A.M.A. (Ask Me Anything) 1 – Bernard Ferrao asks about dealing with The trauma associated with Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai military chopper with Paul Teasdale
The Zimbabwe Airforce Chopper taking off with a load of casualties from Machongwe Village. I stayed behind in the village to round up more casualties and to allow my seat to be taken by those needing it.

“How have you been able to deal with some of the sights and scenes of death and destruction caused by Cyclone Idai? From what I understood there were dead bodies of people and animals everywhere. Give us your perspective a few months on.” – Bernard Ferrao a.k.a Tokoloshi Zim

Paul Teasdale working with the airforce in the wake of Cyclone Idai
Working with the Air Force on High Ange Rescues

First of all Thank you Bernard for the question. Often when faced with a disaster the magnitude of Cyclone Idai we focus fully on the needs of those directly affected and forget about the needs and the humanity of those involved in the rescues and relief. We all do this to some degree even the people working on the rescue and relief efforts themselves. It is too easy to neglect ones own well being when in the thick of things especially when life and death are in the balance. I guess this is why one of the first things taught to any first responder is to make sure of their own safety before trying to help another. Our human instinct to put ouselves in harms way is one of the fundamental aspects of our species that still gives me hope for our future on this planet.

I think the short answer to the first part of your question is that one has to just suck it up and do it. I have stated before in other posts that I don’t consider myself to be any braver than the average Joe, nor do I think I have any special abilities. What I have noticed though throughout all my adventures is that when the stakes are raised to a level where lives are at risk we seem to forget to be afraid. You often hear stories of people going above and beyond their own percieved limitations when faced with a life or death situation and I think this applies to some extent in this regard. There is a job to be done and so you just buckle down and do it.

Paul Teasdale with Village children affected by Cyclone Idai
The reslience of the Children was astounding

I have dealt with death quite a lot in varying capacities over the years and so I suppose that has in some ways prepared me for what I had to see in the wake of the Cyclone but I have never encountered anything on that scale. I think in these instances it is important to get the job done but not to forget to process the emotions that build up. I will freely admit that a few nights during the rescues, while I was alone and preparing myself for the next day, I would have a little cry as I processed the events of the day. Sometimes it was triggered from exhaustion or even while writing my daily report. I think this processing is very important and helps to let go of the trauma associated with a disater like this. Processing our emotions is something that needs to be more encouraged in our society. The “Big boys don’t cry” mentality needs to be erradicated.

2 Months on and I don’t think I am suffering from any form of PTSD or needing to process anything anymore. The incredible thing is that I hardly remember any of the negative stuff or the scenes of devastation. What has stayed with me more than anything are the positives that I saw and took from the experience. The humanity that was shown by an entire nation. The way people came together selflessly to effect a common good. The resiliance of the people that were affected and the smiles of the hundreds of children that greeted me wherever I landed. These are the things I hold onto and the things that would make me do it all again.

One Love

 

P.S. If you would like to ask me a question on any topic (except religion and politics) please feel free to submit it here or comment below. I would love to hear from you. Likewise, please feel free to comment with your thoughts and share with your friends.

 

 

 

 

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