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A Long Time in the Making…

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Hi there, and welcome to my Blog. Thanks for taking the time to check it out. First off, I guess I’d better say that everything contained in my blog, represents my opinions only. Names and story details might have been changed to maintain some sort of privacy.

There, now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you what the purpose of this blog is. It is to get a glimpse in the life of an Emergency Responder in Southern Ontario. A Paramedic to be exact. But the things I have gone through can be applied to anyone in the Emergency Services field. Police. Firefighters. Nurses and Dr.’s in the ER. It is not a place where I will be sharing my gory stories, or grim details of calls I have done. The purpose of this particular blog is to show the effects that these calls have on us. Ordinary people, doing an extraordinary job.

A little about me. I’m a married father of 2 beautiful girls. I have been married 13 1/2 years. My girls are both under 10, just under 2 years apart, and 1 year apart in school. My amazing wife works a regular Monday to Friday day job. I have been working as a Paramedic for 10 years, in a larger urban service. I’m certified as a Primary Care Paramedic. That means I’m certified to use drugs such as Epinepherine, Ventolin, Glucagon, Nitro Glycerine, and ASA. I can also use a few different pieces of equipment to aid/assist breathing. King LT’s and CPAP. And of course, a defibrillator.

I went to a Community College for 1 year, to receive my education. But that was back in the mid 90′s. Now it’s a 2 year program. On top of that, you have to “apprentice”, or ride 3rd on an ambulance for approx 450 hours. If you manage to be a successful graduate, you then have to write a 6 hour provincial exam. Once you have completed all of those steps, you are eligible for employment in Ontario. Once hired, you have to be certified by your local Base Hospital. Just as you think you are done, and good to work, you have to constantly attend Continuing Medical Education (CME) sessions. And you have to re certify with your base hospital yearly. It’s not the most difficult process in the world, but it takes a lot of work and dedication as well.

Now you are ready for the road. Ready to put all of that knowledge and training to use. You’re pumped, and scared all at the same time. The tones in the base go off, the sirens wail as you drive. The adrenaline is pumping at max output. You arrive on scene, and this is where all of the schooling, and the time you spent riding out as a student, fail you. The one thing I was not prepared for, and in my opinion no one is properly prepared for, is the Critical Incident Stress.

When I was in school, we never talked about it. What it was, what it does to people, nothing. Of course, you know getting into this line of work, you are going to see horrible things. It’s part of the job. But the toll it takes on you, dealing with horrible situations day in and day out, can affect you in ways you never thought possible.

A build up of Critical Incident Stress (CIS) or an incident that is not properly dealt with, can fester in the back of mind for years. It can lead to things like burnout, mood swings, depression, and addiction (alcohol and drugs). There are more, but I’m only going to talk about my experiences. In my opinion, it affects everyone differently, so the list of symptoms is large.

A situation that bothers, or sticks with on person, does not affect another. Some people have a higher tolerance to what they can handle. Either way, if a situation that has affected someone is not debriefed, and dealt with properly, it will catch up to you down the road.

Asking for help is a hard thing to do. There is still a stigma that is makes you weak. And none of us want to appear weak to our peers. I have seen a change in the last few years though. Asking for help is not being seen as weak. People, at least in my service, are starting to recognize that we need help too. You can’t do this job everyday, with what we see, and NOT need some help coping with it. The purpose of me starting this blog, is so that my fellow colleagues can see that asking for help is OK. In fact, it’s NEEDED. If ONE person reads this, and gets some much needed help because of it, then I have been successful.

I am broken. I need to be fixed. I have been suffering for years, and I finally got to the point where I could no longer continue on the path I was on. I started to become concerned about PTSD about 6 or 7 months ago. Someone made a comment at work about a fellow colleague, and it got me thinking about myself. I started to do some research. I did a lot of reading. I filled out numerous on-lines “tests” for PTSD. I scored “extremely high” or “extremely likely” in every test I did. After a month or so, I made an appointment with my family Dr. My Dr. seemed to agree with me, and referred me to a Psychiatrist. In the mean time, I just tried to “power through” every shift. I took my job 12 hours at a time. It took a long time to get an appointment with a Psychiatrist. My day finally came. I was soooo hopeful. I went. Without getting into the details, it did not go as I hoped. There is a history of some mental illness in my family. This Dr. was more focused on that, then any of the concerns I had about myself. He was more concerned that I did not know what medications some of my family members have taken in he past, then the fact I have not slept well in years. He told me my drinking was “stupid” and that I should just stop. (More on that in a bit.) He also wanted me to at least double my antidepressant dosage. I was speechless. I was devastated. I got in the car, and called my Dr. I was able to get my Dr on the phone, and I was in tears. I scheduled an appt to go and see my Dr.

To back track a bit, I had been drinking everyday for a good solid year. I was an alcoholic. It was my coping mechanism. It helped me sleep. It silenced the “noise” in my head. It relaxed me. I had, on occasion, abused other things. But I did not think too much of it, as I was functioning. I never missed work because of alcohol use, I was never incapable of doing my job, or taking my kids to their sports. As much as I didn’t think of it, I also did not want to cut down. Maybe it was I couldn’t. I’m not sure. Anyway, as my journey to get help started, I realized that I needed to eliminate alcohol from my life. So I did. Cold turkey. One night, I finished what alcohol I had left in the house. I did experience some withdrawal, but over all it was not too bad. Some nausea, a headache, cold sweats, and the shakes. They weren’t too bad. I had advised my Dr of what I was doing, and she gave me a few Valium to help. It sure did.

So back to the Psychiatrist. I went back to my Dr. The Psychiatrist had told me to drastically increase my dosage. In the report to my Dr., he suggested I be careful and limit my dosage of antidepressants, due to other mental illness in my family. So now what?? All of that waiting for conflicting advice, from the same person. My Dr. was also quite upset with the way my appointment went. Oh well, no point in dwelling on the past. My Dr. told me not to worry, they were going to refer me to someone else.

During all of this time, I was still going in to work. I was physically capable of doing my job. So I just tried to “tough it out” like so many of us do. I had some calls that really bothered me. And one that was a game changer for me. It was the call that finally broke me. On top of a pretty crappy year with some bad calls, this one changed me. I really started drinking. I was miserable. My amazing wife had been voicing her concerns to me for a while, but after that call, she also became more concerned. People at work were seeing a change in me to. People told me they were concerned for me and my well being. I told them I was fine, all the while knowing I wasn’t, but not knowing what to do about it. I was stuck in limbo. Waiting for a referral (help) from my Dr, and trying to cope until I got it. This was a pretty dark time. Nightmares, insomnia, mood swings…Taking it out on the people who least deserved it. My wife. My kids.

I finally had my snapping point. I went into work for a night shift. I hadn’t even started my shift, and I was already dreading being there. I could not mentally handle my job anymore. I could not deal with someone else’s problems. I blasted my supervisors that night, for something they could not control. I called a very close friend of mine in the service. My “Work Wife”. I didn’t know what to do. We chatted, and it was made clear I needed help, and I needed to do something about it. My Work Wife and my real wife are friends as well, and both of them told me that night that they were about to call the other and figure out a way to tell me to get some help.

I booked off of work that night, just as my shift started, on sick time. In my service, after a certain number of days off, we need some paperwork from our family Dr. I needed a copy of the form, and so being a bit proactive, I emailed the person who handles all of that paperwork, for a blank copy. A day later I got a call at home from the paperwork person. They asked why I was off, and I was hesitant to say anything. They basically explained that they wanted to make sure I was using the “correct” method for my time off. I explained what had been going on, and I was told that this should be a WSIB claim. I was rather shocked. I’ll have to admit, I never though WSIB would ever approve something like this. I have taken time off work before, for stress related reasons, and I always used my short term disability. I never considered WSIB. Well, to be honest, I guess I did, but figured they (WSIB) would never approve it.

I filled out the appropriate paperwork, and had a few conversations with my case manager, and an RN from WSIB. Both of them are from a department that deals with traumatic stress and mental health. I was eventually told that my claim had been approved. I was on the phone with the nurse, and she was explaining what was going to happen next. I was being sent to see a Psycologist who will assess me over a few weeks. At the end of my assessment, I would be given an official diagnosis, and a treatment plan. As she was telling me this, I was a bit confused. I had not been told if my claim to WSIB was approved or not. I stopped her and asked her if this means I was approved. Her answer was “absolutely. You need help, and you are going to get it.” I was overcome with emotion. I was finally going to get some help. I was going to be the person I was. I was going to get better.

Due to the Holidays, I was not able to start my assessments. I am starting in the very beginning of the new year. I am very excited to start. I know I have a long road ahead of me, but it’s one I can’t wait travel. I love my job, and want to go back to it. I also want a full collection of tools to help me cope when I need them. I want to be a better husband, a better father, and friend. I want to use my experiences to be able to help others who end up like I did. And this blog, to me, is a start. For all of it.

If you have made it this far, thank-you, from the bottom of my heart for reading. CIS, and PTSD amongst Paramedics, Police, and Firefighters, is a serious issue. It’s one that is rarely talked about. The attitude “It’s my job”, and “I’ll be fine” need to change. At the end of the day, while some people see us as heroes, we are just ordinary people.

I will continue to blog my journey. I hope that this blog helps eliminate some of the stigma about asking for help. While I’m a Paramedic, this issue also affects ER staff, Police, Firefighters, Soldiers and dispatchers.

Here is to 2014 being a better year for me. And for a lot of my friends who have had a terrible 2013.

Please feel free to share this blog. The more this gets talked about, the more the stigma of asking for help goes away, and the less likely we will see outcomes like this.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/ask-for-help-police-told-at-ian-matthews-funeral-1.2478634

And lastly RIP Ian Matthews. I’m sorry for the daemons you tried so hard to fight alone. They can no longer get you.

HM

Comments - Add Yours

  • Kath

    This is wonderful. I’m so proud of you and the content I can’t speak!!!! Your timing is perfect.
    xxx

    • http://hammermedic.wordpress.com hammermedic

      Thanks Kath. The timing is a coincidence. Sorta. I have been wanting to do this for a bit, and Ian’s death gave me that final push. I wanted to post it yesterday, but that was a day for Ian. I did not want to take from that.

  • Jaci

    As much as we try to be supportive, a spouse usually doesn’t get it. My hubby is also a 10+ year medic in Hamilton so I’ve heard a lot, but I also know he protects me from the really traumatic. Glad you’re finding support and you’re showing how GOOD it is to seek help when it’s needed. Thank you for writing!

    • http://hammermedic.wordpress.com hammermedic

      Thanks Jaci!!

  • http://robertopelaccia.ca Rob Pelaccia

    Love it buddy!
    I certainly have your back.

  • Candice

    Thank you for sharing. So often we see front line Emergency Workers without the proper help they need. Without having walked a mile in your shoes, it’s so hard for the “Professionals” to understand. Looks like you’re headed in the right direction and I hope to see the system help instead of fail you. I look forward to your updates. Here’s to 2014, full of hope, love and help!

  • Mommy-medic

    One day and one step at a time. U never walk the road alone .

  • Mike Merko

    It’s awesome to see the strength and determination to get help. While it’s not your goal you are helping others by removing the stigma of PTSD and all the other disorders we inherit from the work we do. Keep safe and an open mind. I hope you get the old you back and maybe even see the positives of PC based products !!!

  • Dick

    It’s hard to find the right response without blurting the blatantly obvious or sounding over the top cheesy.

    Bravo Danny boy, what you have started takes no small degree of courage and testicular fortitude. You and your family are in the thoughts and prayers of my family.

  • Jaime

    Very proud! I had no idea but clearly that’s the point… Too many struggle in silence. I’m here if you ever need to vent.

  • Chris Bayards

    Danny you’ve impressed me many times at work with your insight and skills, but today you’ve made me reflect on my own lengthy career. Your words will ring true for many of us, new and senior. I’ve had several “game changer” calls, and like yourself thought I could carry the baggage they mentally become. Glad you’ve taken a step towards returning the things that don’t belong to you!! Many years ago someone who was much wiser than I said this to me,”Every call we give up a little piece of ourselves to the people we serve. But it’s up to you how much you give”

    • Mandi

      “A step toward returning the things that don’t belong to you.”
      That resonates.
      Well said, Chris.

      While I don’t know you personally, Dan, I’ve been on the other end of the radio for 6 years and understand the types of calls to which you are sent, because I’m one of the ones taking them.

      I applaud you for recognizing and reaching out. I’ll follow along in your blog. It sounds like you have a great support system. I hope you find some resolve, and that your words help others who may need to do the same.

      Best wishes for health and happiness, always.

      Mandi

  • Katie

    Bravo for your courage, and come back when you can. You are loved and cared for and respected for your abilities. Know that all of us will continue to support you. You will also continue on my own personal prayer list

  • http://Paramedic_Mike.wordpress.com Mike van Mil

    Dan! I really feel for you! Please let anyone of us know if you ever need anything! Ever! We are family and we all stick together and support each other! Thank you for sharing your story and being a voice to some that may still be reluctant to talk! I will be following your blog closely!
    Thank you!
    Mike van Mil

  • Pingback: A Long Time in the Making… | Paramedic Mike

  • Grant Rumford

    Congrats for taking these steps to get help. I’m sure that your blog has already helped many of us see the reality of our career. We experience hell on earth on a regular basis. We are only human. We need to care for ourselves. We need to get help sometimes. It’s ok. We need to make it feel ok for people to do what you are doing. I hope and pray that you get back in the drivers seat soon. God bless.

  • Ted

    Thank you for sharing you story,
    I hope that more people get the help that they need because of you. I hope people read your story and see that it’s ok to get help and that they are not alone.

  • Lorne

    Hi hammermedic. Thanks for putting what you went through in writing. We have to end stigma of CIS and PTSD in emergency services. Here in York EMS, a collegue and I were able to make a presentation about this to every one of our medics and mgmt. We were incredibly well received. It was important as a medic of 27 years (collegue equally as long) to let them know that we were there and it was important to end the stigma now. I am proud to say that our Chief, Norm Barrette, wants us to be proactive in this and is taking initiatives to help the front line in CIS.
    Surveys have shown that 100% of paramedics have experienced CIS and 25 % can have PTSD. That is numbers that no place is close to. Except were are told to ‘suck it up’. Well, that doesn’t work, the horrors are still there.
    Step 1 – recognize you have a problem
    Step 2 – get help
    You have done that (and writing about it ,not necessarily have to publish it is a recommended therapy). I’m so happy wsib has approved your claim. That relieves some anxiety.
    Other responsibilities rely on our coworkers/family to interject. If they do,it means they care.
    Contact me if you need anything (medicdown@hotmail.com)

  • ashleyarcher188065588

    Your story brings tears to my eyes, Dan. Amazing recollection and I am so proud to say I know you. You are a great medic, and an amazing person. It’s already been said, but obviously many of us had no idea…and that’s the point, too many of im us suffer in silence. Bravo and blessings to you for a quick and smooth recovery. We’re all here behind you! Xx

  • ashleyarcher188065588

    Your story brings tears to my eyes, Dan. I’m blown away and yet at the same time not surprised at all, not because it’s you but because only people who do what we do will ever understand how life altering our jobs can be. You an a great media and an amazing person and I’m proud to say I know you. Blessings for a quick and smooth recovery, and thank you for bringing so much to light that needs to be spoken of far more often. None of us should suffer in silence. Xx

  • tmedic

    Wish I had your courage.

    • http://hammermedic.wordpress.com hammermedic

      Everyone has it in them. I was sick and tired of being broken. It has taken me 3 years to get to this point. Maybe longer. If you had told me a few years ago, I would be journaling for my therapist, and writing blogs about my pain, I would have told you, you are crazy, now let’s go have a drink. You just need to take that first step. Even a baby step helps. Please feel free to contact me if you want to start a dialogue. I’m not in much of a position to be helping you at the moment, but I can certainly point you in the right direction. Just leave a comment here, and I can email you, if you want.

      • CMR

        Hey Dan, thank you for this blog… I just went through the last three years with ptsd… This last year was absolutely horrible… Would love to hear from you.

  • Tara

    Hi there.. I just wanted to write you an email and let you know how much I really appreciated reading your blog. I know it is hard to admit that things effect you in this job .. But it’s amazing that you have taken something like this and used it to help others just like you. I may just be one of those people.

    I have been feeling many of the emotions that you described. It is cumulative I feel because I don’t just have one instance in particular I an think of…do you have any advice ?

  • aryastark7

    10 years on the road myself. The PTSD wasn’t diagnosed until 10 years after I retired as a medic. So glad to have had the support to move through that and onward. Thanks to stories like yours, more and more people are becoming aware and reaching out for true solutions.

    Congratulations for stepping out on the path – know you have our support.

  • Divemedic

    You are a very strong Man Hammer Medic, your struggles are our struggles. You are not alone there are 5000+ Brothers and Sisters behind you… strike that BESIDE YOU in this battle. Thanks for the Blog, and I hope every service in this province gets Mental Health Language in their CA, and through the JHSC get Peer Support in place to help with people like you… and me. We are human, not machines. Each call each day takes a toll on us.

  • Deemi

    I have been suffering from ptsd for many years. I’ve been assessed and diagnosed. WSIB says I should have followed up many years ago when my incident happened….cha! As if I should have ‘self diagnosed’ myself back in 2006. To say the least, I have had little faith in WSIB and they’re process. I’m trying hard to deal with my demons on on my own, but relise that process is extremely hard and exhaustive. I’m no longer a medic …the depression can be overwhelming at times. Christmas is the hardest for me. Too many ghosts in my head. I haven’t spoke to anyone close about this in years. I broke contact with WSIB last June because I go into a spiral of depression and anxiety when I speak with them because they make me feel that I should have handled my situation much better. I just didn’t know how intense and life changing my situation was. I was gripped by something you can’t see, taste, smell or touch. Maybe your blog can help me to step out from my path.

    • http://hammermedic.wordpress.com hammermedic

      I’m sorry you have not had an easy path. So far, my employer and WSIB have been very helpful. I hope things do not change, as I am at the beginning of my journey. I was quite surprised that there was a “traumatic event” or something like that, at the WSIB. Maybe things have changed. Either way, I will be blogging my entire journey.

  • Kyle Johansen

    Great read, thanks for sharing your experiences! I’m just starting out, I’ve only been on the road 3 years (just up the Q in Peel, cheers!) but it’s really helpful having people like you get out there and show that there are outlets, support, and not to just “tough things out”. I’ll be keeping up to speed on your blog – solidarity friend.

  • Bren

    You truly are a hero, heroes are brave and that’s exactly what you show here. I have friends and relatives that are paramedics, my father in law was a Hamilton Wentworth police officer, most people can’t begin to imagine what emergency personnel have to see and deal with and keep going to make things better or as best as possible for the people they are aiding. Wishing you and your family all the best and wishing all those people that spend their life aiding others some comfort in knowing that there really are people who care about you and can’t say thank you enough.

  • Annik

    I hope your story brings to light the truth…it’s ok to hurt we are human…I wish you peace and serenity…

  • sharkbait911

    Your not alone. I was diagnosed with PTSD 7 yrs ago and have discovered many wonderful coping mechanism! My favorites being knitting and crocheting because it lets you think through your problems without emotion. I’m sure there are more ‘manly’ busy work like wood working! That really was my biggest hurdle, finding a creative outlet. But what a difference it’s made!!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Steve

    Hey Bud, get well soon. Great Blog i think it will help alot of people. You ever need to chat you know my #.

  • Pamela

    When getting in this profession we are told by others…” I could not do what you do for a living”. But when a gruesome accident occurs sometimes you hear, “Well that’s part of their job, they knew what they were getting into”.
    Irregardless of what “they”say, we get in this profession to help others the way we would like to be treated in our time of need.
    Thank you for being such a courageous paramedic. I’m sure you have a proud family and proud colleagues.

  • Marlene

    You are in my thoughts and prayers
    Take Care
    Marlene

  • Jasen

    You could not have wrote a more truthful blog. From the description of dreading your shift before it even starts, to unfairly punishing your family, to the false stigma of weakness because you ask for help. I believe that there are many more out there that will view this as a helpful resource.
    I have even considered writing a blog to release my frustrations/demons as form of personal therapy.

    Thank you and I look forward to following your journey.

  • http://adam21737.wordpress.com OntarioMedic

    I have no doubt that your story will encourage other medics to speak out and ask for help when in need. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  • http://adam21737.wordpress.com OntarioMedic

    I have no doubt that your story will encourage others to speak out and seek the help that they want but are afraid to ask for. Your story is inspirational. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • B Lapare

    Incredible story. Thank you for stepping forward and speaking out on this topic.

  • curousbean

    Thank you for everything you do and for putting this out there. Stigma is the real demon here and this will go a long way in shining a light on the struggles of our first responders. My son is a medic and I am glad that you have created a place where he and all first responders can connect, support and normalize there experiences. I wish you well going forward and thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

  • Carin VG

    Thank you – you are taking steps which may seem slow, but you are already better for having begun. Usually we are impatient but you seem to get it, that it’s really a process. Could you please explain WSIB on the blog, for those of us non-Canadians, and explain how that structure affects you regarding this process?
    Thanks again.

  • Christie

    I am so proud of your strength and resilience…and i just know in my heart that you are going to get through this. And writing about it will be its own type of therapy. All the best!

  • http://facebook John

    Very well written article. Glad to see you are getting the help you need. For years this was just swept under the carpet and you were told to get on with your next call. Wishing you continued success on your journey.

  • http://thefashionmedic.wordpress.com xjennax09

    Thank you for sharing this <3

  • Rebekah Spratt

    We all have to start somewhere. So proud of you D. We’re all family here. And you have all of our support. It’s time to end the stigma. Here’s to a new year, with new beginnings!

  • Elizabeth

    Unless you lived through the horror of trauma, it’s difficult to understand the images and words that continue to live on in your mind. I was a Respiratory Therapist in Emergency for many years and my son is now a Paramedic in a large centre so discussing how to overcome post-trauma symptoms are an ongoing topic in our family. I applaud you for realizing you needed help and taking the first difficult step towards it. My thoughts are with you and your family as you begin the journey to mental wellness. You are not alone and you will succeed.

  • Erika

    Simply incredible. You’re strength, courage and determination are awe inspiring and I have no doubt that your blog will help and empower folks from all walks of life. As a mother who continues to navigate both the mental health and educational systems to get my son the support he needs, I was most encouraged that you did not settle for the ‘plan’ that came out of that first, disappointing consultation. Keep fighting for what feels right for you. The right help is out there and although they don’t always make it easy to find, I promise it’s worth the effort. Best of luck on your journey and thanks for having the guts to share it. You may not be at work right now, but still, you’re saving lives. Thank you.

  • Mark

    Dude, only you can take care of you. Yes, the loved ones in our life help and support us and always have our best interests at heart but only you can enable the changes that will lead you down a better, healthier and happier path. It seems that you have begun that process and I wish you nothing more than to find peace of mind both personally and professionally.

    - Mark

  • Pauline Hopley

    I am in tears after reading this. You are a very brave person and I hope your journey will be successful. I want to follow your journey. I am the President of CUPE 1764 in Durham Region and the medics are my members. I am proud of all of them and the amazing work they do but I also worry about them and whether they get the support they need. I wish you the best as your start your journey and pray you will be strong. You already are a better person for reaching out and getting the help you knew you needed. Be well.

  • Shannon

    Thank you for writing this. As a paramedic, I relate to everything you wrote. Thank you for having the courage to speak up in a professional that doesn’t encourage it.

  • CT

    Hi HM,

    I was really touched by your story and I hope everything goes well with the help you are now getting. I am a medic in Halton Region and respect everything you have gone through dealing with the stress you must have been going through. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    I was wondering if you have ever heard of an organization called Tema Conter Memorial Trust. It was started by a medic, Vince Savoia, a few years back who was suffering from undiagnosed PTSD and has now started the organization to help others in the Emergency Services experiencing any sort of Critical Incident Stress.

    Please check out the website if you haven’t done so already; http://www.tema.ca/

    Also there is a benefit gala that many coworkers and I have attended for the past few years where medics, police, fire and armed forces workers from different regions all go to give support and create awareness for people who suffer and have recovered from PTSD/CIS. If you feel up to it you should come and enjoy a night out an hear some amazing recovery stories and motivational speeches from people who have experienced what you are going through.

    Here is the link for the details of the event.
    http://www.tema.ca/#!gala/cci4

    If you can make it out it is such a lovely time and great networking for different ways to get help and support groups etc.

    All the best and good luck with the recovery. Maybe see you on the road sometime when you are back to your normal self :)

    CT

  • Darlene

    So proud of you to step forward and go public with this issue and your journey. It will be a long and tough road, but you will make it through, and always know that you have the continued support of your friends and co-workers.

  • kat

    Good luck on the road ahead it is a tough one make your goals simple not to be the person you once were. I had to go through the reality if realizing that person was gone but that i could become a person I like. A book that my spouse read and so do I “emotional survive for law enforcement and their families” it has been an eye opener and describes alot of what all of us go through. Just know that you are not alone in thus journey and good for you and your family for supporting each other its a tough thing to admit and for family its tough to approach the one they love.

  • Renee

    Good luck brother! You have made the first and hardest step in your journey!

  • Rustache

    Hey buddy. I have been honored and privilege to work with the likes of you and your “work wife” for your career and you two have certainly helped me through my struggles, and they have been big. thanks for doing this blog. As my former “work wife” has said, “it takes some testicular fortitude”,
    Being off with my shoulder surgery has given me time to take stock. I have been able to get some help myself and reflect on my Military, Fire and EMS time of 23yrs.
    You are a brave and noble Paramedic, I love you my brother and I am proud of you for this. Please call me any time brother.. Have a great new year. I certainly will, knowing that you are getting things figured out.

  • Steve

    Lets go do coffee some time
    We can talk about the WSIB and PTSD

  • paraken

    Awesome blog HM. And long needed. I’m a Paramedic on a CISM Team. If ever you want to chat I’m available. You may have created a forum for others.

  • paraken

    Man. Just read the comments. Just so you know, we have a mutual friend. Chris Bayards. He knows me as Ken from the track. Again, this is awesome! Will chat whenever. If you wish get my contact from Chris.

  • Adrian

    It’s very difficult to see through my tears while writing this. Whenever I encounter events like this, I have this need/want to try and help to fix it. In the last 3 years (since coming home and having a very long sit-down with myself) I have learned that I can’t. The truth is I don’t know what you’re going through because I can’t feel what you do, so naturally I can’t fix it. But I do share a familiarity with your situation. None of us have to do this alone… … Take my hand (or ear) brother!

  • NED

    In my long career in EMS I have literally seen it all and then some. Every event big or small leaves one more scar that won’t go away. As medics we wear these scars as they define us. (All right no more tee shirt cliches).
    One of the most frustrating and indeed agonizing aspects of our profession and indeed where we work is that not only is mental distress ignored and discouraged it is often disparaged.
    When those in charge have to be mandated by the labour board to provide Emergency counselling following an employees suicide it’s easy to believe you are alone.
    I had a horrific call some years ago and was told to hurry up and get on to the next call. All other agencies were allowed and encouraged to partake of counselling and down time. This to me made myself and the other Paramedics on the call feel unimportant and unvalued.
    We will never feel the same adulation or appreciation fellow agencies enjoy so it is up to us on a whole to support and force the powers that be to provide support that we want and need.

  • lmrmak

    I can’t even imagine what it must be like doing the job you do. As far as I’m concerned, professions like yours should have mandatory time off to allow for counseling and to recharge your psyche.
    Good for you for getting the help you need. Not that it makes much of a difference, but a random member of the public supports you. :)

  • ricendice

    It’s like you’re making a blog of my life… I, paramedic, father of two young ones, am 10 days into alcohol treatment.

    Without my incredible wife and family, I’d be sunk

    • Lily

      Way to go and stick with it. Remember learning to walk. You sometimes fall but need to get back up again. Alcoholism is particularly tough because so many of us use it as a crutch and/or a social event. How many men get together to go out for coffee? Most go out for beer/drinks.
      Stay strong. You can do it.

  • Yoges

    Thank you for sharing this. I am a just graduated fire academy recruit. Now starting to apply. I haven’t experienced anything you, or other members of the emergency services has. But I want to step in, and experience the feeling of helping not just the community, but (hopefully soon) my fellow brothers and sisters. I have been afraid of what is to come. I don’t know what to expect. But I am glad there are support networks available. People like you. You inspire me, to be a better person everyday. To train and improve, and to ask for help.

    I know my message is a bit jumpy, but my main point is to say thank you. For sharing, and for serving.

    From a fellow Canadian.

  • NP

    Thank you for being open and willing to discuss your personal struggles with CIS. I have been a paramedic for almost 7 years and I know it is a problem many in our line of work encounter to various degrees. By speaking up and speaking out you are letting others know they are not alone. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, in is a sign of strength and courage. Good luck on your journey and recovery.

  • https://www.facebook.com/joanne.walmsley.37 Joanne Walmsley

    I am sharing this widely. We all need to know that help is available and we need to ask for it. There is no shame in taking steps to get better.

  • Tank

    Best wishes in 2014 my friend. I am a Paramedic/Firefighter in Alberta, and have been in the industry since 1995. I am currently off work as well with PTSD stemming from my crew and I being caught in a flashover and backdraft in 2011.

    Be patient with yourself, the road to recovery is slow. Please feel free to contact me via email should you find yourself needing extra support.

    Take care

  • Kirsten

    I read your blog and was in tears by halfway. I have been in the job for 20 years and have been slowly deteriorating for the last 6 or so. I too, have put a claim in for Worker’s Compensation in late 2011, but in a cynical effort to avoid an admission of liability and therefore pay for medical treatment, my claim has been opposed on a technicality. I’m still fighting it and it’s exhausting. Something I don’t need on top of being already psychologically vulnerable. But, in Australia, paramedics get little respect from their employers. Good luck, and Godspeed with your recovery. I’ll have a beer for you!

  • Yvonne Fleury

    Going back in time since you were a teenager, you always wanted to help people in times of crisis. Running across the street to help a distraught mom because her son fell over a railing two floors down, to stopping at any accident scene to help victims. This was your calling and you became a paramedic.
    I know you love what you do and always will. Reaching out like you did with this blog is astounding. You are helping so many people in the field by letting them know it is OK to share and to seek help. I am so proud of you and I know you will work through this trying point in your life. You have a family that loves you dearly and will support you every step of the way. Your loving Mom

    • Rustache

      you are a wonderful angle and so is your son.

    • Lise

      Awesome! Most people are afraid of leaning on others, either not wanting to be a burden, afraid of leaving themselves open to others, or many other reasons. They need to know there is always someone around to help if they take the chance. Your son has opened up and sees that his family and friends are right there.
      Good luck, Lise

  • Donna

    Hang in there and you will get through! My cis took me to the brink off attempting suicide and I made it through to the other side. It took faith focus and work. I now have a healthy happy EMS career of 25 years and going strong. You will do it too! Praying for you too….

  • Ricky Ellis

    Well done to you my friend , Your words are brave and true!
    The public have no idea what we do every day and night. but then would you really wish the reality on any of them.

    I feel its best to find positive ways of dealing with the mess that we find ourselves in on a regular basis. Reframing the experience and seeing the value of what you are bringing to the situation can really help reduce the impact….none of us go to work to do a bad days work!

    Many years ago I heard of the Stockdale paradox and it really made sense to me especially when I see something that’s really ‘not good’

    Admiral Stockdale was a prisoner of war in the pacific and was repeatedly tortured for many years … some guys slowly went crazy but he found that encouraging the men to face up to the brutal truth that their situation was ‘terrible; but they would endure and survive no matter what’ …. It has been acknowledged that dealing with it by facing up to the situation with optimism in turn created resilience.

    I hope this and others comments helps you in some small way

    Regards
    Ricky

  • http://www.mentalhealthintheuk.co.uk MentalHealthProfessional_CombatingFibromyalgia

    Reblogged this on Mental Health Professional Combating Fibromyalgia and commented:
    A very open first blog; paramedic, stress and in need of care.

  • julia

    bless you for your courage. you will be amazed at how this blog will heal you….

  • Connie Maxim-Sparrow

    Your words ring true, deeply. I, too, remember my breaking point, that one call that sent me over the edge. I remember vomiting all over the bay floor, scared stupid that I wasn’t able to do my job or be upset when it’s part of the job! I was lucky to have a boss, Steve Frisbee, the best ops manager in the world, he saw it, got me the help I needed and I was blessed. Your journey is one we all share, good for you for recognizing, we, as humans, are not capable of digesting the daily trauma!

  • Shannon

    Thank you. Simply, thank you.

  • D

    Great giant step for you. I am a 25 year paramedic and have also been dx with PTSD by non work referred psychologist. Was being accommodated by employer at non EMS work until now. Laid off December 31. Not working does nothing to improve the situation. Although working at accommodated duties at 1/2 EMS wages was also depressing. Was unaware WSIB was acknowledging chronic PTSD. Will have to follow up with local union president and WSIB on Monday. Thanks and good luck.

  • Anonymedic

    Thank you for sharing your experience, and the start of your journey to reclaiming your mental and physical self. I can tell you have an incredibly strong resolve to overcome this. I have every confidence that you will pull through with the help of those you love, and eventually become a valuable resource to others going through the same struggle.

    While I read this blog and many of the comments, I could see and feel the hairs on my body standing upright as I remembered a few of my distressing experiences in the back of the ambulance, a couple close calls I’ve had along with some of my colleagues, some of the horrific images I’ve seen among the twisted car wrecks, and the profound feelings of unease that go along with having to be the bearer of bad news to a grief-stricken family after an unsuccessful ALS resuscitation in the very place somebody has unexpectedly taken their last breath.

    You’ve made me realize there’s more to mental wellness than just – helpful as it may be – attending debriefings, rationalizing shared experiences with colleagues, and “concentrating” only on the lives of others you’ve “saved” or otherwise affected in a profoundly positive way. Sometimes you wonder if you’re the only one who’s still laying awake at 5 in the morning when your next shift starts at 8, or feeling guilty for wondering about yourself because others have been to much worse calls than you have.

    I love this job, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I take pride in my accomplishments, the accomplishments of other Paramedics and of the EMS industry as a whole. Having open dialogue about these issues can only be a positive thing for us all, and I want to thank you for reminding us all to watch out for ourselves and each other. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. Best wishes, and many blessings brother.

  • Christy Tomlinson

    Well done Brother, I call you Brother because we are, in this business, brothers and sisters. I read your blog and the responses that were sent to you full of support, full of understanding, full of people walking the same path as you are now. I would like to add something to this support by telling you, and others, that there is another side to PTSD and that is from the other end of the tunnel when you come out of the dark, look back and know that you are OK again. It can happen. Ten years into my career as a paramedic in a large urban service I found myself brought to my knees by PTSD. Long story short: 11 shifts in a row, 11 dead patients, 5 of them pediatrics. On the 11th patient, the 5th kid they found me sitting on the back of my ambulance with a thousand yard stare. I went home that day not sure if I would ever work again. This last October 20th I celebrated my 30th year. I went home. I rested, I talked, I learned, I HEALED. Then I went back to work (you think your first day of work was scary, wait till that first shift back) I learned myself, I learned my triggers, I learned that recognizing a personal critical incident is the biggest step to dealing with it. I learned to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. It is the ones we hold in that eat us alive. THERE IS ANOTHER SIDE TO THE TUNNEL that’s why it is only a tunnel. My best wishes, my thoughts, my prayers go with you, and all those walking with you; both in person and in spirit as we all walk our own tunnels in this wonderful, crazy business.

    • Martin D

      Thank you for allowing people who don’t work in this industry understand and appreciate what it is like. Your story makes others think and reflect, in turn inspires them to certain do things.

  • Jose

    It’s all good and nice that everyone is being supportive of you. I would like to consider some possibilities that may have been overlooked and could have contributed to your situation. Nowadays I find it trendy to use and abuse healthcare and emergency workers until they crack. Sure the high pace, stress and responsibilities are inherent in the job, not a surprise! Everyone knows this before going in! However, most people also know before going in that they have the ability and resources to cope with these. I’m sure you’re no different.

    So let me ask you Dan, what led to your PTSD and alcohol use? Was it the blooding gore you seen on the scene or the tragedies of the patients you came across? To some degree that might be the case and what most people tend to think. As medics, we’re not insensitive. Although, I also find being around medics, when they decompress that’s not what they’re necessarily addressing these days. When you were drinking what were you trying to escape? Could it be he excessive tasking, the unrealistic accountability and the high responsibilities? what was it!? Most individuals join this business because of these so where does/did it turn on you? The PTSD and stress should have been kept at bay very easily with the proper supports and resources. Medics nowadays feel very isolated and overwhelmed which is not conducive to digesting these factors so they accumulate. You say that you’re broken, Dan, but maybe the place you work in has long since been broken and could it be that you’re just a product of it? Is the healthcare network you’re working in, in Hamilton, in Ontario or Canada, sustainable or healthy? What is the morale level? Is there a sense of family? The answers to some of these and more are a gauge or marker for a healthy healthcare/EMS. Instead we are sometimes seeing indifference and apathy, a consequence, sometimes a defence mechanism. Sometimes it ends up what your experiencing.

    I hope you get the care you need and deserve! Your job doesn’t define you! You add to it with your jovial and charismatic personality. It will be good to have you back, a medic of your calibre. I consider you a friend and colleague!

  • http://icccraigie.wordpress.com icccraigie

    Dan, short and sweet
    I am proud of you For this blog and the work you do. They are many who suffer in silence and never get treatment or admit there is a problem. For you to make it public and to share you journey is extraordinary strength.
    Keep blogging, and we will follow you in this journey.

  • http://www.garyswalter.com gwalter

    A year and a half ago, sleep deprived, exhausted, and scared, I left work early. I never went back. After 2 months of FMLA (that’s what we call it in the states), counseling, and rest, I wasn’t ready to go back. I had a choice, be terminated, or resign. I quit.

    I’ve been in emergency services since 1974. We lost our house, but we kept our marriage. (I have 2 single digit kids also). Now I have the most amazing job (teaching EMS), and amazing life!

    Thanks for sharing! It gets better!

  • gmarchand

    I think what you are doing is fantastic. I’ve been at this job as well for 13 years, and I understand the battles you are fighting within yourself. I’ve been there, and have been fighting them as well, and without any form of support system, it sucks. I wish you the best, and I’d really like to see where you are able to take this. I hope that PTSD can become a recognized problem within out field, and not management thinking that it’s some form of copout for some time off.

  • Mindy Piva

    Hi there,
    I wanted to thank you for your transparency and courage to share. I had a call that changed my brain forever in 2008. It has been a long road but I am now on the other side and can finally see the silver lining in everything I had to experience, in order to get where I am now. I wanted to let you know that should you need any guidance or help through the wsib process (I am kind of an expert -unfortunately haha) that I can share. Even though I dont know you; it’s as if we are now on the same team because not many people know or understand how PTSD can change EVERYTHING you thought you knew. My motto has been to “Just push thru”… It does get better- I didnt beleive it could, but it will if you continue to be open and honest. Thank you for being so brave and sharing. :)

  • http://draabus.wordpress.com draabus

    Hello,
    I have had this page open for a few days, and got around to reading it today. It was extremely inspiring, and amazing to read. It brought me to tears. I am only a student in the school of Paramedics, and can’t wait for each new week, month, semester. You mention that things are slowly getting better. We had a Psychopathology class in first semester that shed some light on the mental aspects of the job, and I’m sure this post will make it into next semester’s readings. It is truly excellent and takes a look into our potential futures.
    Thank you so much for sharing, and best of luck in the recovery. Because of people like you, change will be brought upon, and help will be asked for, by so many others. This is a crucial step in making the future job of so many students and employees a better one in the future.
    Thank you.

  • Cookie

    I’m so grateful I hate the taste if alcohol. After 24 years in the biz as a medic, I have demons that would scare the average joe to death, literally. But with amazing support from my son, a military veteran and my faith in God and my minister, I was able to overcome the thoughts of hurting myself.
    The more blogs like this, even inherently wrong ones like I’ve read elsewhere, open the door for that “conversation” that is so desperately needed for do many!

  • Shannon franco

    Great drinking and begin a medic go hand and hand.

    • http://hammermedic.wordpress.com hammermedic

      Yes, but it shouldn’t be used as a coping mechanism.

  • Bbb

    Thank you for sharing your story. I had a job I loved as a correctional officer and after a number of CI and no support from my employer I had to move on- and I regret it. Often CO’s are ignored- they deal with the people that can’t survive in society. Often they have untreated MH issues which leads to many assaults, threats, self harm, suicide etc. EAP is there but short term, and no one suggests WSIB. In fact with me my peers were supportive my employer on the other hand felt it was my duty and to get over it- even though it was preventable. PTSD can be dangerous and scary if it’s ignored- thanks to strong individuals like you, people won’t feel shame for coming forward. Keep your head up, one day at a time brother.
    Thank you!
    A supportive sister

  • Joanne

    Whether or not you view yourself as a hero HM, I hope you can own the fact that you are very courageous. I am a 25 year service member in British Columbia and I have now been in dispatch for the last 4 of those. Physically, dispatch has it’s challenges due to the requirement to work behind a desk for 12.5hrs/shift, but emotionally, I guess it is a little less taxing in that I can hear tragedy unfolding in the background but i don’t have to put a face to it. Having said that, I think I felt a greater sense of personal and professional purpose with the face to face. Perhaps dispatch has more become my shield than my best 5 years to a pension. I look forward to following your journey, as much as you are comfortable sharing, and I wish for you a return to work that is as exciting and rewarding as the day you walked into the station for the very first time. Judging by the tone and honesty of your blog, some very fortunate patients haven’t met you yet.

  • MJ

    Thanks for sharing! As a “new” PCP (only about five years in) I’ve seen my share of ugly and have some calls that creep in on occasion. Some of the stories I’ve heard from the old timers though… Man, what we have to see is crazy at times. I’m glad the mentality is shifting from the “tough” people being those who just let things fester, to a more sharing and supporting atmosphere. I hope I’m around for when the stigma has been wiped away. I have to say the new service I am working in (Alberta) has a great CISM system and it has helped me deal with the much dreaded dead baby call I was on awhile back. Kids are the worst. Thank you for being brave and getting the help you need, and for sharing your journey. I feel for you, and I hope you can get back to your calling soon as you are able. Blessings, Peace, and Much Love dear sibling! I’m rooting for you :)

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