Psychologist, survivors describe ‘birthday symptoms’ two years after Oregon district shooting – WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio
DAYTON – The days around August 4 will forever be a difficult time of year for many in the Miami Valley, especially for those directly affected by the Oregon District mass shooting in 2019.
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Reminders of the tragic events of that day can trigger what psychologists call birthday symptoms, which essentially cause a person’s brain to replay the emotions experienced at the time of the traumatic event.
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To better understand what people who may be experiencing birthday symptoms might experience, Cheryl McHenry, of News Center 7, spoke with an area psychologist, police officer and survivor of the mass shooting, who have all reported experiencing these symptoms.
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Centerville psychologist Dr Kathy Platoni is a retired army colonel and saw his comrades killed in the mass shooting at Fort Hood in 2009. Platoni said the symptoms of the birthday are all over the place. normal and is the brain’s adaptive response to traumatic events that are unlikely to be forgotten. .
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âAll the reminders, even within the hour, day, place, conversation, can be very debilitating when these memories start to appear and all the emotions that go along with those memories surface. It’s like our brains are programmed to be in instant replay, âPlatoni said.
âAs a survivor of the Fort Hood Massacre, I know how this can happen again and again. “
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Platoni continues to advise the police, firefighters and medics who responded to the mass shooting, and even some who did not.
Dion Green survived the mass shooting two years ago. He was enjoying a night out with his family when the shots rang out. Moments later, he was cradling his dying father, Derrick Fudge, in his arms. Green remembers the last moments he shared with his father before he passed away.
âHold him, you know, tell him to get up, let him know that I love him, let him know that these are the last words you can hear from your son,â he said.
In the two years since the shooting, Green has taken steps to help himself and other survivors recover, including establishing the Fudge Foundation on behalf of his father which supports those recovering from ‘trauma by providing support and access to resources. But Green said he still couldn’t escape the emotions of that day.
âI have problems from time to time. I’m doing well. But they really went up all the way again. I don’t sleep, you know, I think about it, I play it back some more, you know like he doesn’t come here with me?
These âwhat ifâ feelings resonated among police officers as well, including those off duty during the mass shooting two years ago. Officer Jared Dobney was with Dayton Police when he was tasked with helping bring comfort and safety to the families of the victims at the Dayton Convention Center the day after the shooting.
âI think for a lot of us who weren’t on duty that night there is the question of ‘What could I have done?’,â He said.
While working with the families of the victims, Dobney began to realize that the police needed help as well and began to play an informal role in helping fellow police officers. Dobney recalls speaking to an officer who had just completed his field training when they were called to the Oregon District that night.
âI spoke to a guy who had – it was his fourth day of driving alone and he responded to a mass shooting,â he said.
Dobney said he went with other officers to peer support meetings where officers who responded that night told stories of leaps into action to heal victims, enforcing tourniquets and emergency for the wounded in hospital.
âIt was a lot of heartache. A lot of the emotions they were showing were that sadness, that fear that they couldn’t have saved people’s lives and also the heartache of seeing so many people seriously injured or killed right in front of them, so it was a lot for them to deal from an emotional level.
Platoni said it was this emotional trauma that makes it important for anyone traumatized by the events of August 4, 2019 to talk about it.
âOrganize a meeting, talk to your family, talk to your friends, express what you are going through. There’s no need to hang on to this and stuff it under the surface. Talk about it, âPlatoni said.
On Wednesday evening, community members will have the opportunity to meet and discuss. The Green’s Fudge Foundation hosted the memorial tonight in the Oregon District to remember those who died and support those who still suffer.
âIt’s to create a safe place, but it’s also for the community, for friends, to empower each other, lean on each other, cry, love each other, meet members of your community, and just being here and uplifting because it can happen to any of us, âGreen said.
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