Every day our emergency services are called to help in some of the most traumatic events we will ever face. But who is there for them? Hannah Finch talks to trauma specialist Rosemary Pell about her work helping people rebuild their lives in the most tragic of circumstances.
The 2011 M5 pile-up involving 34 vehicles remains one of the UK's worst road traffic disasters. Seven people were killed that day, 51 others injured and countless lives destroyed by the loss. It was devastating for survivors and witnesses and never became 'just another day' for the emergency services who were tasked to help in the moment of crisis.
Rosemay Pell, a counsellor in Exeter and founder of Road User Support Service, was called upon in the days that followed to debrief the paramedics and ambulance staff that were called to the devastating scene. She was there to tell them that the flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of anger or disbelief that they were or could be experiencing were entirely normal.
She explained: “For the paramedics, as with everyone, their experiences are individual. There were some who attended that day who have been in the job a long time and they felt able to deal with what they had seen but there were others who had not been with the service for so long.
“They were confronted with a terrible scene, of injured people, dead bodies and a mass of vehicles.
“My work has been to help them come to terms with what they have had to deal with and to make sure they are safe in their work. Even the smell of burning or the sight of a collision can trigger the memory.”#
Rosemary has gone on to work with members of Devon and Somerset Fire Rescue Service and Devon & Cornwall Police. She said that a challenge for those in the emergency services is finding an outlet to talk about the situations they are confronted with at the end of a 999 call. But for reasons of confidentiality or choice, it is not so easy to respond honestly when they get home and asked, 'So, how was your day?'
Rosemary said: “Inside that uniform is a human being with a range of emotions. “These are people who have empathy and have chosen to help people in their profession, and they are presented with many distressing incidents on a daily basis.”