Growing "Immediate Responder"
Incredible! My vocabulary word is starting to take hold!
Here's the timeline of some major events leading to the creation of the term "IMMEDIATE RESPONDER":
April 15, 2013 - Boston Marathon Bombings
May, 2013 - "From Marathon Monday to Boston Strong: The Response of Emergency Medicine to a Terrorist Attack" - spoke at Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting in Atlanta. (described my experiences that day)
July, 2013 - "Am I a First Responder or A Victim?" - spoke at National Disaster Life Support Annual Meeting in Atlanta. (first described role and function of immediate responders)
October, 2013 - I met a restaurant owner who was also in the blood, smoke, & glass that day, who also took immediate action at the Marathon Bombings and who had the same acute stress reaction and self-doubt, who and who used his hands to try to stop the bleeding and to comfort other victims. Talking to him made me immediately aware that he was just like me....trained or not trained, it does not matter. If you are on the scene when the event happens, and you take immediate action....you are an Immediate Responder.
November, 2013 - "The Boston Marathon Experience: A Personal Perspective" - keynote speaker at Center for Disaster Mental Health conference, at Wright State Research Institute in Dayton, OH. (first coined the new vocabulary word "Immediate Responder" while speaking to a group of mental health professionals attending this conference"
November, 2013 - Concept testing of "Immediate Responder" idea with: a Trauma Surgeon, a Psychiatrist, a Disaster Medicine Physician, an Emergency Medical Services Physician, an Emergency Medicine Physician, a Paramedic, and a Police Officer. Everyone agreed this concept is a "game-changer".
March, 2014 - "The Boston Marathon Bombings: When First Responders Become Victims" - Grand Rounds speaker at MESH Coalition Conference, Indianapolis, IN. Introduced concept of Immediate Responder to large group of public health, first responder, and public safety providers.
April, 2014 - "Recovery from The Boston Marathon Bombing" - speaker at Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians conference regarding emergency physician burnout, highlighting the obvious benefit and obvious psychological stressor of being an Immediate Responder.
July, 2014 - "When First Responders Become Victims: Boston Marathon Bombings & Beyond" - speaker at St. Vincent's Hospital Trauma Conference in Indianapolis, IN highlighting the impact and risks and potential vulnerability of Immediate Responders.
September, 2014 - Created this website to promote and explain the concept of Immediate Responder. On a mission to change our understanding of Disaster Medicine!
September to July, 2015 - talking to many people, trying to tighten up the ideas, the needs, the potential curriculum for Immediate Responders.
July, 2015 - "Am I a Victim or Am I a First Responder? - An Update: The Immediate Responder" - speaker at Society for Public Health & Disaster Medicine Conference in Dayton, OH. Dedicated entire lecture to defining "Immediate Responder" to a highly qualified group of Disaster Response professionals.
Welcome! This is a Game-Changer!
My first blog post ever! Welcome to ImmediateResponder.org. I will do my best to explain what this is all about, and this first posting will then serve as the main text explanation for a page on this website called, "New to this site?"
On April 15, 2013, I was a volunteer physician at the Boston Marathon Bombings. Amidst the chaotic scene, I was surrounded by blood, glass, metal shards, acrid-smelling smoke, anguish, and uncertainty. I did not feel safe, and I thought I might die.
I cared for many people in many ways - triaged, bandaged, removed clothing, performed patient assessment, reassured & moved patients, helped coordinate other impromptu rescuers, and looked out for the safety and well-being of other volunteers.
As an Emergency Physician who started volunteering as an EMT on an ambulance as a teenager, I had attended many, many hours and courses on emergency response, mass casualty incidents, disaster response, incident command, traumatic injuries, and more. Despite my extensive training, I got as far as, "Is the scene safe?", and realized that NO, no it was not safe. I was in and surrounded by mayhem, smoke, biohazard, sharp objects, terrified patients and bystanders and the risk of a criminal or terrorist amidst us. Where was the training on how to proceed in this situation? I was already IN the scene; there was no option to, "Wait until the scene is safe." before entering. I chalked it up to the fact that a disaster is a disaster, and moved on.
After the event was an extraordinarily challenging experience. Although the general public and media broadly offered praise for the "first responders that ran right into the scene", there is a reality that was not included in the discussion. A First Responder is someone, like Police, Fire, & EMS, who is on duty and responds into a scene with a clear mind, to bring calm to the chaos, whether a house fire, heart attack, intoxicated driver, or a bombing. I've been a First Responder. If you ask any First Responder if a group of volunteer physicians, nurses, medical students, physical therapists, and massage therapists are first responders, or the bystanders on the street, you will likely be told, "absolutely not". I do not disagree with this, as the heroism of a First Responder requires dedication, training, preparation, and honorable selflessness, and the term should not be applied to just anyone. However, there IS something special about the people, trained or non-trained, who immediately step up amidst chaos to try to protect or care for another victim. They are certainly more than "bystanders" because they certainly do not just "stand by".
After experiencing, first-hand, what it is to be neither a bystander nor a first responder at the Boston Marathon bombings, I identified a glaring gap in the way we teach people about being present at the very moment a disaster or incident goes down. It has become my passion to define, explain, and convince people of the importance of the concept of "Immediate Responder". This website is one of the mechanisms I am using to spread the word, in order to give better care to the critically injured in the seconds and moments after their injuries, as well as to the impromptu rescuers who offer great potential for life-saving care, but may be vulnerable to challenging risks and after effects related to their service.
For the past 2 years, I have been trying to put words to, and to understand, this feeling and this group of people. It is time to add a new vocabulary word to the world of emergency response and disaster medicine...that of "Immediate Responder".
On a personal level, this is what I would say to anyone who identifies with the role of Immediate Responder:
Yes. Yes, you did enough. You did the right thing, given the circumstances, and you certainly DID make a difference.
More to come in the near future.