Turning the Tables on a Lifesaver
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
“I used to travel everywhere on a Magen David Adom motorcycle (Israel’s emergency medical fleet) so I would be ready to save lives 24/7. But I couldn’t have prepared for the accident that changed my entire life’s trajectory.” Four years later, Matan Friedman reflects on the moment that altered his life forever.
In 2008, Matan Friedman was a 24-year-old commander in an IDF Air Force school, an avid practitioner of judo, and in his spare time, volunteered as an EMT for MADA.
One night, as Matan left an emotional family memorial service, he drove toward Ashdod when the unthinkable happened. A car leaving a nearby moshav failed to stop before merging onto the highway and hit Matan head-on, destroying his MADA motorcycle on impact and leaving him with two shattered legs, a broken vertebra, several other serious injuries, and a bleak outlook.
In a fateful turn of events, the accident was discovered within minutes by Matan’s brother and father, who had been at the same family memorial service. Matan's father, a paramedic and ambulance driver who works with Assuta Ashdod, rushed him to the ER.
Matan remembers, “When I arrived at Assuta Ashdod, they recognized me as a medic who had often worked on their ambulances, caring for patients before they were admitted. Suddenly, I was on the other side of the coin, entering the hospital as a patient. It felt incongruent, but I knew I was in good hands.”
Following his first emergency surgery that night, Matan was still in critical condition, sedated, ventilated, fighting for his life in the ICU. After three nights of alarming ups and downs, it was nothing short of a miracle that Matan pulled through.
Bit by bit, Matan’s condition stabilized. When he finally improved enough, he was moved out of the ICU and into the care of Prof. Amir Herman, Assuta Ashdod’s orthopedic trauma specialist.
Matan insists that he never would have survived without the knowledge and dedication of Assuta Ashdod’s Dr. Philip Biderman, the head of ICU. Sadly, Dr. Biderman passed away just two short months after saving Matan’s life. “He saved me, and then shortly thereafter, his tenure at saving lives was complete,” Matan laments, his face crestfallen.
In total, Matan underwent six surgeries at Assuta Ashdod to repair the multiple fractures in his legs. When he experienced complications with healing, he received two bone implants and screws inserted into his shin.
No one had known if Matan would survive the accident at all, let alone walk again. A true turning point in his recovery occurred after Matan was discharged. He returned for a checkup and Dr. Herrman quite literally held Matan’s hands as he took his first painless steps. Four years later, Matan still visits Assuta Ashdod for routine checkups. It has become a strange sort of home for Matan, filled with tough yet positive memories.
“I feel like a semi-celebrity when I walk around Assuta Ashdod today. Everyone knows me and I know them. Much of the medical staff remember me and my story.” Matan, now 28, has made a miraculous full recovery, walking on both legs with no help at all! “If someone were to meet me today and didn’t know my story, they would never guess that my legs are filled with metal,” Matan muses.
Matan is also thankful for his partner of six years who has stuck by his side throughout his entire lengthy recovery. He jokes that the only reason he hasn’t proposed to her is that he still can’t get down on one knee. Despite the pain he’s been through, Matan still seems to find a way to laugh.
Matan still attends rehabilitation clinics and pain treatments but has managed to rebuild his life and now looks at every day as a gift. Had you asked him what his outlook was as an immobilized, frightened 24-year-old, he would have been pessimistic about the future. But thanks to the orthopedic staff at Assuta Ashdod, who helped him find the best medical solutions and provided holistic treatment beyond surgery, Matan was able to innovate and rewrite his recovery.
Today, Matan lectures on his accident, his road to recovery, and the importance of choosing life, both mentally and practically. Prof. Amir Herman, Matan’s Trauma Coordinator at Assuta Ashdod, was so inspired by Matan that she asked him to partner with the hospital to found the Choosing Life initiative. The project aims to teach high schoolers about road safety through Matan’s story.
Matan knows what Ashdod was like before Assuta Ashdod, not only as a resident but as an ambulance driver and a senior medic. “Before Assuta Ashdod opened, people were dying in our arms because of the extra time it took to get patients to hospitals in Rehovot or Ashkelon.”
Matan wonders what his fate might have been had Assuta Ashdod not existed when he needed it most… not only for his medical recovery but for perspective as well.