When the call “vehicle-pedestrian” came over the Cocoa Fire Department’s emergency radio last July, it was a call Josh Vandegrift had handled hundreds of times before.
“Sometimes it comes up in dreams, calls I’ve run 10 years ago, just the horror of it,” Vandegrift said.
Still, the veteran EMT-firefighter said those life-or-death moments never got the better of him until he saw the face of the man hit by a van on U.S. 1 and Peachtree Street.
“Grabbed my bags walked up to clear the people out of the way, and my brother had a tattoo on his neck and I saw the tattoo and I thought how is that possible?” he said.
As far as Vandegrift knew, his younger brother, Nate, was supposed to be in Melbourne.
At first he tried to be professional, but when police officers realized what had happened they pulled him away.
Wiping tears from his eyes, he recalled the nightmarish moment.
“When I was taken away, I was screaming his name … he moved his fingers … so I know he heard me,” Vandegrift said.
Nate Vandegrift was taken off life support later that afternoon.
For the past six months, Josh Vandegrift has been going to therapy trying to get the will to go back to the job he’d loved for 11 years. He’s been diagnosed with PTSD.
“I am just a shell of what I used to be,” he said.
State law doesn’t provide long term disability wages for PTSD unless there is a physical injury as well.
Now he is joining other Central Florida first responders and state law makers to change that law.
State Sen. Victor Torres, of Kissimmee, is crafting the language for the proposed change.
The former New York Transit cop and detective has seen the effects of PTSD first-hand and said change is needed to protect Florida’s first responders.
For more information on PTSD and how to get help for someone you know, go to: ptsdusa.org/get-help/first-responders/ptsd-assessment-form.
By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter
Two forms of therapy have shown positive results for many first responders and others suffering from post traumatic stress injury. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Rapid Resolution Therapy (RRT). I have recommended these options for many first responders with the suggestion that it be approached with an open mind. It can be another valuable tool in ones treatment for PTSI. No single treatment works for everyone, but options do exist for the first responder who is willing to seek and accept services. PTSI can be debilitating and often results in a disability that can preclude one from continuing in their career. Early intervention is paramount in the healing process and can often be the difference in one's ability to successfully continue in their chosen profession or seek alternatives. This is my humble opinion and is not meant to over simplify and injury as significant as post traumatic stress, but to offer hope.
Good article, to many of us think it will not happen to me we are strong and big men, BUT