Article: South Austin Event Helps First Responders

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Staggering numbers though – One first responder suicide every two-and-a-half days?? This has to stop…..We need to be watching each others backs. Taking care of our crews.

The most important part of this article? The phone number at the end: “Safe Call Now is a hotline specifically for first responders run by first responders and their families. Reach Safe Call Now 24/7  at 1-877-230-6060.”

Please, please, please…..Don’t be afraid to use it.


Article: Pictures of PTSD

This is incredibly powerful. It is focused on members of the military, but I think any first responder dealing with PTSD can put themselves in most, if not all, of these pictures. I know I can…..

Article: A Genetic Link to PTSD?

This is very interesting. And it brings up an interesting question: If you knew you were likely to develop PTSD, would you still take the same path into EMS? Hmmmmm…….

I’m having a really hard time answering that question. I think probably at the time I got into EMS, if someone told me I would have PTSD, I would have said “yeah right”. But, in hind-sight, knowing how difficult it has been to work through and how tough it’s been for my family, I’m not sure……

What say you??

When God Made Paramedics………

Saw this posted in a group on Facebook and just had to share. I’m not much of a religious guy, but this is touching……


When God Made Paramedics…

When the Lord made paramedics, he was into his 6th day of overtime, when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one”.

The Lord responded, “Have you read the specs on this order? A paramedic has to be able to carry an injured person up a wet, grassy hill in the dark, dodge stray bullets to reach a dying child (unarmed), enter homes the health inspector wouldn’t touch, and not wrinkle the uniform”.

“The paramedic has to be able to lift 3x their own weight, crawl into mangled cars with barely enough room to move, and console a grieving mother while doing CPR on a baby knowing full well the baby will never breathe again”.

The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pair of hands… no way”.

The Lord responded, “It’s not the hands that are causing me the problems; it’s the 3 pair of eyes a medic needs to have”.

“That’s on the standard model”? asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees open sores while drawing blood and asking the patient about Hep C and HIV (already knowing the answer and wishing he’d taken that accounting job) – a second pair here – on the side of the head – to ensure personal safety for themselves and their partner. Lastly, the third set; needs to go here – in the front – allowing the paramedic to look at a patient reassuringly and say “it’s going to be alright” all the while knowing it isn’t so”.

“Lord”, said the angel shaking her head and touching his sleeve, “get some rest and work on this tomorrow”.

“I can’t” said the Lord, “I already have a model that can talk a 250lb drunk out from behind the steering wheel without incident and feed a family of 5 on a private service paycheck”.

The angel circled the model of the paramedic very slowly and asked, “Can it think”?

“You bet”! said the Lord. “It can tell you the symptoms of 100 illnesses, recite drug calculations in its sleep, intubate, defibrillate, medicate and perform CPR nonstop over terrain any doctor would fear… and it still keeps its sense of humor!

This paramedic also has phenomenal personal control. It can deal with multi victim trauma, coax a frightened elderly person to unlock the door, comfort a murder victims’ family, and then read in the daily paper about how paramedics were unable to locate a house quickly enough, allowing the person to die – A house with no street sign, a house with no numbers, and a house with no phone for a call back number”.

Taking it all in, the angel leaned over and ran her finger across the cheek of the paramedic. “There’s a LEAK!” she pronounced, “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model”.

“That’s not a leak” said the Lord, “it’s a tear”.

“What’s the tear for” asked the angel.

“It’s for bottled up emotions, for patients they’ve tried in vain to save; for the ongoing commitment to the hope that they will make a difference in a persons’ chance to survive – for life”.

“You’re a genius”! , said the angel.

The Lord looked somber, “I didn’t put it there” He said.

~ unknown author ~

Article: Wounded Withtout Weapons

This sounds like a great project! We definitely need more stuff like this…..

Article: What Happens When You Feel Nothing?

Yep – This article shares a perspective that only those who have been there can appreciate. Reminds me of a call I responded to for a rock climber who had fallen quite some distance and landed on his head. Needless to say, there was nothing for us to do – so we went back to the station and made spaghetti….

The last sentence of the article is perfect: “But I can’t help but wonder if we’ve already gone crazy.”

I think you have to be at least a little bit crazy to do this job. The trick is to keep from going completely crazy……

An incredibly rare but fantastic experience

Today I had an experience that just doesn’t happen enough, (at least not in the big city)…..I ran into a patient…..

Close to 25 years ago he suffered a massive heart attack and was lucky to survive. Today he is incredibly happy and very healthy. Loving retirement, riding his Harley, and preparing for an extensive RV trip through Canada this summer. (Full disclosure: He was a friend before his “incident” – otherwise, I’m pretty sure I would not have recognized him. I did see him a few times shortly after his heart attack, but I’m sure it has been well over 20 years.)

The gratitude and appreciation he still shows today is truly overwhelming. (Again, full disclosure: I was not the attending that day. In fact, I was not yet a paramedic. I was working for a small private ambulance company as an EMT-Basic. I am still in contact with my partner from that day. He was very happy to hear that I saw him). He knows the difference and knows what my roll was – but still sees his “save” as a team effort and gives both my partner and I credit. Truly humbling.

I hope everyone working in EMS gets to experience this amazing feeling at some point. It is truly special.

I’m sure those of you who work in small towns get to experience this on occasion. For those of us who work(ed) in large metro areas, it NEVER happens. It just doesn’t.

I think I saw a patient in the grocery store once. This guy actually arrested on us. (And I was attending). I did not talk to him in the store because I just wasn’t sure it was him. The guy in the store was really tall – like probably 6’5″ or so…..The guy that arrested in my ambulance was horizontal……

I did run into a guy I treated for a severe reaction to a bee sting. Not quite as impressive, but still kind of cool.

Seeing my old friend today was great. Knowing that my partner and I made a difference in this mans life, and he is still around enjoying it so many years later, is….well……amazing.

Perhaps my best “follow-up” experience though, was not a face to face encounter. It was a simple Thank You card with a picture. A picture of a third grade girl……

She was playing in her driveway behind the family car. Mom put her younger brother in the running car and ran back into the house for something. The brother managed to shift the car into reverse, (or neutral). The young girl was dragged across the street before becoming pinned between the back tire and the curb on the other side of the street. She was critically injured and I honestly did not know if she would survive.

At that time, there was virtually no communication from the hospital back to the medics about patient outcomes. So, a few months later when I received a Thank You card from Mom…..with a new school picture showing a beautiful, smiling, little face….. WOW.

I still have that card in a file somewhere. Maybe I’ll go dig it out….Wonder if she is on Facebook?

Article: First-responders pay a price for saving lives

I found this to be a rather interesting article. It mostly discusses how a specific fire crew, at a specific fire department, deals with the emotional toll of the job – especially when it comes to kids. It also touches on what the fire department is doing to help the guys on the front lines.

Essentially, it seems this crew and department have a very good and productive attitude about how calls can affect the responders. According to the article, they are open and willing to talk about their feelings and emotions after a horrific call. If this is truly the case, I applaud everyone involved.

Forgive me if I seem skeptical, but this was not my experience. I was never involved in an emotional conversation after a call. It just didn’t happen. Sure, each and every crew I worked with was a very close-knit group (well, with one glaring exception – but I won’t get into that). I have no doubt in my mind that everyone on my crew would drop everything to help me – with things like moving furniture, building a fence, fixing my car……But I would have never brought up how I was feeling after a call…..

Yes, I definitely hold most of the responsibility for never asking for help. But, it was the culture. I am absolutely convinced that a big part of that culture was (and still is), lack of education. Even towards the end of my career, when I was really struggling, no one noticed. Not even me. In hind-sight, I see it clear as day, but at the time I had no idea what was happening. And neither did my crew. Or, if they did, they were afraid to say anything.

This is what needs to change. Every crew needs to be like the one depicted in this article. Talking about every aspect of a call is crucial for growth. Reviewing the technical aspects will help you do your job better. Reviewing the emotional aspects will help you do your job longer……


An incredibly humbling experience…..What do I do with it??

Tonight at a neighbors Christmas party, I had the honor to spend several hours talking with Randy and Gary. Both served our country in Vietnam.

Gary served one year “in theatre” as a Sargent in the Army. He told me stories about how he and his fellow soldiers were assaulted day after day – by Americans. Guys would pick fights with them  just because they “looked military”. I’m happy to report that Gary and company were undefeated in bar room brawls.

Gary told me about friends who were “messed up” when they got home, but insisted he was fine. Yet, with eyes watering, he shared story after story about how he and his friends were attacked and forced into fights they never wanted – at home. It seemed as though Gary was more effected by what happened after he returned than what he saw when in combat.

Randy, a small and soft-spoken gentleman with intense eyes, made the biggest impression on me. Randy spent three years, two tours, as a Marine in Vietnam he re-enlisted shortly after a field promotion to Sargent when his superior, and most of his team, were killed in action. He wanted to go back and, with an intensity in his eyes that I have never seen before, told me that he “made good – two for one”.

Almost six years ago, Randy was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer – an aggressive and incurable form – and given less than five years to live. He has gone through many rounds of chemo and stem cell transplants. Today, he looks very healthy, but moves rather slowly and speaks very softly. He says, at this point, no one knows how much longer he has left. As he shared this information with me, Randy took a sip of his beer, looked me square in the eye and said “I don’t know how much longer I have left, but I’m not done yet”.

Randy honestly believes he was exposed to something, perhaps Agent Orange, while in Vietnam that lead to his diagnosis. However, he does not cast blame. Randy feels that, while it really sucks, this is just part of serving his country.

Randy, Gary and I spent the evening talking, drinking, laughing and sharing stories. Through the course of the night, I eventually told them about my “past life” as a fire/medic. Most of the stories we shared involved “off-duty” partying, but certainly we all shared some of our more intense experiences. For the record, my stories did not hold a candle to what they experienced.

At the end of the night, both men shook my hand and thanked me for a great evening. Randy, however, held my hand. He looked me square in the eyes with the intensity I had seen earlier and said, “Thank you for letting me share my story with you”. He said he does not very often get the opportunity to talk with someone who is willing to listen and who understands his background. An incredible compliment from an unbelievably strong and brave man.

This filled me with pride, satisfaction, gratitude, and humility. This is a true American hero – thanking ME for simply talking to him……

And then, still firmly gripping my hand, with a firm thump on the shoulder and a renewed intensity in his eyes, Randy said to me: “And thank you for your service and what you did for our community”……….

With that he turned, waved to the host of the party, and walked out the door……

Wow……..completely speechless…….

What I want my sons to know…..

I stumbled across this article a couple of weeks ago. I booked marked it because I wasn’t completely sure it was relevent to my struggles with PTSD. But, as I read it again tonight, I think it  is relevent – at least to a large extent. The article is about manic depression and bipolar disorder. However, many of the things discussed also fit for PTSD. I have frequently considered how much, and what, I want to share with my kids – if anything. It is a very difficult question. The author shares some great insights.

The entire article is pasted here with the link below – there are several other articles on the same page……


6 things I want my sons to know about my depression

Sep. 11, 2014 at 12:17 PM ET

As it did to so many, the news of Robin Williams’s death came as a great shock to me. How could a man with such talent and charisma who brought me to tears, both of joy and sadness, on so many occasions be gone so suddenly? Then details of his depression came to light, and I understood. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 6.7 percent of American adults live with major depression, and 2.6 percent of all American adults are afflicted by bipolar disorder. I understand, because I am one of them.

When I initially informed my first wife of my diagnosis and the associated concerns I held for our three boys, she expressed strong reservations about saying anything to them. This, however, is exactly the problem for men with depression. It actually needs to be talked about more, and if I don’t talk with my sons about the twisting despair brought on by depression, who will? There’s actually a lot they need to know. So, boys, listen here:

1.  It’s a medical condition.

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Officially I was diagnosed as being bipolar II, a variation characterized by a less intense “up” phase (hypomanic) with one or more major depressive states. This fit as these symptoms began to appear eight years earlier, but it’s difficult to pin down. You boys were 7, 4, and 2 at the time. The good news is that once it’s diagnosed, proper treatment is highly effective.

2.  It’s not an excuse.

You should know that I wasn’t thrilled to hear I was bipolar. People who are manic-depressive, as bipolar is sometimes referred to, have risk factors of negative behaviors, including being erratic, emotionally unstable, and addicted to drugs and alcohol. But I believe that I shouldn’t give in to these extremes or use my illness as an excuse. If anything, I have more of a responsibility to keep up with my treatment regimen to prevent the possibility of hurting myself and others (including you).

Ron Mattocks and his three sons.

Ron Mattocks
Ron Mattocks and his three sons.

3.  I’m sorry I’m tired sometimes.

Over the years there have been periods when I felt as if I was being smothered to the point of paralysis inside. I was increasingly tired and listless. I struggled to get out of bed. Finishing work required Herculean effort. Worse, I was not present. Because your mom and I got divorced, I had been physically separated from you for several years. And, still, when I was finally reunited with you, I felt farther apart than ever. Like a dream I could see you, but I didn’t have the energy to be your father. The frustration over this only fuels the foggy darkness that sometimes envelops me. Knowing that you need me, though, keeps me motivated to keep fighting.

4.  Meds don’t solve everything.

Yes, medication is a big part of the treatment, but it’s tricky because meds have different effects on different people. Finding the right one may require time and some trial and error. I started on one medication and years later ended up on another before I started to see improvement. Medication, however, is not the magic bullet. There’s exercise, diet, and stress management that I have to pay attention to daily which means incorporating these considerations into an entire lifestyle. This in conjunction with the medication keeps me ready to shoot hoops and play paintball with you.

5.  There is an impact on children.

The biggest concern about my depression is the impact on you boys, and there is an impact. For starters,  bipolar disorders can be hereditary, meaning there’s a chance any one of you may be subjected to these same struggles. But even if not there can still be consequences. A 2011 study published in the journal Pediatrics found a father’s depression can increase the odds of behavioral issues in their children by 70 percent. What’s more, the study found that boys in particular, ages 12-17, exhibited the highest rates of emotional problems, something I am keenly aware of, given that you are now 10, 12 and 15.

6.  It’s not unmanly to ask for help.

I’m often reluctant to disclose my mental illness because it means having to admit to some uncomfortable truths—that I’m not as strong as I want to believe I am, that I am susceptible to weakness, that I am broken, and need help from others. Sometimes I even tend to downplay my depression. But trying to be macho and not asking for or accepting needed help is one of the worst things I can do.

Given all the risk factors involved, I think talking with you boys about my depression is one of the most important conversations we can have. And don’t be afraid to ask questions if you think I’m not acting like myself or if you start to feel strange. I’m always here for you.

Ron Mattocks is a father of five and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox and can be found on LinkedIn, FacebookGoogle+, and Twitter.

Here is the link to the article:


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