My name is Gilad Hadari, I live in a small town named Elon Moreh.
My town is nestled in the hills of Samarai, near the city of Nablus. I’m a divorcee and I have three young children whom I was supposed to spend the weekend with. After all, it was my birthday.
But my plans changed dramatically on Friday afternoon after I received a phone call just before Shabbat began from the head of the Bnei Brak Chapter Ephraim (Effy) Feldman.
Effy and I have known each other for a while as I have been volunteering with United Hatzalah for close to 12 years now.
Effy knew that I was a registered nurse and that I have experience working in a nursing home. He asked if I would be willing to come down to Bnei Brak, some 70 kilometers, (or 44 miles away) in order to take over for the medical staff of a nursing home.
The staff had all called in sick as many of them had contracted Corona or were in forced home isolation and there was no one to manage the home until more staff could be found.
On Thursday night, the city of Bnei Brak was put on lockdown by the Israeli government due to the rampant outbreak of the Covid-19 virus that had permeated the city. The disease was taking its toll among the staff of this nursing home and throughout the city.
Officials in the Health Ministry speculated that 75,000 residents of the city have the virus and there simply aren’t enough testing kits to get to them all. So many are left untested.
The IDF and the Home Front Command took over running the city. No one was allowed in or out without their travel being deemed absolutely necessary.
It was into this bedlam that I ventured. Effy sent an ambulance to transport me from my home to Bnei Brak. Due to it being Shabbat, and according to Jewish law, I wasn’t allowed to take any non-essential items with me.
No personal belonging, no food, just my phone as I would need that to communicate with the Social Services and Home Front Command and update them about what was happening at the home over the course of Shabbat.
When I arrived at the home I found that I was the only medical staff at the location. The manager of the home was there, and he and I were alone.
He had no medical training and was not allowed to perform even the most basic medical tasks required by the patients.
There weren’t even any available Auxiliary staff.
70% of the residents in this nursing home are invalids. I grabbed the files of each of the patients and went over them one at a time to familiarise myself with who needed which medication and what medical conditions to expect etc.
After running a quick inventory, I realised that we didn’t have enough masks or full protective gear for me and the manager to make it through the weekend.
I called Social Services and the Home Front Command and told them that I needed a lot more supplies.
There was no food for me personally, and patients needed their diapers changed. Some hadn’t been changed for 12 hours.
Sometime later a nursing student from Ichilov hospital came and we worked together tirelessly until 2:00 a.m. when he said he had to leave so he could make his shift the next day at the hospital.
I was once again alone together with the manager of the home. He came with me and over the course of the night we attended to each patient’s needs, and I prepared all of the medication for each patient according to their chart.
However, I relied on the manager to tell me which patient was whom. We went person by person and made sure that everyone was comfortable and received their proper meds.
In the morning, another nurse arrived for an eight-hour shift. We worked together and continued providing care for the patients. But then she too left.
After that, I was on my own until Sunday night working and caring for the patients non-stop. There were no other medical or auxiliary staff present.
Usually, the nursing home has a team of four nurses and numerous auxiliary staff, but all of the staff who was supposed to work over the weekend had contracted the virus or were in home isolation due to being in close proximity with someone who had.
By Saturday morning, I had two people whom I suspected of having contracted the virus. I based my suspicions upon their displaying symptoms associated with the disease.
I contacted the chief officer of the medical station in the city and requested two ambulances be sent to take these patients to Tel HaShomer Hospital.
In the end, one person had contracted Corona, the other person didn’t. This caused the medical centre to send testing teams to test all of the residents.
I too was tested, but my test was “lost” and therefore when everyone received their results on Saturday night (thankfully everyone else was negative) I didn’t get any results at all.
After calling to inquire what my results were I had been told that my test had never made it to the lab but was lost on the way.
I continued caring for my charges over the course of the next day as well. I provided medication for those who needed it and assisted others with their basic needs as well.
Over the course of Saturday — a day when religious Jews traditionally don’t use the phone — I received 250 phone calls from worried family members, the Home Front Command, the IDF, and Social Services from the city all wanting to know what was happening and what was needed.
Often when I told them what was needed they said that they will do their best to provide it but didn’t really follow through. I had to make do with what I had.
On Sunday night I was relieved by a skeleton team. I had been awake and working for more than 48 hours. I went home and slept for a few hours and then went shopping.
I’m trying now to get myself tested but my medical clinic told me that if I am not showing active symptoms then they won’t issue a test for me as tests are scarce throughout Israel.
The ambulance service, which is also conducting testing has told me the same thing.
On Monday, I finally got to spend some time with my children who all asked me how my weekend was. There was no real way to explain to them what had transpired.
My children range in age from 4-6-years old. I was wondering what to tell them and the only message that came to mind after such a weekend was: “It is always important to help others whenever you get the chance.’
“Just like I save lives as an EMS first responder, I also save lives as a nurse and that is what I was doing over the weekend.”
My children all looked at me and gave me a big group hug before running off to play some more.
While it wasn’t ideal for me to miss my weekend with them, in time they will understand why I did it. That may be the most important message that I could ever teach them.