A Child is Missing
Posted on: Tuesday, March 30, 2010A public health nurse from a tribal health department shared the following experience during a regional public health preparedness meeting.
Even though it was Saturday morning, I was awake at my normal time of 6:00 am. I was enjoying the quiet of the house knowing that any minute I would hear “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” I thought about the upcoming day’s events, a T-Ball tournament that two of my three boys would participate in. I also thought about how grateful I was that it was Saturday. The past week at work was a whirlwind. Our health department had a number of new referrals, two WIC clinics to staff and I had attended a psychological first aid course offered by the Red Cross. At first I thought it was unnecessary to attend psychological first aid with everything else to be done, but my Director recommended it because of my role in preparedness activities. At this point I was feeling a sense of accomplishment and relief that I was able to get everything done.
Little could I have anticipated how timely the training would be for events that were to unfold latter in the day...
The T-Ball tournament was well underway. My boys had already played two games and we were waiting for one more to get started. As I sat on a blanket talking with friends I heard yelling behind me. I turned to see people running towards the pond that lay just beyond the ball diamond. Because of all the commotion I decided to walk over to the area. Quickly I realized that a three year old child was missing and was believed to be in the pond. A crying boy was standing close to the edge of the pond. His Dad had just yelled “I told you to watch your sister!”
As I stood looking out over the scene I noticed the boy’s grandmother. I encouraged her to go to her young grandson who was now sobbing. She took him into her arms and gently smoothed patted his head. I answered the inevitable question, “Is she going to be OK?” by saying “The responders are doing everything they can.” I gathered up other siblings and brought juice and cookies for the small family group now forming. I stayed close making small talk and attending to the growing sense of dread.
As I reflected on the day later, I realized that, although the content of the psychological first aid training was review, it provided a quick framework for organizing initial interventions to address the immediate emotional needs of this family experiencing a crisis. It helped me to quickly assess what was needed to support them and to assure them that everything was being done to address the situation without providing false hope.