TR Footnotes FN.0210 : Page 1

TOWING&RECOVERY February 2010 Reaching thousands of industry professionals monthly By Allan T. Duffin A 16-year-old boy in Michigan is driving home. About a quarter-mile from his house he falls asleep at the wheel.His car rumbles over the center- line and collides with a loaded gravel hauler — 2000 pounds of car smashing into 139,000 pounds of truck. The grav- el hauler crushes the car, metal scrap- ing against metal, until the front bumper of the truck comes to a stop at the rear window of the car. Paul Sheffer, owner of Paul’s Col- lision & Towing, Inc., in Almont, Mic- higan, got the call to haul away the mangled car. “We had to lift the truck off the car to get the car out,” recalled Sheffer.“Then we had to rig lines to pull the front of the car off the boy to get him out of the car. I’m not sure where the boy’s head was. I didn’t look — but I know it wasn't attached.” Some towers never have to deal with recovery jobs like this one. And some towers have to live with the memory for the rest of their lives. The resulting trauma from experiencing this kind of tragedy, if not effectively dealt with, can develop into an ongoing condition known as post-traumatic stress disor- der, or PTSD. The specter of PTSD can haunt any- one exposed to a highly stressful or life- threatening situation. “Even if you only witness the aftermath of a horrific situ- Volume 20, Number 10 ❘ $3.95 TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE ING&RECOVERY February 2010 Reaching thousands of ind NG&RECOVERY February 2010 Reaching thousands of industry professionals monthly By Allan T. Duffin A 16-year-old boy in Michigan is driving home. About a quarter-mile from his house he falls asleep at the wheel.His car rumbles over the center- line and collides with a loaded gravel hauler — 2000 pounds of car smashing into 139,000 pounds of truck. The grav- el hauler crushes the car, metal scrap- ing against metal, until the front bumper of the truck comes to a stop at the rear window of the car. Paul Sheffer, owner of Paul’s Col- lision & Towing, Inc., in Almont, Mic- higan, got the call to haul away the mangled car. “We had to lift the truck off the car to get the car out,” recalled Sheffer.“Then we had to rig lines to pull the front of the car off the boy to get him out of the car. I’m not sure where the boy’s head was. I didn’t look — but I know it wasn't attached.” Some towers never have to deal with recovery jobs like this one. And some towers have to live with the memory for the rest of their lives. The resulting trauma from experiencing this kind of tragedy, if not effectively dealt with, can develop into an ongoing condition known as post-traumatic stress disor- der, or PTSD. The specter of PTSD can haunt any- one exposed to a highly stressful or life- threatening situation. “Even if you only witness the aftermath of a horrific situ- Volume 20, Number 10 ❘ $3.95 sons sons coping with significant emotional and social hardships. Though the term is often heard in a © 2010 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. military context, PTSD isn’t just experi- enced by combat veterans returning from war. “Early responders to violent Symptoms Of Stress According to Zimet, the symptoms of PTSD include recurrent and intru- sive thoughts about the event, anxiety and avoidance of anything reminding the person of the event, nightmares, TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE RECOVERY February 2010 Reaching thousands of industry professionals monthly By Allan T. Duffin A 16-year-old b NG&RECOVERY February 2010 Reaching thousands of industry professionals monthly By Allan T. Duffin A 16-year-old boy in Michigan is driving home. About a quarter-mile from his house he falls asleep at the wheel.His car rumbles over the center- line and collides with a loaded gravel hauler — 2000 pounds of car smashing into 139,000 pounds of truck. The grav- el hauler crushes the car, metal scrap- ing against metal, until the front bumper of the truck comes to a stop at the rear window of the car. Paul Sheffer, owner of Paul’s Col- lision & Towing, Inc., in Almont, Mic- higan, got the call to haul away the mangled car. “We had to lift the truck off the car to get the car out,” recalled Sheffer.“Then we had to rig lines to pull the front of the car off the boy to get him out of the car. I’m not sure where the boy’s head was. I didn’t look — but I know it wasn't attached.” Some towers never have to deal with recovery jobs like this one. And some towers have to live with the memory for the rest of their lives. The resulting trauma from experiencing this kind of tragedy, if not effectively dealt with, can develop into an ongoing condition known as post-traumatic stress disor- der, or PTSD. The specter of PTSD can haunt any- one exposed to a highly stressful or life- threatening situation. “Even if you only witness the aftermath of a horrific situ- Volume 20, Number 10 ❘ $3.95 sons coping with significant emotional and social hardships. Though the term is often heard in a © 2010 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. military context, PTSD isn’t just experi- enced by combat veterans returning from war. “Early responders to violent Symptoms Of Stress According to Zimet, the symptoms of PTSD include recurrent and intru- sive thoughts about the event, anxiety and avoidance of anything reminding the person of the event, nightmares, gist gist based in Booneville, KY, who works at Navy Medical Center Portsmouth (VA) with military personnel returning from combat. Maggard is also a former coal operator and trucking company owner. He classifies PTSD as having three primary types of symptoms: See HORROR, page 4 TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE TOWING&RE OWING&RECOVERY February 2010 Rea COVERY February 2010 Reaching thousands of industry professionals monthly By Allan T. Duffin A 16-year-old boy in Michigan is driving home. About a quarter-mile from his house he falls asleep at the wheel.His car rumbles over the center- line and collides with a loaded gravel hauler — 2000 pounds of car smashing into 139,000 pounds of truck. The grav- el hauler crushes the car, metal scrap- ing against metal, until the front bumper of the truck comes to a stop at the rear window of the car. Paul Sheffer, owner of Paul’s Col- lision & Towing, Inc., in Almont, Mic- higan, got the call to haul away the mangled car. “We had to lift the truck off the car to get the car out,” recalled Sheffer.“Then we had to rig lines to pull the front of the car off the boy to get him out of the car. I’m not sure where the boy’s head was. I didn’t look — but I know it wasn't attached.” Some towers never have to deal with recovery jobs like this one. And some towers have to live with the memory for the rest of their lives. The resulting trauma from experiencing this kind of tragedy, if not effectively dealt with, can develop into an ongoing condition known as post-traumatic stress disor- der, or PTSD. The specter of PTSD can haunt any- one exposed to a highly stressful or life- threatening situation. “Even if you only witness the aftermath of a horrific situ- Volume 20, Number 10 ❘ $3.95 sons coping with significant emotional and social hardships. Though the term is often heard in a © 2010 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. military context, PTSD isn’t just experi- enced by combat veterans returning from war. “Early responders to violent Symptoms Of Stress According to Zimet, the symptoms of PTSD include recurrent and intru- sive thoughts about the event, anxiety and avoidance of anything reminding the person of the event, nightmares, gist based in Booneville, KY, who works at Navy Medical Center Portsmouth (VA) with military personnel returning from combat. Maggard is also a former coal operator and trucking company owner. He classifies PTSD as having three primary types of symptoms: See HORROR, page 4 FOOTNOTES FOOTNOTES ® www.trfootnotes.com Dealing with stress after roadside carnage Dealing with stress after roadside carnage TOO HEAVY? Too Long? pg 14 Joy Hallock Towing&Recovery Footnotes® 10 Bokum Rd. Essex, CT 06426 PRST STD MAIL U.S.POSTAGE PAID Hanover,PA PERMIT 117 Horror By The Highway

Highway Horrors

Allan T. Duffin

Dealing with stress after roadside carnage<br /> <br /> A 16-year-old boy in Michigan is driving home. About a quarter-mile from his house he falls asleep at the wheel. His car rumbles over the centerline and collides with a loaded gravel hauler — 2000 pounds of car smashing into 139,000 pounds of truck. The gravel hauler crushes the car, metal scraping against metal, until the front bumper of the truck comes to a stop at the rear window of the car.<br /> <br /> Paul Sheffer, owner of Paul’s Collision & Towing, Inc., in Almont, Michigan, got the call to haul away the mangled car. “We had to lift the truck off the car to get the car out,” recalled Sheffer. “Then we had to rig lines to pull the front of the car off the boy to get him out of the car. I’m not sure where the boy’s head was. I didn’t look — but I know it wasn't attached.” Some towers never have to deal with recovery jobs like this one. And some towers have to live with the memory for the rest of their lives. The resulting trauma from experiencing this kind of tragedy, if not effectively dealt with, can develop into an ongoing condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.<br /> <br /> The specter of PTSD can haunt anyone exposed to a highly stressful or lifethreatening situation. “Even if you only witness the aftermath of a horrific situAtion, you are at risk for developing negative symptoms associated with the traumatic scene,” said Daniel Zimet, Ph.D., of Crossroads Psychological Associates in Columbia, MD. In addition to working with individuals and families, Zimet runs an adult group for perPersons coping with significant emotional and social hardships.<br /> <br /> Though the term is often heard in a military context, PTSD isn’t just experienced by combat veterans returning from war. “Early responders to violent and dangerous situations are particularly vulnerable to developing mental health problems related to what they have seen or had to do,” said Zimet.<br /> <br /> “This is just as true for tow truck drivers as it was for responders to 9/11.”<br /> <br /> Symptoms Of Stress<br /> <br /> According to Zimet, the symptoms of PTSD include recurrent and intrusive thoughts about the event, anxiety and avoidance of anything reminding the person of the event, nightmares, mood changes such as feeling depressed, diminished interest in activities, feeling distant from people, and a disquieting feeling of being keyed-up or on edge. In more severe cases a person can forget large pieces of memory about the traumatic event and experience flashbacks, as well as feel a sense of being detached from his or her own body or mind.<br /> <br /> These symptoms “are the responses of the body to help overcome danger,” added Dr. Elmer Maggard, a psychologist based in Booneville, KY, who works at Navy Medical Center Portsmouth (VA) with military personnel returning from combat. Maggard is also a former coal operator and trucking company owner. He classifies PTSD as having three primary types of symptoms: 1. Alarm Response. First, PTSD sufferers re-experience the danger via flashbacks, intrusive memories, or dreams of the event. “The dreams are alarm responses,” said Maggard.<br /> <br /> “Although they disrupt your sleep, they're the mind's way of waking you up to keep you aware of the danger until it’s overcome. That means your spontaneous neurological reaction is to stay awake because the danger isn’t over.” The resulting sleeplessness can lead to increased stress on the job.<br /> <br /> In working with a military population, Maggard has found that “most PTSD is a result of wars that aren’t over yet, or battles that we didn’t win.” So how does a soldier or sailor overcome his or her PTSD? “You need to experience some sort of victory over the situation and overcome the danger,” said Maggard.<br /> <br /> 2. Avoidance Response. If the situation remains unresolved, PTSD sufferers might begin to display the second general symptom of PTSD: an avoidance response to keep from being overwhelmed by the trauma. “It’s a way for the mind and body to manage the amount of danger,” said Maggard. “You might see soldiers laughing just before a battle, pranking on the battlefield, or see people reading or listening to music.” All of these activities are ways to keep trauma — or impending trauma — from overwhelming the body and mind.<br /> <br /> 3. Nervous Arousal. To guard against potential danger, the third symptom of PTSD is the increased arousal of the nervous system. “You have highly honed and tuned reactivity to any sign or indication that danger is present,” said Maggard. “You’ll get angry more quickly, run away faster, turn and fight faster. You’ll be hyper-vigilant; you’ll be scanning for danger.”<br /> <br /> Roadside Trauma<br /> <br /> Some towers have dealt with harrowing recovery jobs involving maimed or dead bodies. Jason Strickland, owner of Strickland Towing in Wellington, KS, is one of them. “I have had several experiences with fatalities and seeing dead bodies, waiting on the coroner to come out before we can do anything with the wreckage,” he recalled.<br /> <br /> In two of those incidents, Strickland actually knew the victims. “I don’t know that I suffered PTSD,” he said, “but I did feel horrible for the families. Every time that we work a fatality my heart goes out to the families.” In Michigan, Paul Sheffer recalls another recovery job that has stuck with him through the years. Just before Christmas a mother was traveling home from a holiday party at work.<br /> <br /> Her car was stuffed with Christmas presents. And she was drunk. “She hit a tractor trailer,” said Sheffer, “and the truck nearly cut the car from the right headlamp to the left quarter panel.” When Sheffer arrived on scene, first responders were removing the body and “there was something on the road that I was not familiar with,” he recalled. He asked Emergency Medical Services personnel what it was. “They confirmed it was brains,” he said. He couldn’t get the woman or her now-motherless children out of his head.<br /> <br /> “Those sad children weighed heavy on my heart,” said Sheffer.<br /> <br /> Unresolved Issues<br /> <br /> Though Strickland and Sheffer have accepted what they saw and have moved forward, some towers may be haunted for years by bloody accident scenes they’ve experienced.<br /> <br /> “The most important thing to understand about the so-called symptoms of PTSD is that they are the emergency response of the mind and body to danger,” said Maggard. Under the right circumstances — in a combat zone, for example — PTSD symptoms work to help solve or overcome the danger that a person is facing. “You have to be aware of it, and you Have to stay aware of it until the danger is gone,” explains Maggard.<br /> <br /> But in many cases, PTSD symptoms continue because the situation isn’t resolved or is open-ended. Since they can’t reverse the consequences of an accident, all incident responders are highly susceptible to this problem.<br /> <br /> However, fire, rescue, and EMT responders have an advantage over tow truck drivers: At an accident scene those trained in lifesaving and rescue can have an impact on the extent of a victim’s injury — and possibly save a life. So the danger that these responders face can be mitigated or overcome simply by doing their job.<br /> <br /> Towers, on the other hand, usually arrive at a bloody accident scene unable to resolve or affect the situation.<br /> <br /> “If the tragedy has already happened,” said Maggard, “you’re looking at an aftermath. The natural instinct is to prevent it or fix it. But once it’s happened, you have neither opportunity as a tow truck driver.” Thus the resulting psychological trauma — “the experience of being alone or outnumbered in the presence of danger or tragedy” — can continue to plague the tower.<br /> <br /> Flashbacks & More<br /> <br /> Sometimes PTSD symptoms are the result not of road incidents but something else in a tower’s past. Jonathan Ginsberg, an attorney in Atlanta, GA, recalled a client who worked as a tow truck driver for about eight years. The man’s PTSD “manifested itself in the form of flashbacks, overreaction to unexpected sounds like horns or street sounds, and problems interacting appropriately with customers and co-workers,” said Ginsberg.<br /> <br /> The tower spent every workday reacting to stimuli both physical and psychological. Noise was an issue.<br /> <br /> “Blaring horns and backfires would make him very jumpy and on edge,” said Ginsberg. “These sounds would sometimes result in bad dreams and flashbacks.” Honking horns and loud street noises — especially on hot days when he drove with the windows open — would result in nightmares when he went to sleep.<br /> <br /> More important — and most crippling for a tower — were the man’s problems interacting with customers.<br /> <br /> For example, when customers complained about delays in response time, arguments often ensued. In the shop, the tower had problems in relationships with his co-workers. In eight years on the job, he had minimal conversation with other drivers. The end result: his career in the towing industry ended sooner than it needed to.<br /> <br /> Working through the Social Security system, Ginsberg was able to secure his client some disability support by providing evidence that the tower was suffering from PTSD that had begun on the battlefield many years before.<br /> <br /> Take Action Now<br /> <br /> If a tower suspects he or she is suffering from PTSD, it’s important to deal with the issue as soon as possible.<br /> <br /> Don’t keep the experience bottled up, Say the experts. “These feelings should not be ignored as they can endure for a very long time — often years — and they can frequently get worse,” noted Zimet. “Unfortunately, many people choose to ignore or turn to negative choices like alcohol to cope with PTSD.<br /> <br /> This can affect your work, relationships with people, and overall health in a profound way. Your best choice is to communicate with someone about what you observed and experienced, and learn techniques for managing your thoughts and stress.” Opening up about what you’ve seen can be difficult. Strickland, who’s seen acquaintances die at accident scenes, noted that sometimes he stays quiet, mainly out of necessity in order to get the job done. “I think that I have Become somewhat callous to opening up my personal feelings and try to focus on the twisted metal part of the accident,” he explained.<br /> <br /> “Working a family member’s or a friend’s accident is much, much harder when my own personal feelings are involved,” Strickland continued. “When we work a fatality, most of the time we don't talk about it very much, and there are only a few of us who have actually seen a dead body on an accident scene.” However, Strickland acknowledged that he and his staff do their best to share the pain that a difficult recovery job can trigger: “Most of the time, if something is bothering us we all discuss it at the end of the day.”<br /> <br /> Respect Discomfort<br /> <br /> At Tony’s Wrecker Service, Inc., in Louisville, KY, owner Nick Schade goes through the same thing with his employees. “We talk about what happened,” he said, “but as far as any kind of outside professionals coming in, we haven’t had the opportunity or need to do that so far.” Schade noted that his employees are often protected from viewing the gore of a horrible accident scene: “Usually we don’t see too much of it — for example, the fire department has already cut the victim out of the wreck by the time we arrive,” he explained. In addition, Schade does his best to cater to any employees who aren’t comfortable responding to a bloody incident.<br /> <br /> Usually Schade will go himself instead of sending someone else.<br /> <br /> At Five Seasons Auto Rebuilders, David Beer prepares his drivers accordingly. “All my drivers are told that anytime they’re in an uncomfortable situation, they’re to call me immediately,” said Beer. At that point, Beer can replace the driver at the scene, or — if the driver is all right with handling the situation — Beer follows up after the job. “We’ll seek out the appropriate type of counseling for the driver,” he Said. “And they know that they can take days off.” Schade notes that a professional counselor would be useful in an area where there are a greater number of traffic fatalities. “Then you have an opportunity for cross-training among the paramedics, fire department, and towing and recovery people, for example.” To get assistance from a professional therapist or counselor, some companies have an Employee Assistance Program that offers therapy services. If not, Zimet said, finding a therapist can be as simple as going online or looking through the yellow pages.<br /> <br /> Getting Help<br /> <br /> Jonathan Ginsberg, the Atlanta attorney, stressed the importance of seeking treatment when needed. “PTSD sufferers sometimes do not feel that their doctor or therapist visits are doing much good and they don’t want to go,” he explained. “They also may be non-compliant with any medications they’ve been prescribed.” When he sought disability compensation and treatment for his client, Ginsberg made his case in front of a Social Security judge, who expected to see a treatment record. “Judges expect that the claimant will put forth his best effort,” said Ginsberg. “That means taking meds and going to the therapist and doctor.” Another reason that PTSD sufferers don’t seek help has to do with terminology, said Maggard. “To call PTSD a disorder is a mistake,” he said. “Towers go out and do this extremely important service for the community. To say they have a disorder after doing what they do is a disservice to them. I think we need to recognize that there is a limit to what any person can do.” Among the military personnel with whom he works, Maggard noted that adapting to danger saves lives on the battlefield. But if a soldier or sailor departs the combat zone too quickly or before the battle is over, he continues to have the same reactions that made him effective on the battlefield. If the situation remains unresolved, the symptoms persist.<br /> <br /> Buddy Backup<br /> <br /> One thing that helps PTSD sufferers, said Maggard, is to help other people who have PTSD or some other problem.<br /> <br /> “The empowerment of being able to overcome someone else’s danger helps you sleep better the next night,” he explained.<br /> <br /> “After seeing so much damage and destruction that they can’t tolerate any more,” said Maggard, “one of the best things for a tower is to move to another level of response to the danger.” This is similar to a pilot project Maggard is helping develop at Navy Medical Center Portsmouth. Working with IA’s — “individual augmentees” — whom the Navy sends to support Army and Marine units in the field, Maggard and 6 | February 2010 | T&R Footnotes HORROR continued from page 5 others at NMCP are bringing postdeployed sailors together to train, track, and support their shipmates who are going to the war zone.<br /> <br /> “After they have been first responders, they will come home and help the next wave of first responders,” explained Maggard. “They’ll provide backup for their buddies who are in still in harm’s way. They may help a buddy’s family, or send care packages or meet them at the airport when they come home. When they help other sailors overcome the stress and danger of war, that’s their way of continuing the fight, and of winning.”<br /> <br /> Some Good Days<br /> <br /> Sometimes overcoming the trauma of PTSD happens as a matter of circumstance.<br /> <br /> Sheffer recalls several accidents in which he was able to overcome the danger and save a life. In one instance, a woman was pinned in a car that had struck a telephone pole.<br /> <br /> “She was suffering from major internal injuries and a major laceration in the groin,” said Sheffer. “She was bleeding out and needed to get out of the car and to the hospital fast or she would die.” The fire department tried everything it could but was unable to free the woman from the car. So Sheffer suggested that he rig his wrecker to pull on the car, and relieve enough of the pressure so that the fire department could pull the woman out of the front passenger seat. It worked. “She lived and came by my office to say thanks,” Sheffer recalled with a smile. <br /> <br /> “Those are good days. They make it all worth it.” When dealing with danger and trauma, taking care of oneself is almost as important as recognizing the suffering that others may be going through. With regard to traffic fatalities, Sheffer said that it’s important to be considerate to family and friends of the victim. To that end, he keeps all fatality vehicles as far out of sight as possible. “You have to realize that you can’t undo what just happened,” said Sheffer. “You’re there to do a job.” Sharing traumatic experiences with co-workers, friends, family, or professional counselors can go a long way in dealing with PTSD.<br /> <br /> Maggard sees PTSD as a sort of injury that’s exacerbated when people isolate themselves rather than asking for help. “But the more united we are, the more common experiences we have together, the more powerful we are — and so the less danger we experience,” he said.

Towing & Recovery Footnotes

 
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