A Letter to Cedar Valley Residents: Responding to the Responders

Imagine a peaceful Summer day cruising around in your car. The windows down, the wind stroking your arm, and the sun gently kissing your skin. As you approach the intersection, you look both ways and cruise on through. Seconds later, you’re in a whirlwind of chaos. Stars speckle your eyesight and blind you momentarily. When the vision returns, your world slows. You think it’s a dream. Perhaps the entire planet is underwater? Your soul floats across the intersection. You now see the white Ford Pick-Up sliding past you as your vehicle slams into a pole. Then the dream-like state ends with a snap of pain coming from your left leg. You look down and see metal where your leg should be. 

 The car’s a mess, your bag is in the front windshield, and The Great Dispersion of fast food took place in your sedan! Where’s your phone? You need to dial 911! You quickly reach towards the passenger seat, hoping to find your phone, but an overwhelming wave of pain throws you back. Tears, anger, fear, hopelessness, uncertainty, raw unkempt emotion takes over! Then you hear the sirens.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 A lot of emergencies begin like this, and they all involve a hurricane of emotion, suffering, hopelessness, and despair. Fortunately for you, you’ll survive. The leg will be safely extricated, your ribs will heal, and you will remember this moment in time as a dark memory that taught you to look both ways twice. Emergency experiences of life and death are rare… unless you are the ones responding to them. 

When a Responder comes to bring relief, they give more than most know. An emotion is like a big rock that needs to be lifted, and the quickest way to move them is with others. Responders don’t just lift you and treat you; they share your pain and despair alongside you. Willingly or not, they will help shoulder some of the emotions. Imagine the range of emotions you’d go through in an emergency. Now, imagine that every day. 

 Dealing with injury, illness, death, anger, frustration, and violence is some people’s day job, and they need help. Many Responders today are suffocating under the ashes of countless emergencies, and society marches on none the wiser. If you’ve ever run across an angry nurse, rude cop, or disgruntled EMT, you’ve likely met someone who’s struggling to stay afloat. They signed up to help society, not hate it. In a study performed by CrewCare, a program that I highly encourage readers to visit online, 72% of the 3,661 Responders surveyed nationally were considered clinically burned out. That same study states:

  • 75% have had violence directed towards them on the job. 
  • 85% work over 40 hours a week.
  • Almost 2/3 have more than one job.
  • 70% said they had felt down, depressed, or hopeless within the past two weeks of the survey being done.

 With staff shortages, COVID-19, the local PSO conflict, and the recent reminder of unjust police brutality, our Law Enforcement, Dispatch, EMS, Fire, and Healthcare workers are the entrapped occupants of a vehicle. Anger, hopelessness, pain, suffering, and despair are beginning to envelop them, but no sirens will ever be heard. Who responds to the responder’s silent call for help? Who will be there to help lift their rocks? These Responders are as human as you, after all. 

Photo by Scott Platt on Pexels.com

 6 years of military experience, 5 years of Paramedic work, and many “rare” emergencies have taught me something. Heroes don’t exist, but communities do. If something is considered heroic, then it’s something done with many hands. Programs exist that specialize in helping Responders emerge from the ashes of their emergencies. However, it takes a community to bring these programs to the Cedar Valley. Below is a small list of programs I have come across that are good. I’m positive there are more out there to be Googled too. I bequeath to you, the citizens of the Cedar Valley area, the opportunity to be our Responders now.

 Raise your voice at the churches, community clubs, and other community organizations. Look up these programs and promote them! In these difficult times, let our Responders know they won’t have to carry their burdens alone in the Cedar Valley. Turn the sirens on and let them hear that help is on the way!

The List:

  • Reboot First Responders
  • The Code Green Campaign
  • Navigators: First Responders
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • CrewCare


ImageTrend. (2019). Health of our first responders: A crewcare report. https://assets.cdnma.com/13864/assets/CrewCare%20Report/Health%20of%20Our%20Emergency%20Responders%20%282018-2019%29.pdf

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