Community support helps former paramedic cope with PTSD
February 10, 2018 11:26 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- For months, it felt like one thing after another kept going wrong for a former Albuquerque paramedic. It got so bad he was almost forced out of his home.
At one point, Craig Koppenhaver's car was the only thing providing power to his home. Now he says, "We have completed all the electrical repairs and the electricity is back on. I can turn on a light switch and actually have it work."
It's a night-and-day difference to what it looked like just three weeks ago when Koppenhaver lived without power or gas.
"In the beginning, I hadn't realized how bad it was getting until Craig finally had me over one night," said Koppenhaver’s friend Mychal Gurule. When he saw how bad it was, he said. "I didn’t want to see him living like that anymore because nobody should have to."
Friends like Gurule stepped in and started fundraising for repairs. Once others learned what Koppenhaver had been going through the last few months, it opened their eyes to what he'd actually been going through the last few years.
Koppenhaver was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder from a horrific 2011 call he took as a paramedic involving a baby girl's gruesome death. Yet he said he would never take that day back.
"I had a purpose in that call," Koppenhaver said. "For me, I’ve wrapped my head around I bore witness to somebody that maybe no one else had noticed and so she lives with me forever."
From that day, that call, to present day: a renewed hope in a support group.
"The issue is that we all suffer, whether you're a first responder, a nurse, doctor you're an EMT, you're anybody. Even our families suffer," Rob Arrieta, an Albuquerque fire fighter and old friend of Koppenhaver’s.
Arrieta heard about what Koppenhaver dealt with and recently reconnected with him. As fate would have it, Arrieta has spent the last few years spreading awareness about PTSD through his organization Skulls for Hope. A big way he spreads awareness is through skull bracelets.
"The goal is to give somebody something tangible," said. "The bracelets are a conversation piece. It's something you can look at when you're at your worst and say, 'OK. Oh, yeah. I'm a part of this community and I'm not alone."
Koppenhaver now learning he is far from alone.
"People that I haven’t seen in years from working at Albuquerque ambulance were showing up on my doorstep, and their words carried me more than anything," he said.
Friends want to make sure Koppenhaver is set up with everything he needs to maintain all the work already being done on his home, so they are still fundraising.
For information how to help, click the links below.
Updated: February 10, 2018 11:26 AM
Created: February 10, 2018 10:34 AM
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