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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Acute Stress, Critical Incident Stress, or Post Traumatic Stress

When I was in 5th grade I experienced a trauma that caused my PTSD.  Although I did not know that I had PTSD, I did discover that years later.

When in my 20's, when I was an Emergency Medical Technician, my PTSD just got worse.  I experienced several traumas, through the calls I ran, and my signs and symptoms really made it hard to handle life.  I was literally hanging on my a thread most of the time.

My behavior was very bizarre to me and I had little control and so I started to see therapists.  I had met several therapists, who seemed crazy themselves, and finally settled on one female who had not been in her field that long.

After some therapy sessions she diagnosed me as having acute stress disorder because of this little girl who died in my arms, at the hospital, as I was moving her over onto the hospital gurney.

This little girl had a disease that if you touched her or handled her too hard her bones would break.  She was about 9 or 10, I think, which was the same age as my son at the time.

There were so many circumstances that made this event so traumatic, and critical, because it was a Critical Incident.

First, I knew the patient and her Father, who happened to be there, because I had transported her several times before.

Second, she was the same age as my son.

Third, we could not perform CPR because she was a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and therefore, we felt helpless. 

Fourth, when we were going Code 3 while transporting her, it was rush hour traffic in the morning in Los Angeles and that created a severe delay in getting her to the hospital.  More helplessness.

Finally, her father was crying, the kind of painful crying like someone suffering like you never heard them suffer before.  He was also tugging on me and begging me to do something and I could not.

Even as I write this now, I feel the pain and I cry.

I am grateful for the therapist who helped me recognize my reactions to this event even though, knowing what I know now and looking back, this was not the incident that caused my PTSD.  This incident was just one that made my signs and symptoms worse.

In my thirties, after I received my Bachelors in Behavior Science and my Masters in Counseling, I became a Critical Incident Stress Management Counselor and I trained other Peer Counselors.  This experience, with my education, helped me see how so many Emergency Workers and hear about incidents that may, or may not of caused, their PTSD.

You see, when we are in the Emergency Field, we see so many traumas that it is difficult to tell what caused our signs and symptoms of stress whether it be Acute, Critical, or Post Traumatic.  Another factor is, we also lived life before being in the Emergency Field, and from that life we had stress before we experienced our new found stress.

What I am trying to say is, sometimes we have to look at our past, beyond our life in the Emergency Field, before we can truly discover all of the answers.

Caution!!!  If you work with a Counselor or Therapist who does not have a lot experience with Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) or PTSD they can truly make things worse by mixing your past with your present.  Make sure that if you see someone that they have extensive experience working with Emergency Personnel or the Military, with trauma.  The best resource is to get a referral from someone who has had success with a therapist concerning this type of stress.

If you are having a hard time living life and/or people are having a hard time being around you, get some help.

I you need help, please email me at, and we can create some intervention and direction for you.

I hope this is helpful!

Until next post...