Volunteer EMT Elkana Breuer on the corona hotel grounds. (United Hatzalah) United Hatzalah
United Hatzalah

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Residing at a hotel for people infected with the coronavirus, Elkana Breuer has been responding to medical emergencies of other residents while also uplifting their spirits.

By Raphael Poch, United Hatzalah of Israel

Elkana Breuer, a resident of the city of Beitar Illit, works as a singer and keyboardist and teaches in an elementary school. On Rosh Hashana, he prayed in a small minyan (prayer quorum) where the congregation strictly adhered to all the Health Ministry rules and acted in accordance with the guidelines.

Nevertheless, 10 of the 20 participants contracted the coronavirus. As a result, Breuer’s entire family fell ill, except for one daughter. The family suffered a severe bout of symptoms that made staying at home difficult, so they all went to a Corona hotel located in Ma’aleh HaHamisha, near Jerusalem.

A day or two after his arrival, Breuer began to feel better and told the staff that he was an EMT. “Since I made it known that I am a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT, I have not rested for a moment,” said Breuer. “I have been called upon to provide medical treatment to many people here at the hotel who have little or no other resource for medical attention.”

Having the disease himself meant the Breuer was free to treat the ill patients at the hotel. To some who were suffering from severe respiratory problems related to the virus, he provided oxygen and first aid and then called for an ambulance to transport them to a hospital in Jerusalem.

Breuer has treated dozens of people during his three-week stay at the hotel. “I treat about 10 cases or more each day. Whether it’s people who trip down the stairs, suffer broken bones, shortness of breath related to Covid or other diseases, I am pretty much responding to a call all the time.

“There was an incident with an infant that stuck a bead up her nose, and I instructed the parents not to try and pull it out but rather go to the hospital to have it removed properly. In another incident, someone had a severe allergic reaction to some dairy [product] that they mistakenly consumed. They also had to go to the hospital. The majority of the work comes down to reassuring people and identifying which cases are urgent and need hospital care and which are not and can be treated here.”

Breuer explained that a doctor comes to the hotel daily for a few hours at a time, but getting an appointment is difficult, and emergencies often happen when the doctor is off the premises.

“Being here has really given the other occupants a sense of comfort that in the case of an emergency, there is someone here who can help them. I’m happy to do it, but it has certainly not been a restful stay for me here,” Breuer quipped.

Not all of Breuer’s help involves medical assistance. On Saturday night, the night after the festive holiday of Simchat Torah, he led the people in a special musical event. During the festivities, one of the mothers gave her son his first haircut, a special celebratory occasion for a child who turns three according to hasidic tradition.

‘Helping People Brings Joy’

In a similar event, Breuer led a special celebration in honor of one of the young men finishing a tractate of Talmud on the intermediary days of Sukkot at a Simchat Beit Hasho’eva party at which he also sang.

“All of us who were here for the holidays banded together and worked hard to celebrate the joy that the holidays bring. We have to focus on the good in life in spite of the illness. There is always good, and there is always joy. We just need to find it and focus on it,” Breuer said.

“Helping people brings joy. Culminating life-cycle events and maintaining traditions brings joy. Even here amid so many people who are suffering from the disease, we must all realize that we are healing and we will live through this. So, in the meantime, we must utilize the opportunity we have to help others and bring joy to others. It’s a bit of light amid the darkness, and it is so important,” Breuer concluded.

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