BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The groundbreaking group of Orthodox female paramedics, known as Ezras Nashim, has been serving the Borough Park community for eight years.
When the neighborhood became an epicenter for the coronavirus, the women say not only did they hit the streets to respond to emergency calls, but they were protected.
"I had to put on all the PPE gear, everything from goggles to face masks, N-95 respirators to the apron that were protective gear. It just meant going in completely geared up,” said Rachel Freier, Director of Ezras Nashim.
They also enhanced their homebound program for patients, teaching family members how to treat their loved ones at home.
"A lot of calls were oxygen related to low levels of oxygen. They didn't know. Should I go to the hospital?" said Leah Levine, Outreach Director for Ezras Nashim.
The emergency response team say they saved dozens of people from going to the hospital during the pandemic by teaching family members how to monitor a patient's oxygen levels and how to administer oxygen when necessary.
"Empowering someone who says well, I was never trained. And I would say listen to me, you can do this. You can do this and I'll walk you through the steps,” said Freier.
Sometimes that instruction came over the phone, over video or at the group's headquarters, where they loaned out medical equipment for families who didn't have access.
"We were able to help them having their child or spouse come to our headquarters and we will train them,” Levine said.
Ezras Nashim is a Hebrew term which means ‘Assisting Women.’ This group was formed for that purpose, to help provide medical services for Orthodox women who don't feel comfortable being treated, for religious reasons, by male EMTs.
But there's been pushback from some members of the Orthodox Jewish community because the all-male Hatzolah volunteer service has historically been responding to medical emergencies.
NY1 was there when Ezras Nashim applied for their ambulance license late last year. They were ultimately denied. And so they continue to use their own cars to do their work. They filed an appeal and vow to fight on just like they're doing during the pandemic.
"One member who was going on a lot of calls, she actually did get really sick for like two weeks. But once she got better, she was on the scene,” said Levine.
The appeal decision is expected later this month.