Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: dispatchers

A police officer defends a medic who is trying to help his wounded partner.

Daniel Sundahl’s artwork about first responder stress

When I first stumbled across Daniel Sundahl’s artwork about first responder stress, it left a resounding impression. A major theme in my upcoming novel A Bone to Pick is first responder stress and the marks it can leave on a person. (A Bone to Pick is the second book in the XK9 Trilogy. Its projected pub date is in August 2020). 

Post-traumatic stress is a huge problem for first responders

The toll that traumatic events can take on professionals who are regularly exposed to blood, gore, violence and death is huge. The first responder community is beginning to understand it’s impossible for people to “tough it out” indefinitely and continue to thrive. Not without help and support. But cultural change is slow. It’s hard for “tough guys” of both/all genders to admit they need help.

In his public appearances, Daniel Sundahl uses his artwork to get people talking about hard-to-discuss issues. (This December 2019 photo is currently Daniel's Facebook profile picture.)
In his public appearances, Daniel Sundahl uses his artwork to get people talking about hard-to-discuss issues. (This December 2019 photo is currently Daniel’s Facebook profile picture.)

Unfortunately, it also can be hard for them to find help once they realize they need it. That culture of denial can go all the way to the top. And the US has never been a great haven of enlightenment when it comes to mental health.

Daniel is a firefighter and paramedic as well as an artist. He’s also an activist on the topic of first responder post-traumatic stress. He pours his passion on the subject into both his artwork and his speaking engagements.

With that introduction, I hope you’ll be moved and fascinated by Daniel Sundahl’s artwork about first responder stress. He depicts scenes featuring all types of first responders. In this post I’ve shared one example each from Communications/Dispatch, EMS, Fire, and Police

But you can see much more of his work on his website and his Facebook page. All images are © by Daniel Sundahl and DanSun Photo Art, and have been used with the artist’s permission. Please do not reproduce or re-post them without express permission from Daniel!

Communications Departments

A uniformed woman sits in an emergency dispatch call center station with an exhausted look on her face, while the faint, ghostly images of people in danger or pain float around her.
The Ghosts of Dispatch © by Daniel Sundahl. Of this image, he writes, “Speaking with someone as they kill themselves or hearing someone pleading for help as they’re being murdered is something the rest of us just don’t understand. This one is for all the dispatchers. Stay safe brothers and sisters.” 

My first encounter with Daniel’s art came when I discovered The Ghosts of Dispatch while searching for images to illustrate my blog post “Merry Christmas, and be careful out there.” It took my breath away the first time I saw it, for a multitude of reasons. 

Emergency Medical Services

Is there anything I can say that’s more eloquent than what Daniel himself has written about this next image?

An EMT holds a shrouded baby in his arms, against a black background. One tiny, bloodless arm dangles from the wrapping, but the ghostly image of a living baby reaches up to touch his face.
Children of Heaven © by Daniel Sundahl. “I often hear from fellow Paramedics of the terrible calls they’ve had involving children. . . . Calls involving children are the ones that affect us the most. . . . I still have many calls in my head that I can’t get out that involve children. . . . I call this image Children of Heaven. It brings me peace thinking where these kids are now instead of thinking of what happened to them. “

First responder stress probably can’t get much worse than a murdered baby. But then, it also seems there’s an unimaginable range of horrors it is possible to confront, and the folks who’ll confront them are first responders, God help them.

Fire

Artwork about first responder stress among firefighters is a recurring theme from Sundahl.

A group of firefighters in full gear confront a blaze and billowing smoke. At the heart of the flames an angry dragon's head spews fire at them.
Fire Fight © by Daniel Sundahl. “Fighting the Dragon…my fellow firefighters know what this means.” As a fantasy artist myself, I absolutely could not resist this one.

Firefighters stand between the rest of us and that dragon. Whether it’s a raging structural fire,  vehicle-turned-inferno, or a wildfire roaring up a steep hillside, they stand between it and us. All too often they pay a steep price, as well.

Police

Police officers never know what’s coming, but like all first responders their lives are spent on call. Their schedules exist at the mercy of the next emergency. A day can be fairly uneventful, and then turn suddenly deadly. 

In a wintry landscape with a city at sunset behind them, one officer kneels and fires a gun. Nearby a female medic bends over to render aid to his partner, who has been shot.
Officer Down, © by Daniel Sundahl. “Would you enter a live shooting event to treat the injured and help take them to safety? What if it was someone you knew? The medic and fallen officer in this image are close friends in real life. They work on the same shift so this situation is a real possibility for them. I have no doubt she would risk her life to save him.”

hope you’ve been inspired by these images and the brave people they represent. Daniel Sundahl’s artwork about first responder stress is real and authentic because he has lived the situations he portrays. They all fight the dragon for us, one way or another. They all stand between us and that unimaginable range of horrors.

IMAGE CREDITS: All images are © by Daniel Sundahl and DanSun Photo Art, and have been used with the artist’s permission. Please do not reproduce or re-post them without express permission from Daniel!

Another way to thank a first responder

Hi! Here’s a quick update to a very popular post I wrote last November. I’m gratified that many readers have read my post Three Great Ways to Thank First Responders. Thank you!

My friend, fellow writer, and excellent resource for that post, Dora Furlong (have you read her book?), recently sent me another idea: 6-LED mini-flashlights with 9-volt batteries

Firefighters are dealing with 9-volt batteries all the time, so these little things are especially handy for them. Dora’s husband the Fire Captain gave them out to the guys on shift as Christmas presents last month.

Of course, you don’t have to wait till next Christmas to use this idea. No time is a bad time to say “thank you.”

IMAGE: Many thanks to Wal-Mart for this product image. I recently bought some of these via Amazon, too.

Three great ways to thank first responders (plus a suggestion)

It’s been a heck of a week to be a first responder.

We started off Monday with a horrible school bus wreck that Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher described as “Every first responder’s worst nightmare,” and the next day we were confounded by the shooting death of yet another police officer, Wayne State University Officer Collin Rose, on Tuesday. On Thursday, while most of America was (we hope) relaxing for Thanksgiving with their families, our local Johnson County (KS) Sheriff tweeted this reminder:

For my late-week posts this month I’ve been focusing on ways to say thank you to and for various things. With both the holidays and the coldest-weather months coming up in North America, it seems to me that the least I can do to focus this week on good, practical, creative ways to thank our first responders. 

First responders are law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel (don’t forget the dispatchers!) who work all hours, in all weathers, holiday or not, to provide the rest of us with emergency services whenever and wherever we need them.

How can we adequately thank them? We probably can’t. But there are ways that members of a grateful community can express their gratitude–ways that really do help.  


I asked around and checked various sources online–but probably the most interesting and helpful source I found was a friend and fellow writer, Dora Furlong (have you read her book?). She is discharged Air Force, a former EMT, former administrative head of a police department, and the wife of a fire captain/Paramedic. If anybody knows really meaningful ways that community members can thank their local first responders, it’s Dora! Here’s her advice:

1. Ditch the junk food! 

cheese-meat-and-crackers“Everybody brings cookies and tins of popcorn,” she said. “What they’d really like are veggie trays!” She also suggested food gifts of: fruit; crackers, cheese and/or salami; bread; or sandwich trays.

Consider coordinating with a local fire station, police station, etc. to provide a meal. If that’s more than you can do alone, perhaps you could recruit help from like-minded folk from your church, yoga class, or workplace.

If it’s not anonymous, a big pot of soup or other homemade food items would be welcome (call ahead).

Gift cards for places such as Subway, Jimmy John’s, or Panera (what’s local to you?) also can be a great help for a hungry first responder with little time for a meal.

2. Think small and practical 

zebrapensThere are lots of little things that make life easier for an emergency responder. Please note that I have linked many of these items to websites. This is not an endorsement, but to illustrate what I’m talking about.

With cold weather coming on, consider handand foot-warmers. There are also warming or cooling wraps of various types that can help in weather extremes. Dora knew of someone who made knitted caps for a fire crew, but of course you can buy those, too!

Yes, it’s the digital age, but all first responders still need pens and pads of paper. Dora tells me that Zebra pens are small, easy to carry and you can get refills easily. They’re always in demand. As for pads, get the pocket-size with the top spiral (much easier to use than a side-spiral), especially for cops or members of an ambulance crew. 

police-flashlightsAnd yes, pretty much all cops carry a large flashlight, but Dora tells me you’d be amazed how often those small, intense flashlights come in handy, to use in addition to their bigger brothers. Having several on hand can be a real boon–and not only for cops.

Oh, yes! Don’t forget the batteries! All kinds of things (not only flashlights) use AA batteries.

Update! Dora gave me a new idea, which I share in my post Another way to thank a first responderon 1/10/2017.

Finally, if your police department has a bike patrol and you live in a warm-weather area (or have hot summers and need an idea for the future), consider water bottles that snap to the frame of the bike.

3. Put it in writing 

There’s nothing quite as great as getting a written “Thank you” for something you did. Sometimes people say “thanks” to first responders–but much more often these folks see a worse side of humanity. Sometimes the people they help can’t physically speak their thanks.

We can, though.

We can buy or make a card, or write a letter. Remember the old saying, “if it isn’t documented, it never happened.” As a teacher, I know I’m not the only one who still has cherished thank-you notes from years ago–and first responders are no different. Don’t know what to write? here’s a suggestion.

Tell them why you are thanking them. Be specific. Maybe it’s a personal experience. Maybe it’s something you saw in the news. Maybe it’s a particular time of the year you know is probably difficult for them. Maybe you just “took a notion.” Whatever the reason, it’s a good way to introduce the subject.

Tell them how you appreciate what they did or do, what a difference they make in the community. Thank their families, too, for the stress they endure. And close with best wishes for their safety, because what they do is all too often frightening, stressful, and sometimes downright deadly. They see people on what might be the worst day of their lives, and sometimes other people’s nightmares turn into their own, too.

4. If you’re so inclined, pray for them 

This is my “(plus a suggestion),” because I know not everyone believes in prayer. I do, however, and whenever I see an ambulance, fire vehicle or or police car, I pray a variation on this prayer:

Dear God, thank you for (that officer’s/those firefighters’/those Paramedics’) life (lives) and service. Please bless and keep (him/her/them), grant (them) strength, wisdom, discernment, and favor. Bless the work of their hands, Lord, and place a hedge of protection around (them), to keep (them) safe on (their) watch. Bring (them) home safely to (their) family (families), and shower blessings into (their) life (lives). 

It’s probably the way I thank my local first responders the most (I’ve prayed that prayer as many as a half-dozen times on a busy day), though they never know it. I can’t keep the bad guys’ bullets (a moment of silence, please, for Det. Brad Lancaster and Capt. Robert David Melton), the collapsing walls (a moment of silence for John Mesh and Larry Leggio), or the job stress away, but I can pray for their strength and beseech their protection. And I can thank God for them.

So can we all.


IMAGES: Many thanks to the Johnson County Sheriff via Twitter (@JOCOSHERIFF) for the Thanksgiving-in-a-cop-car photo (sorry, I was unable to find @EnoughLODD). The “For your service and protection” image is courtesy of Vacation Myrtle Beach (on a page where they offer first responders a $10 off coupon). The amazing cheese, meat and crackers tray is from Pinterest, via their Cheese and Cracker Tray pinboard. The multi-pak of Zebra pens (one of many varieties the company sells) is from Jet. The photo of little “police flashlights” is from Deal Extreme. And many thanks also to Geralt and Pixabay for the “Thank You” pen image.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén