When United Hatzalah CEO Eli Beer landed in Israel on Wednesday after a prolonged battle for his life due to the coronavirus, Israeli media outlets were eager to interview him and Beer, despite his weakness, spoke to many of them.
Beer told The Jerusalem Post that he had left Israel long before the risk of the coronavirus was on anyone’s mind on a fundraising trip, to India, California, Washington for the AIPAC conference, and other places. He then headed to Miami for Purim. He started feeling unwell at the end of Purim and a few days later he was rushed to the hospital when he started having trouble breathing.
“They took an X-ray of my chest, and the doctor immediately put me in the intensive-care unit,” Beer told the Post. “Three days later, they sent a message to my wife and kids that they want to intubate me.”
Beer said that as an EMT he understood how serious his situation was and he was crying as he was intubated, thinking that his phone call with his children shortly beforehand would be the last time he would ever talk to them.
When Beer woke up from the sedation after 18 days, he thought he was on the way to recovery but his condition deteriorated again a few days later and he was intubated again for another 12 days.
Beer, 46, is not a smoker and had no pre-existing medical issues when he contracted the virus. “This virus is 100 times more powerful than the regular flu,” he said. “This virus goes straight to your lungs, and it does not let go, and it destroys whatever it can.”
The medications that were used during his illness were extremely powerful and Beer said they caused him to have illusions. He even thought at one point that the doctors were evil people who had kidnapped him and were trying to kill him.
Beer said that the hardest part when he woke up for good was realizing how much he had missed. He had no idea how drastically the world had changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He called his wife and asked her to fly him home for Pesach, completely unaware that there were no flights and that Pesach was over. He cried when he heard his children had put a picture of him at the Seder table so they would feel his presence.
Beer said he told his children that “he’ll never do this to them again.” Since he was away from home quite often due to fundraising trips he wants to prioritize spending time with his family now.
Currently, Beer is recovering at a friend’s apartment near the beach in Tel Aviv since his family apartment in Jerusalem is four floors up with no elevator.
Beer wants to donate plasma as soon as he can to help coronavirus patients. “Baruch Hashem my body created antibodies,” Beer said. “So I can use my blood to help save other people from the coronavirus.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)