The day started off quite nicely. Made some deviled eggs while the hubby prepared the meat for the burgers and we awaited the arrival of a good friend of ours who would be joining us for a small little barbeque. Dinner went according to plan. The evening was peaceful...until 2130. That's when our small little village of a town decided to light off their fireworks display from less than 1/4 mile from our house. No warning, no little baby fireworks to get the show started...but the big loud BOOM ones. That is the first time in a LONG time, I've actually jumped up from my chair where I was sitting outside and tried diving for cover. My heartbeat easily doubled, my chest felt tight, and I remembered the last time in Iraq that my base had been
I was already at the aid station because I'd had a seizure and hit my head, causing a small laceration above my eyebrow. I was being examined by my fellow docs to see whether we could get away with steristrips or if I needed stitches. And then we heard it. The unmistakeable sound of incoming mortars. Running to the bunker, hearing the explosions, smelling the burning buildings, and then the shouts and screams. We had a mas cal. Without waiting for the all clear to sound, all able bodied and available medics ran back to the aid station to begin triaging and treating those who had been wounded. I had been ordered to sit this one out due to my own injury...but I couldn't sit there and not do anything. So I told my NCO who was holding C-Spine for a patient who was VERY badly injured to go help control bleeding and apply tourniquets. I could maintain C-Spine if nothing else. His eye brows and eye lashes were burned off; the smell of burning flesh infiltrated my nostrils, and he sank in and out of consciousness. To keep him conscious, I kept him talking. He had a son right around my son's age who also loved football. We talked of getting our children together to play football when we got home. He talked about how wonderful his wife was. I complimented him on how gorgeous his eyes were. Then the shrapnel in his neck dislodged and blood began spurting from his aorta. I instinctively plugged it with my finger until the doc could apply more gauze and a pressure dressing...And then the medevac flight was there and he was rushed out. When all had calmed down, we resumed my treatment. I had compressed a few cervical vertebrae turns out, and they were going to send me to Baghdad for further imaging studies. The doctors who came in to see me said I had done an outstanding job, despite my own injury. I shrugged it off. I was just doing my job. A job I loved.
It wasn't too long after this incident that I was sent home due to my seizures. It was then, that I learned that while I was being transported home, I was written up for putting my patient's life in jeopardy because I was injured. Last time I checked...that was part of the risk and in the job description of being a medic?!? This is but one example of the "treatment" I was subjected to in my unit once I became ill. My ailments were inexplicable and didn't make sense, so I must be faking. But this is not my point. My point, is this event happened in April 2010. 4 years ago. And the fireworks display last night that was highly unanticipated (I don't ever remember fireworks that large being lit in this small little town. The smaller ones that the summer residents/campers fire off...sure. Those are annoying...but not like this) brought all of these memories; these feelings I've tried so hard to push away; right to the front of my mind. Bringing with them all the physiological responses with them.
I know I've said it before, but I (like many combat veterans as well as a portion of the public) have PTSD. Those that suffer with it know their triggers, and they are as varied as the people who have them. Veterans are not alone in this phenomena.
Recently, a post of a veteran with a sign stating "Combat Veteran Lives Here, Please Be Courteous with your Fireworks" has been shared thousands of times via Social Media and even garnered coverage by USA Today. We acknowledge your desire to celebrate holidays (especially Independence Day) with a display of fireworks. We want you to be able to celebrate. But we also want to be able to celebrate it as well; without the flashbacks. I don't want my neighbors not to light off their fireworks, but it would be nice to have warning so I can take precautions against another flashback.
There will always be more to say on the subject of PTSD, but that is for another post. :)