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PTSD and Me

NOTE:  I have not posted recently because of a fire at my house.  I am healing from that catastrophe, and writing about the event is part of the process.  This is the first installment in what I hope will eventually comprise a short book.  I really am looking forward to your comments!

I woke up at 5:30 in the morning on September 19, 2012.  A strange smell had invaded my slumber.  I instantly knew a fire was alive somewhere, but there was no smoke in the house.  Nevertheless, I searched my entire home, paying special attention to the furnace room; I found nothing to suggest a fire.  The smoke detectors were all silent, and the odor was strongest upstairs, so I made a more thorough search of the bedrooms, but found no sign of burning.  With persisting unease, I made my way back to bed, and cuddled up with my cat, whose completely calm demeanor reassured me that all was well.  “Someone in the neighborhood must be trying to combat the unseasonable cold with a fire,” I told myself.  “That’s why the smell is upstairs because the window fan is bringing in outside air.”

In spite of the chill outside, I ran my window fan that night because I find the white noise soothing.  This decision may well have saved my life.  Not seconds after I plopped back in bed, the smell grew stronger, and the fan inexplicably stopped.  I leaped to my feet, looked out my bedroom window, across the roof of the garage and noticed a faint glow from the far corner.  Electric charges from my reptilian brain pulsed through every interstitial space of my body.  I scooped up the cat, grabbed my phone and car keys and bolted through the hall.  Before I headed down the half-flight of stairs and out the front door, I shut the doors to two bedrooms.  I still don’t know why I did that, but those two rooms ended up getting the least amount of smoke damage.  In only my boxer shorts, I bounded down the stairs and out the door, and ran to my car, which luckily, and out of laziness, I had not parked in the garage.  I put the cat in the car and used all my powers of will to steady my hands enough to dial 911.  I had only recently gotten that Droid phone, and it took me a few seconds to get through the screens to be able to place the call.  It was really a monumental effort to steady my hands.  Nervous energy coursed through me.  “Please state the nature of the emergency,” the woman on the other end of the line robotically uttered.

“My house is burning down.  Get them out here now.”

She assured me that she was going to send the fire department and began probing me for information.  I don’t remember specifically what she asked.  I hung up the phone and instantly had an urge to do something.   I unlocked the side door so that firemen had easy access, and went in, only to see that the smoke was coming into the house.  I still wanted to go in and try to pour water on the fire, but I resisted and stayed back.  At that moment, I noticed that behind the garage, where the fire had started, something exploded, and the flames reached perhaps twenty feet upwards, followed by the power line into the house arcing repeatedly.  “Stay away,” I told myself, even though I really wanted to be the hero and put out the blaze before the fire trucks arrived.  But no one had arrived, and the fire station was only a half mile away.  It seemed like at least five minutes had passed.  I called 911 again.  “Where are they? I shouted with rage.  “My f***ing house is burning down.  It’s moving from the garage and toward my house and if they don’t get here there’ll be nothing left.”

“Calm down, sir.  Your call was routed to Troy because you live on the border, but we just routed it back to Bloomfield.” [1]

“I gave you my address.  Oh my God.  My house is burning down.  Get them out here!”

“Sir, they are on the way.”

I hung up the phone, got in my car and drove over to the fire station.  I beeped the horn, and yelled, “Fellas, follow me; the fire’s this way!”  The fire house door was actually opening at this point, and they were swinging into action.  Those two fire trucks and eight or nine others eventually made their way to my house.  I parked on the front lawn and watched them do their amazing work.

 

1.  I live on the border of Troy and Bloomfield Township.  A cellphone tower in Troy picked up my call which was then routed to Troy.  This is a glitch that needs to be worked out.  I don”t blame the 911 operator, nor the fire departments in Troy and Bloomfield Township.  However, 911 operators need to be trained in this potential danger.

 

14 Responses to “PTSD and Me”

  1. Emily says:

    I know this has been up here for a while, but I wanted to say four things:
    1. I’m sorry about your house.
    2. I’m glad you’re alright.
    3. Your account is really well-written. I can easily see this becoming a small book.
    4. I appreciate how honest you are in your writing. You could definitely sensor parts of it more, but doing that would take away from the experience you create for the reader.

    Again, I’m sorry about your house, but I’m glad you’re alright.

  2. Ladders of life ADHD says:

    Wow Kevin, so sorry to hear about your house . Must have been quite nerve wreaking to stand and what that performance. But Iust say you are quite a writer makes the reader feel they are there with you…
    Hope everything gets resolved very soon
    See you soon again in the UK
    Teresa :-)

  3. Patty says:

    Hi Kevin:
    You have been on my mind since this happened. I imagine there is much more going on with you about this than what you have posted–just enough to help people who love you know what’s up with you. My heart was beating faster as I read this account, almost as if I was there with you. Could you send me your temporary snail mail address please, to my gmail? I would like to send you something. I’m so glad you are writing about this life-altering event and I hope it’s helping you cope, and keep moving forward. XOXO

  4. Mary T. says:

    “We hope for better things, it will arise from the ashes”
    ~ Father Gabriel Richard ~

  5. ulla lundstedt says:

    Dear Kevin! What a trauma! Did your house burned down or can you built it up again?
    I´m happy that you and your cat still is alive and not hurt or burned.
    What a nightmare.
    Take good care of yourself – your life is the most importent for all of us.
    Kind regards
    ulla lundstedt /Sweden

    • Kevin says:

      Ulla, it is nice to hear from you. The house did not totally burn to the ground, but is damaged badly enough that it will be a long time before I can live there. The garage and several rooms were completely destroyed, and smoke filled the whole house. Farm Bureau Insurance Company has been a lifesaver. They have me in a rental house and I am doing fine. Repairs will be starting soon!

  6. Kathleen Campbell says:

    I heard you tell this story but reading your words evokes the scene vividly. Remaining calm and resisting the urge to put out the blaze while watching the destruction wreaks havoc within me. Looking back on your experience, I’m thankful smoke inhalation did not overcome you… and you are rising from the ashes. It is all still quite fresh and I see you responding rather than reacting. In my experience, a reasoned response to acute stress prevented a fall into disordered reactionary behavior. Without minimizing the seriousness of this catastrophe, there is some humor in your words at the firehouse — “Fellas, follow me; the fire’s this way!” After reading about the fire and associated fear, helplessness, and horror, I found myself watching with you on the front lawn.

  7. Debbie says:

    Kevin, it is very well written. I can actually imagine and feel your fear and frustration reflected onto me as I read the passage. It was almost as though I was actually experiencing this trauma. I am so proud of you because you realize and are aware that you can take a trauma and heal yourself and change its outcome into a positive experience! Keep moving forward my friend with your life and continue to follow your dreams! You are on the path again and I am sure that through this experience and your writing,
    you will be able to help thousands of others heal as well! :-) Debbie Yonas

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