Iowa Responders Share Grief Over Medical Chopper Crash Deaths

Iowa Responders Share Grief Over Medical Chopper Crash Deaths

News Jan 06, 2013

MASON CITY, Iowa -- The North Iowa caregivers who died in Wednesday’s medical helicopter crash near Ventura were loved not only by family, but by colleagues in the health care field who went right back to their jobs the next day.

But there are others who have volunteered their time to “care for the caregivers” grieving the loss of flight nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau, 44, of Hanlontown; paramedic Russell Piehl, 48, Forest City, and Med-Trans pilot Gene Grell, 53.

“When you have especially traumatic situations, a lot of the folks who responded knew these people,” said Pat Wilson, clinical director of a North Iowa critical incident stress management team. “It’s tremendously traumatizing.”

Wilson, a licensed independent Mason City social worker, was called Wednesday night from the accident scene by Mason City Fire Chief Bob Platts, one of 25 members of the critical incident team. They began plans for a debriefing session for caregivers affected by the crash.

The debriefing, held Thursday evening at the Clear Lake Fire Department, drew 55 first responders. A similar debriefing in Algona drew 24 from that area.

These sessions have been available to first responders in North Iowa free of charge since the mid-1990s, Wilson said.

Their purpose is to care for the caregivers so they will not get burned out by a demanding and traumatizing job.

“It isn’t therapy,” Wilson said. “It gives an opportunity to talk about how you’re doing.”

Participants are encouraged to share what they have experienced and what their role was at the scene. They may choose to describe images that stick in their minds, including sights, sounds or smells.

Today, approximately one-fourth of the critical incident team members are mental health professionals, Wilson said. The rest are first-responders such as law enforcement, firefighting, EMS and nursing professionals. Team members undergo a structured training process.

Continue Reading

Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals said he encourages his deputies and other personnel to take part in debriefings to help them deal with things most people never have to witness.

“We want to have employees who are not only in good physical health but also good mental health,” Pals said.

The images of a trauma scene can stay with you forever, Pals said.

He recalled how, several years ago, an employee was having a difficult time coping with an incident that took place in the jail. Pals believes the debriefing given to employees after the experience saved that employee’s career.

Platts, who was among the first responders at the scene of the Jan. 2 helicopter crash, said he doesn’t usually respond unless an incident involves a variety of agencies and a command staff is needed at the site.

The Fire Department works very closely with Mercy-North Iowa in responding to accidents and other emergencies, Platts said.

“We have certain calls that we automatically launch the helicopter. We see these people almost on a daily basis.”

Dealing with the emotion and trauma of attending to an accident that involves people he knows is difficult, Platts acknowledged.

“It’s my faith that gets me through this.”

Although Mercy’s Emergency Department employees and first responders are the immediate focus, a tragedy such as the recent accident affects the entire organization, said Mark Peltan, director of Mercy Behavioral Services.

“Something happens that shakes up your confidence in the safety of things,” said Peltan, a clinical psychologist. “It interrupts your emotional equilibrium. This is the kind of thing that usually doesn’t happen in your lifetime.”

Mercy-North Iowa provides an employee assistance program for free counseling services at any time for employees and their immediate family members who request it.

“We also encourage employees to be supportive of one another,” Peltan said.

Copyright 2013 North Iowa Media GroupDistributed by Newsbank, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Source
Globe Gazette (Mason City, Iowa)
KRISTIN BUEHNER
The drill involving over 200 people put multiple first responder agencies to the test.
The training was based on lessons learned from the Columbine shooting and taught school employees safety and security measures.
One third of the state's record-high 376 overdose deaths that occurred last year were caused by prescribed painkillers.
The training will be focused on prescribing buprenorphine, the drug used to assist patients in quitting their opiate addiction and relieve withdrawal symptoms.
One of the paramedics was treated after getting hit with shards of glass after the bullet went through the windshield, but the ambulance is not believed to have been intentionally targeted.
The drones are used to improve scene management by assessing areas that are difficult or dangerous for personnel to reach.
Dozens of firefighters and police officers join the annual week-long Brotherhood Ride to honor 20 first responders who have died in the line of duty in Florida.
The event will be held on August 20, with all proceeds going to Narberth Ambulance, an agency that provides emergency services to 145,000 residents.
Speakers presented on topics such as disaster relief, emerging pathogens, the opioid crisis and cyber security.
The state's Department of Health has established an agreement for UNC and NCBP to collaborate on providing public health data to NEMSIS to better prepare EMS for national emergencies.
State troopers rendered aid before turning them over to responding EMS units and New Castle County Paramedics.
Three people were fatally shot and at least 21 others were wounded in separate attacks from Saturday morning to early Sunday.
Crestline Coach attended the Eighth Annual Saskatchewan Health & Safety Leadership conference on June 8 to publicly sign the “Mission: Zero” charter on behalf of the organization, its employees and their families.
ImageTrend, Inc. announced the winners of the 2017 Hooley Awards, which recognize those who are serving in a new or innovative way to meet the needs of their organization, including developing programs or solutions to benefit providers, administrators, or the community.