On the way back from Beijing I had a chance to fly with Neil Goldman, a co founder of Capital IQ who is now both a fund manager and a philanthropist.  Neil shared with me that he supports of Hatzalah.   Coming from Fon a global WiFi network built by the people and interested in all efforts that involved citizen participation (see my previous article on Couchsurfing) I thought that the idea of training regular citizens to save lives was quite powerful.  The basic idea of Haftzalah is that without much training all of us can save lives and while it would be ideal of course that only very well trained medical personnel saves lives it so happens that many times by the time qualified medical personnel arrives it is just too late.  So Haftzalah trains anyone in Israel, say a marketing manager at a tech company, to save lives.  And she may be at a meeting explaining how to launch the latest Web 2.0 service but when her phone rings, she drops everything a la Superman and goes to save lives, at least until the MDs arrive.  One of the biggest life savers is in the use of defibrillators.  As the Hatzalah web site describes:

These machines automatically detect heart rhythms and can shock a patients heart back into beating.

My father died of a heart attack when he was only 49 in an intercontinental flight and I certainly wish that there had been a defibrillator on board and regular citizens trained to deal with them.  I was also pleased to see that this concept was extended to the US and it is somewhat similar to that of being a Red Cross Volunteer but even more grassroots.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Gregory Kay on September 17, 2007  · 

They have Hatzolah in major cities in Canada aswell. In Toronto, Hatzolah comes atleast a full two minutes before EMS.

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Noelle Acheson on September 18, 2007  · 

Hola Martín,

Just imagine the number of lives that could be saved if defibrillators were much more ubiquitous and the training in their use was much easier to come by. My brother-in-law who lives in Kentucky has one in his garage and his place of work, and is trained in how to use them. Here in Spain I don’t know what the limitations are, but a defibrillator in every building? The funding would be a big problem, as would the possible legal consequences for misuse. My sister’s husband (45) died of a heart attack in Barcelona two years ago, he might be alive today if a defibrillator had been on hand. A more economic and practical step could be for local ayuntamientos to offer frequent, accesible and well-publicised courses on CPR and first aid. This could reduce the strain on the emergency and public health services, and even more importantly, perhaps save lives.

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Rebeca on September 26, 2007  · 

Hi Martin,

A few weeks ago I could see a public defribillator in the mall La Vaguada (Madrid), it was amazing. But did you know that if you use a defibrillator with somebody who does not need it (the patient has any other problem wich is not a heart attack) you may kill this person?

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