One Tuesday Morning Elad Tomer, a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT and member of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit (PCRU) had just finished buying his groceries at the supermarket when he was alerted by dispatch to a traffic accident nearby. Elad jumped in his car, sped off to the scene, and arrived a few moments later.
When Elad arrives at an incident, he always keeps his eyes open for victims in need of psychological first aid. Looking around he found two vehicles that had collided at a traffic circle and quickly checked the occupants to assess the severity of their injuries. Fortunately, none of the occupants showed signs of serious physical injuries, but one of the drivers, a 28-year-old Muslim woman, was deep in the throes of an anxiety attack. The young woman sat frozen on the curb beside her car, unable to speak or move her legs.
Drawing on his extensive training as a PCRU responder, Elad immediately set out to help the victim release herself from the stress that she was feeling following the traumatic accident. “You’re not alone,” Elad told the woman. “I am here to help you.”
Elad helped the woman understand that she had been in an accident, but that nobody was injured, the danger had passed, and that she was safe from harm. He continued to explain that an ambulance was on its way and that they might recommend taking her to the hospital for further evaluations.
Elad instructed the woman to perform several tasks to guide her out of her sense of helplessness. He gave her his blood pressure monitor to hold as he checked her vitals. Elad encouraged her to notify relatives about the accident and to decide what she’d like to bring with her on the ambulance. Slowly the woman began to regain her composure and was able to move her legs again. With the arrival of the ambulance a few minutes later, Elad helped the now stable patient aboard for the journey to the hospital where her recovery would continue.
Elad explained the importance of the work that the PCRU does at the scene of a traumatic medical emergency. “In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, the impact of psychological first aid on the victims and witnesses can be incredibly powerful and empowering for the victim.” he continued “Mental and emotional stabilization can reduce the risk of developing an acute stress reaction to the incident and it is believed that early intervention can reduce the chances of the person developing PTSD at a later time. Having someone at the scene who helps the patient process what they just went through can avert the need for months or even years of therapy afterward.”