An invisible injury is still an injury:

A paramedic’s journey with post-traumatic stress disorder

When Dawn MacIntosh-Roy walked into the training room, something felt wrong. She looked at the stretcher and saw the pale, blue lips of the infant-training mannequin. “I’m not doing this,” she said. She broke down and left the room.

She didn’t see the warning signs of her invisible injury


Dawn’s trauma wasn’t a result of one occurrence. Thirteen years of tough cases contributed gradually. Before Dawn realized she needed help, she was on duty during multiple heartbreaking calls—pediatric emergencies. The calls ended in infant fatalities. Some involved families she knew in her small community.

It wasn’t easy to address her trauma

She didn’t know how to answer simple questions from her doctor like, “What brings you here today?” There was no one incident; it was a whole career. Dawn made a promise to herself to stop repressing and be open about her experiences. She was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“You live life day after day, but you’re just numb,” says Dawn. “One minute you’re laughing, the next you’re bawling, the next you’re in a corner and don’t want to see anybody. I don’t want to go back to that place; I know that for sure.”

“I am strong. I am confident. I am a leader. What will this look like? What will be different?”

– Dawn

Her case manager saw past Dawn’s setbacks

Case manager Linda Reading saw Dawn’s determination to get back to what she loved. Linda was determined, too—she set up Dawn with psychologist, Jennifer Spriddle and checked in after every counseling session. Their phone calls built trust and provided Dawn another outlet to share her experiences.

Dawn was set up with wage replacement benefits so she could participate in the Traumatic Psychological Injury (TPI) program, which provided additional supports like occupational therapy and group therapy sessions. Dawn saw her support team growing and knew she could finally begin to unload the trauma.

Together, Linda and Dawn’s employer implemented a year-long return-to-work plan that involved modified work hours and duties, and a gradual increase in the severity of cases that Dawn could respond to. It wasn’t easy, but she had a team to lean on that was determined to help her get back to work.

Dawn’s mental health recovery is a life-long journey

Every day Dawn reflects on a note on her desk from Jennifer, “I am strong. I am confident. I am a leader. What will this look like? What will be different?” Dawn is back to work full-time as a primary care paramedic and continues virtual meetings with Jennifer. She continues to prioritize her mental health and raise awareness to reduce the stigma of psychological injuries to others in her field.

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