LIVING THROUGH TRAUMATIC EVENTS
As employees of the railroad, we expose ourselves to potential dangers and life-threatening situations every day. Living through such events either personally or by witnessing another’s hardship can be difficult to deal with physically, emotionally and mentally. What’s important is to learn from others and seek help if such events have happened to you or someone you know.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
During my twenty-two years on the railroad, I have personally experienced and witnessed several traumatic events. In October 1979, there was an Amtrak crash in Harvey, Illinois that killed the engineer and head man on an Illinois Central Gulf. I worked an 11:59 P.M. extra job to clean up the wreckage. In 1988, a good friend of mine who worked on signal maintenance was struck by an IC commuter train and although I attempted CPR, he passed away lying between the railroad tracks. And as an engineer, I struck a pedestrian as she ran onto the tracks.
Even before I began my career on the railroad, I experienced traumatic events that stay with me today. When I was fifteen years old and living on the South Side of Chicago, my friends and I would hop on the Grand Trunk Railroad grain cars, ride them south a few miles and hop off at Marquette Park. One night in August 1976, my one friend and I decided not to hop trains while four of my other buddies did. Unfortunately, the train high-balled and my one buddy was killed instantly when he hit his head on the hand throw switch after jumping off the train.
These are tough memories to deal with because I can remember every detail and thought at that time. It is difficult to suppress such thoughts and not always the best way to deal with them.
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS
Everyone reacts to traumatic events differently. Because of that fact, it may be difficult to recognize when you or someone you know is hurting emotionally. Below is a questionnaire which assesses your personal reactions to traumatic events. Your answers can help you and your family recognize if professional help might be needed.
TRAUMA SCREENING QUESTIONNAIRE (TSQ):
Literature Review of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Amongst Rail Workers
Your own reactions now to the traumatic event.
Please consider the following reactions which sometimes occur after a traumatic event. This questionnaire is concerned with your personal reactions to the traumatic event which happened to you. Please indicate (Yes / No) whether or not you have experienced any of the following at least twice in the past week.
- Upsetting thoughts or memories about the event that have come into your mind against your will.
- Upsetting dreams about the event.
- Acting or feeling as though the event were happening again.
- Feeling upset by reminders of the event.
- Bodily reactions (such as fast heartbeat, stomach churning, sweatiness, dizziness) when reminded of event.
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Irritability or outbursts of anger.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Heightened awareness of potential dangers to yourself and others.
- Being jumpy or being startled at something unexpected.
FINDING POSITIVE SOLUTIONS
My experiences on the railroad both as a teenager and employee have stayed with me and have influenced my life greatly. If you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event at work on the railroad, talk about it and seek help if necessary. If you have questions regarding PTSD, please contact Hoey & Farina anytime at 1-888-425-1212.