I Cry For Those Who Die In My Ear
I have read many stories about the Emergency Personnel who suffer from PTSD. I am glad that there are more programs out there for these brave people and that the public is becoming more aware of this condition. One group of people are often left out, the Dispatcher.
I am an EMS Dispatcher and have mild PTSD. What many do not realize is that Dispatchers can get PTSD as well. We may not see the traumas that the first line workers see, but we hear it. When we get a call, we have to create a picture in our minds so as to help the person deal with what is happening. Often that picture is just as bad as seeing the real thing. We also have to calm the situation down so that the first responders can better help them when they arrive on scene.
I have had people have seizures in my ear. I have had people die in my ear. Nothing sticks with you more than a screaming mother of a dying child. All you can do is say “stay calm, help is coming.” The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming at times. You cannot reach through the phone to do CPR or help in any way. We often do not get any closure also leaving a hole in our heart. We rarely find out if the patient survived or died. Someone once gave a good synopsis for this. They described it as someone handing you a book. You read a chapter or two and then the book is taken away. You are then given another book. Again you read one or two chapters and again it is taken away. You never find out the ending in either book.
On top of having someone telling me that they were having chest pains right before the phone went dead, I have taken calls where a crane fell on top of someone. Everyone thought he died instantly, but I heard his screams go quiet while talking to a fellow construction worker. I had a call from a teenager who screamed, “Save my mom, she is all I have. It is my seventeenth birthday today.” She had just described her mother who was found in a pool of blood and I could tell by the description that she was beyond help.
Not only do the calls affect me, but also dispatching the paramedics to the calls. While dispatching, I am their only link to extra help when things turn bad.
How does this all affect me? I have dreams and flashbacks of some of my calls. When I get similar calls, I can feel my heart start to race. I have to swallow hard and keep my cool and carry on. I have to keep cool no matter what the situation.
My PTSD is partially accumulative from previous life experiences as well as some of the calls I have taken. I am lucky that my PTSD is mild and under control.
No matter what my feelings are, I continue on. I try my best to help all that call upon me.
Next time you think of all your “heroes” including fire fighters, police officers and paramedics, please do not forget the dispatcher. They are your first link to help and the first voice you hear in a time of crisis.
by Cindy Armstrong
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