The Reactions that Never go Away

A glimpse into the role of PTSD in a first responder’s life at St. Clair

When an alarm goes off or an urgent voice can be heard over the PA system in the Village at St. Clair calling “Code Blue,” Ron Droulliard’s first instinct is to react. The urge to respond to others in need is ingrained in every fabric of his being, the result of a dedicated 32-year career in Emergency Medical Services.

Ron Droulliard was able to reconnect with a former EMS 
colleague during a response to a neighbour in need at St. Clair. 

Such a career, like so many others that put people on the front-lines of life, death, hope and despair, has a way of lingering long after the keys to the ambulance are passed on for good or a police officer or soldier walks their last patrol before retirement. Trauma can sit in the deep recesses of the mind and the body, resurfacing at unexpected times.

It rose in Ron earlier this summer when he reacted to a “Code Blue” distress call at St. Clair. He could be seen moving quickly through the neighbourhood where he’d only lived a few months, looking for directions to the emergency – once a responder always a responder.

As the paramedics were leaving that day, their valiant efforts to save the dying neighbour unsuccessful, Ron approached them along Main Street to offer gratitude for their efforts. It was there that he caught up with a long-time friend, Tony Jarosewicz, whom he’d trained and worked alongside through some of the most difficult times in his career. They were together in 1999 responding to a devastating 87-car disaster on highway 401 north of Windsor that claimed eight lives. On the streets of St. Clair, they caught up with each other, and Ron spoke with his brethren for at least 30 minutes.

Team members learned so much about Ron that day, understanding more about the ongoing effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Speaking about that accident almost exactly 18 years later, Ron says he still gets flashbacks. He was a first witness to the carnage that came as a result of thick fog, and since that day he has difficulty driving through fog. 

But Ron came from a generation that didn’t open up much about the feelings of guilt, sorrow and fear that accompany such tragedies.

“We never really had any type of debriefing,” Ron says. “We were just told to buck up and take it." One piece fo advice he offers others is simple: "You can’t take it home.”

Yet know many people self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to cope and in others, the physical effects of stress mount. Depression, anxiety or bouts of rage can emerge in a person who’s struggling with PTSD, and it’s important for team members supporting residents in a long-term care setting to know that these challenges are real and exist for many.

Ron says it’s important to have a healthy outlet to channel some of the feelings that at times are still so close. “You’ve just got to deal with it,” Ron says. “I just try to put it out of my mind and not let it take over.”

But it never really goes away. It can be managed and processed, but it will always remain, sparked at times by the sound of an alarm or a distress call over the PA, and team members working alongside Ron and so many others in long-term care settings, it’s important to understand this reality.

Art and photography are hobbies that act as outlets for Ron and he has an upcoming art show at St. Clair to showcase some of his work. Watch for upcoming stories . . .

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