A very close friend of mine encouraged me to visit the Warrior’s Heart website, and review them as a potential first responder facility for addiction and post traumatic stress. I called the 800 number and was pleasantly surprised to be speaking with Josh, a co-founder. He gave me a clear and concise description of their mission as well an overview of the day-to-day activities at Warrior’s Heart. I knew in my heart that I was talking with someone genuine. This place is something very special.
Our current media is infiltrated with violent attacks among various religious, cultural, ethnic and political groups that are receiving large amounts of attention. As a result, one of the most lethal and deadly attacks we fail to acknowledge is the physical, emotional and spiritual attack upon our current law enforcement officers and first responders. These highly resilient men and women walk the streets daily, work in, and interact in one of the most lethal, violent and traumatic environments with daily exposure to traumatic incidences and what is considered routine occupational exposure. Continue reading “First Responders and Trauma: Bridging the Gap”→
She walked into the station,
The girl with her legs mangled a year ago
Wrapped impossibly around the pedals
Folded like an accordion by the weight of the dash
Smashed and broken
When her car slid gracefully across the ice
Headlong into the fire truck. Continue reading “Miracle”→
The car perched precariously on a branch
The front tires dangling in the air
She must have jumped to get out.
Her brothers teased her later about off-roading.
People came right away to help, they almost always do.
Nameless people you never can thank afterward.
The boyfriend was there, too, tall and red-eyed,
He ran all the way from his house to the crash.
The paramedic called from the ambulance.
A few scrapes and bumps, nothing serious, he said.
Thank you, thank you, I told him,
As if it had been his own personal decision to spare her.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw her.
So totally unprepared,
A neck brace, her eye swelling shut,
Her cheek raw and bleeding,
The classic bloody nose and fat lip.
You look like Rocky Balboa, her brother-in-law said.
Who’s that? she asked.
You can’t be that young, you can’t be.
I looked over at my husband
The same scared grin on his face
As he’d had when she was first born
Watching the doctors pounding on her back
Trying to get her to breathe.
Some scrapes and bumps, he told me, not that!
I must have looked horrified at my son.
If you’d seen what we usually see, he explained,
This is nothing. Sorry, I should have prepared you better.
He beat the ambulance to the hospital
His colleague had called him—
Got your little sister in the back of the truck.
He was twelve when she was born,
Used to carry her around like a football
He and his twin brother.
It’s a wonder she’s survived this long.
They remembered all the accidents they’d had growing up.
The cars totaled, the motorcycles smashed,
The golf cart that flipped, the bicycles,
If it had wheels, I used to say…
Now they are both EMTs, payback time, I think.
How’s she doing? He called later from work.
How’s my little Banani, nani? His voice cracked.
He used to call her that when she was little.
And I knew how much he hurt.
For her, for me, for himself.
And all the things he couldn’t say.
She’s fine, I said. Don’t worry.
Thank you for being there tonight.
About the Author: Ann González is a professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. She is originally from North Carolina, but lived for years in Costa Rica. She is the mother of five children including twin sons who are both now firefighter/EMTs. She has written a number of books and articles on Central American literature as part of her academic career, but she began writing poetry last year as a way to relieve the stress of caring for her 91-year old mother with Alzheimer’s.
Editor’s Note: Tim Casey, referenced in this article, was a dear friend of mine who took his own life in the summer of 2015.
While watching a news report about a major apartment fire with many casualties including several children, I became aware of a group of professionals who regularly experience grief and traumatic stress; specifically, the men and women who serve their communities as firefighters. In spite of their dedicated service to their communities, few people in the civilian world are aware of, or seem to be concerned about, their physical, mental, and emotional struggles. Soon after that newscast, I outlined the Grieving Behind the Badge program and set my sights on offering help. I had expertise in grief and loss, but that did not prepare me for the obstacles before me. Continue reading “When Serving Becomes Surviving: PTSD and Suicide in the Fire Service”→