Life is a journey of discovery. Learning is a relatively permanent transformation in an organism resultant of experience or acquired information. Working in the world of medicine (and mental health) provides multitudes of opportunity for education and change. I am emphatically not the person I was before working the streets, the ER, the psych ward, or the state prison. I could not have known where searching for answers to the pain I witnessed in others as well as myself would lead.

A gateway opened, and I have stepped across a threshold to a new plane of existence that in the past appeared only fleetingly in the back of my consciousness. I am not a creature who can trek through life loving selectively and denying my affiliation with humanity or the universe. We are connected. I am a spiritual being encased in a physical body, over which I have tremendous influence despite my immature denial in years past, who maintains a conscious walk into self and cosmic awareness.

The quest for answers and direction in response to emotional pain also led me to Jeffrey T. Mitchell, Ph.D., C.T.S.; George S, Everly, Jr., Ph.D., ABPP; Dennis Potter, LMSW, CAAC, FAAETS; Don Howell, former ICISF executive director at ICISF; and my dear friend and
mentor, Victor Welzant, PsyD, all from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF). They have provided a program of interventions that I have used and seen successfully applied countless times to thousands of people. I thank these brilliant and caring leaders for their unwavering guidance as I continue to learn from them.

From my family, of course, I have learned the most. From my children, I have come to know and appreciate (and hopefully apply) unconditional love. They have gone from being my students to showing me wonderment I could not have imagined, and I continue to learn from them daily.

“Topher,” my sweet and generous computer genius son (programming at age six) has always had a vision that others could not see or understand. Still, he patiently points toward those unseen things that are beyond common comprehension, good-naturedly teaching concepts from the complex to the simple, like an introduction to the Mandelbrot
set or showing me how to build and maintain a fire. Sometimes the mother but certainly always the devoted daughter and comedian, Michele Denise (named after her Grandfather Michael Dennis, and married to firefighter-medic Scott) lovingly keep me from embarrassing myself in public (sometimes), attempts to influence my wardrobe and shows me how not to grow up. Grandson Sean is the new Topher, his and Angie’s son, who looks at me with the eyes of a very old soul as did his father. Grandson Andrew teaches me mindfulness and reminds me how to have fun and love unconditionally.

My sweet Italian Mama, who always believed in her children regardless of obstacles, taught us that anything was possible. You just have to find the way, and there is always a way. Dad was a Marine, who gave me a strong sense of patriotism, which translated into community service, an idea of giving back, that through giving I receive so much more than I could ever give. Sister Nonie, who is my second mama and also a writer, educated me in the ways of Suzy Homemaker and how (eventually) to stand up for any living creature in need, including myself. Most of us have someone in our lives to offer love
and caring, even if our support systems are animals (like my furry children, Izzy and Ziva). Our supports offer friendship, love, a sense of presence in times of need, and refill our emotional tanks when those reserves threaten to run dry. They hold us up and sustain us when we cannot walk alone.

For all the EMTs, firefighters and police who have or are still working the road, you are my heroes. You are doing the best job that I have ever loved, and I pray for you often. You are my family, and we share an inexplicable and unbreakable bond, even if we have never met. Emergency Room staff, you and I stand together to bear the lunacy and sorrow, to fight our enemies (death, injury, and illness) while trying to educate people and keep a sense of humor (as well as some level of empathy) intact. Keep your 16 gauge needles handy, remember the value of a B-52, and never, ever turn your back on a patient, however cooperative they were just a moment before. To my corrections peeps, few will understand. Keep your heads about you, hearts open, and know that the good you do, though often unrecognized, reflects in The World. Remember that there are human souls within that underbelly of society, and you can save some.

Keep your chins up, chests out, and remember that you do the impossible every day, in numbers no one could imagine, at a speed that rivals Olympic champions. Keep up the good fight, my brothers and sisters. We need to nurture that bond between us because no one, however much they see or read or witness, understands what we do. It is our private world, and this book will let outside folks see a little more of what we are made of and how we do the impossible every day, how we triumph when there is sometimes no clear winner. Most of all please continue to love what you do. If you do not have the same passion you started with, consider finding another avenue in which to channel your energies. For your sake, and that of your families, you need to keep your soul and your sanity intact.

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