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How To Stay In Control of Emotions During A Trauma

By Edited Apr 26, 2016 0 0

Crazy Bad Accident

Accidente en carretera / Accident on Highway

Accidente en carretera / Accident on Highway
Credit: By Zyan on Flickr, 2.0 Creative Commons Licensed Photo

The Glimpse of Hope In Tragic Situations

Car accidents can wreck a seemingly ordinary day.  A co-worker going into a diabetic coma, can ruin a peaceful coffee break.  A gunman shooting a bank clerk, can change a person's life forever.  Sometimes people must drive past a wreck on their way to work, or, live through a F5 tornado.  In my profession, unfortunately, family members are often witnesses to their love one having a heart attack.  Based from my emergent experiences (as an Allied Health professional), what happens to the innocent bystander during or after an emergency, are often the unnerving signs and symptoms of shock and awe.  

People tend to experience fear first. The second reaction is feeling overwhelmed or despair. And, the third reaction is to feel immense sorrow.  None of those emotions are wrong, in fact these feelings are what defines a person's humanity.  Still though, these particular emotions do nothing for the victim(s).  Another constant that always seems to rear its head, immediately after a traumatic event, is the hormone compound known as adrenaline.  Adrenaline can cause "a rush" sensation, when quickly released in the bloodstream.  It can cause dizziness, sweating, anxiety, tachycardia, and loss of concentration.

Even seasoned healthcare workers, still experience these different emotions and adrenaline rushes.  Moreover, there is not just one way to control all them at once, when faced with human destruction or severe bodily harm.  Nevertheless, there are tricks a person can do to help themselves.  If a person is the first to arrive on the scene of an accident, home alone with a heart attack victim, or a rare survivor of a F5 tornado— they are the best chance, a victim has to survive.  During any emergent event, emotions are best kept deep inside.  It is very important that a person remains calm.  Not only for their own sake, but more importantly, for the sake of the patient.  Remember the victim is desperately needing you to help them..., not grieve for them. 

Debunking The Robot Myth

What would you do in response to such a tragedy?  

There is no right answer, but there are definitely wrong scenarios.  Everybody handles a bad situation differently.  Some people are completely untethered by the sight of blood, missing limbs, or protruding body parts. However, most people would probably be deeply traumatized, after seeing what happens to the human body, when a young teenager has just wrapped their car around a telephone pole.  To put it mildly it is a very gruesome scene.  

Would you like to know what I did, when I met such a scenario? I screamed. I cried. I yelled, "Oh my dear God!" I took a deep breath.  I quickly called 911, and took some more deep breaths.  I knew how important it was that I regained my composure with each expired breath.  Especially since my father (a Vietnam war Marine Corps veteran) was busy vomiting.

There is a misconception that medical care workers are like robots. I am here to tell you we are not like robots at all.  We often softly cry in a corner somewhere, away from families of patients we could not save. Our body shakes, our hands tremor, and we too, start sweating profusely, when that rush of adrenaline hits our bloodstream and brain. Nobody forgets what the accident scene looked like, or how ill prepare they were to give CPR, without a re-breather mask.  Especially not the trauma team who lived it, fixed it, or tried, and failed at it.  However, healthcare workers know how to work through the rush of feelings and adrenaline by simply staying focused.  

Every medical worker, homicide detective, fire fighter, etc., will tell you that the first thing they do is assess the situation, followed by quickly focusing on the solutions to save the victim. In emergency situations it is all you can do.  Many people forget to remember that, and often get wrapped up in the moment and start panicking.  Soon their focus quickly shifts to themselves, and off the victim's needs.  Stay calm, remain focus, and remember you are the "hope-factor".

Longview Fire and Rescue Demonstrate Saving Lives

Accident in Longview, Tx
Credit: AP photographer Kevin Green, of Longview, Texas Took This Photo 2011

What To Do In The Event of An Accident

Tips On What You Can Do

  • Immediately call 911!  Before you even get out of your car, call 911.  If you have a service like OnStar, you can have them call 911 for you.  If you cannot get a cellphone signal, turn on the GPS in your mobile device.  Most emergency agencies are equipped with a GPS tracking system.  Make sure to have the mobile device's GPS signal on if new to the area, thus not familiar with the surrounding landscape.  The main goal is getting professional help (to the scene) as quickly as possible. 
  • Yell out to the victim.  Ask them if they are ok.  If you are by the victim's side, nudge them. Try to get their attention.  If you do not get answer, check for a pulse.  This is going to tell you whether that person is alive, and if they need hands-only CPR chest compressions.[2] [3]
  • Access the scene.  If you see the victim is suffering from a deep gash take off your belt, your bra, or rip off a shirt sleeve, to tie off an area just above the gaping wound or severed limb.  The goal here is to stop the bleeding.  If you don't have the muscle strength to tighten the crudely made tourniquet to stop the bleeding, grab a stick to help you tighten the garment around the wound.  If the wound happens to be an open gash of the abdominal cavity, packed the wound the as best you can, and most importantly keep the victim's hands out of their own wound. Too many times these victims fumble around in that body cavity trying to figure out what just happened, only to tear their intestinal tract. Once the wound is packed, take your hands and place them directly on the packed gaping wound hand over hand so that, the back of one hand is touching the palm of the other hand with your elbows locked straight and rigid.  The goal here is to apply as much pressure as humanly possible on the wound.  Think of yourself as a sandbag laying on top of the wound. Remember, think quick, think fast, focus, focus, focus, and get that bleeding to stop.
  • If you start to cry, it's okay.  If crying helps you to get focused— cry.  Crying is a very natural response in women.  One time I was in Branson, Missouri on my way to see a Chinese acrobatic circus show.  When from out of no where a young kid texting on his phone, hits a concrete wall.  I saw his face hit the dash of his SUV.  He was not wearing a seatbelt.  As I sat there for what felt like a year, I took a deep breath said to myself, "Here we go, be strong." and off I went.  When I got to the car, he was choking on his own tongue.  Knowing what all I had to do, I started to cry.  Not uncontrollably.  It was just a nervous cry.  I looked at the young man and said, "I am sorry.  I do not know why I am crying but don't you worry about it none."  Then I said, "I got you, you are gonna be okay.  Girls just like to cry."  And, as soon as I made that wise-crack about girls being cry babies, he smiled and nodded his head to say okay.  I then winked at him.  He knew that despite my tears, he was in good hands.  He knew that I wasn't going to let him drown in his own blood or choke on his tongue.  More importantly, he knew I was there to care for him.  Instilling peace of mind cannot be underestimated either. 
  • Try not to think twice about what it is you are doing.  For instance, I view every patient of mine as if  it was my son lying there.  When you realize it could be you or a family member laying there, it is amazing how fast a person musters up the courage to help. 
  • Remember to breathe, breathe, and breathe.  It is important to continue to take nice slow mythical breaths.  If you need a distraction say your ABC's or recite the Lord's prayer.  Use whatever method helps you to relax.  When my mother needed a calming distraction, she would sing.   I pray for strength.  I say over and over in my mind, "Lord give me strength, and hear my prayer."  According to Time Magazine, breathing helps reduce anxiety and stress.  They write, "Controlled breathing not only keeps the mind and body functioning at their best, it can also lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation and help us de-stress."[1] 

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  1. Jordan Shakeshaft "6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes of Less." Time. 8/October/2012. 14/01/2015 <Web >
  2. "What Is CPR." American Heart Association. 14/01/2015 <Web >
  3. "Two Steps To Staying Alive With Hands-Only CPR." American Heart Association - Heart. 14/01/2015 <Web >
  4. By Christina Lane Spring Hill High Stages DWI wreck. Longview, Texas, Local News Report: News-Journal.com, 2011.

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