeshivat Noam, appeared. He made a point to come out to tell us exactly what was going on inside so that we would not worry. He was trying, together with his cohorts, to make arrangements for us to be allowed inside. Would that have happened with any other typical ambulance driver?

Another time, my Mordechai had to be hospitalized on Rosh Hashanah. I remember so well when Ryan Shell, the chief of the unit, arrived and assessed the situation and when he realized that it was perhaps not so critical, jokingly offered to take us to Tashlich on the way to the hospital in his attempt to de-escalate the tension in our home. It was so appreciated and well received. No, we decided to go straight to the hospital!

My only encounter with the TVAC crew has been in Dunkin Donuts on State Street when I always notice how young some of them are. I think that we, the community, should open an account there to make sure that these amazing young people do not have to pay for their snacks! In no way do I mean to insinuate that the crew spends their time in DD. I just want to acknowledge the same amazement I have every time I meet members of each team and how impressive they are. Keep in mind that everyone that we are speaking of is a volunteer.

I had the occasion recently to spend several hours at the BVAC headquarters where I met with Ryan, Neal Wigod and Ahmos. They gave me a grand tour of the premises, highlighting the increased number of ambulances that they now have and the readiness kits which they have for use at various emergencies. Wow, it is impressive. The training which they must go through, the hours that they put in—again remember that word VOLUNTEER. I felt overwhelmingly grateful. The feeling is that they are caring for each call as though it would be for their parents or extended family.

A few weeks ago, I was driving on New Bridge and noticed a man who was bleeding quite severely from the head being taken out of a home. This home was located about 30 seconds from the BVAC headquarters. I noticed that there was another Jewish ambulance corps from outside of Bergenfield treating the man and wondered why, with the services that we have in these communities, anyone would feel the need to call an out-of-community ambulance. In Bergenfield and Teaneck, once one calls 911, either BVAC or TVAC is dispersed immediately. Further inquiring, I was told that it took at least 13 minutes for the other ambulance to arrive. I can only repeat what many local rabbis have told their congregants, which is: “If you have a medical emergency, call 911.”

I can tell you that our family is more than grateful that we did and there is no way that I will ever be able to properly show enough gratitude to all of the members of BVAC and TVAC. I apologize for the omission of other names of the team members. May Hashem bless you all.

Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected]

Sign up now!