RELIEVING, NOT RELIVING

By Audrey Fraizer

Toronto Emergency Medical Services (TEMS) EMD Cindy Armstrong was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder three years ago after a series of stressful calls.

She said one call in particular stands out. She took a 9-1-1 call from a Toronto-area construction site after a section of large machinery fell and trapped three people. Armstrong was on the phone to hear the final screams of one of the victims, who died before help was able to reach him.

“He did not die instantly,” she said. “I took the call … I heard him screaming in the background. I heard his screaming stop. That helpless feeling, as well as hearing that scream stop, has affected me.”

Armstrong is still affected by the call, although therapy—personal and professional—has helped to alleviate the symptoms of stress. Poetry writing is among her strategies.

“Who Am I?”

By Cindy Armstrong

I stare at many computer screens,

My hands on a keyboard and mouse.

Colors and sounds are all around.

Who am I?

I answer many calls,

Calls and cries for help.

I tried to stay calm.

Who am I?

I hear screams and shouts.

I hear panicking voices.

I hear angry tones.

Who am I?

I send out crews,

And watch out for their safety.

Listen for their calls for backup.

Who am I?

I see visions of accidents.

I see images of people bleeding,

Sometimes from stabs or gunshots.

Who am I?

I hear people scream.

I hear their last gasps.

And then I hear silence.

Who am I?

I sometimes cry.

I sometimes shake.

My hands get cold and clammy.

Who am I?

A heart that races and pounds.

It is warm but sometimes breaks.

Sometimes I feel helpless to those in need.

Who am I?

I am invisible to those who call.

I am forgotten when calm returns.

Who am I?

I am a Dispatcher, that’s who I am!

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