A few words
I grew up in northwest Missouri in a town called Hopkins. I recall having a town siren that would sound when there was a fire or EMS call, I would run out into the street to watch all the trucks and ambulances go by from about age 10 on. I knew at that moment what I wanted to do as an adult.
I joined the military in 1988 and served until 2003, finishing as a medic.
I received an associate degree in mobile intensive care technology (fancy name for Paramedic in Kansas). I started working Topeka before I graduated from college. That’s when I really saw what first responders were about. My first call out the door, I knew I wanted to stay in the field to help people that were in crisis. After several years there I worked some smaller agencies, before accepting a firefighter/paramedic job in Iowa.
Why I'm Here
“From ashes comes the beauty”
During that time, in 2009 I experienced “the call” that changed my life. If you would like more information, I will share with you personally. We had no debriefing. I can recall only one critical incident stress debriefing for one call during my time there, even though several more were needed. I never received any offers for further counseling or anything regarding any call, including the 2009 call that changed my life. I was diagnosed in 2010 with PTSD but kept working. In November 2012 I responded to my last call – when a man started shooting a gun in our direction and then ultimately took his own life. I knew at that moment, I had seen and done enough and that I was of no use anymore in that capacity.
I was granted FMLA leave for 12 weeks, seeking approval for early retirement/disability. After that was used up, I still could not operate as a paramedic (self-aware) and needed further help but received none. My request was met with comments like, “I don’t know what to tell you” from my administration.
I attempted suicide. When I failed, I was hospitalized, but when I got home, my wife had left me. I started using my sick time (no workman’s comp was available), and I sank lower and lower. I started living inside a bottle. I wanted to die. Once my sick time was gone, I was forced to use my earned vacation and comp time.
After those were exhausted, the chief called me in and gave me an ultimatum — get back to the ambulance or resign. I had to choose the latter. I still want to help people, but now it’s more about helping first responders who now are the forgotten ones, much like the Vietnam veterans were upon the completion of their duty.
I came on board Code 1 after Ms. Kennedy asked if I would consider being on the board as secretary. I am also in the process of forming a chaplaincy/support system for our area first responders and plan on utilizing the resources Code 1 will offer. I am finishing my bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in crisis intervention, and am a mental health first aid trainer, a Chaplain with the Spiritual Care Association, and a recovering PTSD patient. I’m aware that the system is broken, and I am bound and determined to help change that.
“From ashes comes the beauty.”