For Leah Levine, the arrival of an ambulance is a dream come true.
“I feel like I’m dreaming. This has been such a life-long dream of ours,” she said.
Levine helps lead the volunteer emergency technician group Ezras Nashim in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
“Nashim is women and Ezras means the help of, to help women,” she explained.
It’s the first all-women EMT team to provide emergency medical care in the Orthodox Hassidic community, which has a tradition of gender separation.
Borough Park already has a long-standing ambulatory care service, but all the EMTs are men. It discomforted some local women and sparked a battle to start an all-female service.
“It’s a woman’s choice to have her health care by the person that she chooses,” said Paramedic Director Rachel Freier.
Many criticized the trailblazing ladies for breaking with tradition. They even had to fight in court to get their license.
“Then we confronted opposition, people who thought we were trying to overreach. We are not trying to overreach. We are not trying to compete,” said Freier.
Despite the disapproval of some, the ladies continued to train and were able to fundraise more than $50,000 on social media. After a nine year wait, they have their state of the art vehicle.
“It’s amazing that this is actually coming to fruition. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel," said Heidi Turner.
Though the journey to get the ambulance started years before the pandemic, the group said the coronavirus has shown why access to health care is important.
"When the pandemic was starting, we were like, ‘We need to get this ambulance.’ How many more people could we have helped, had we had our ambulance?” Levine asked.
She hopes the ambulance is fully equipped in case of a second wave of COVID-19, because the group is eager to help.