Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Call me a victim

I am happy never to have been a victim in my life. Except for the two times when I chose to be. And those I thoroughly enjoyed.

As a non-medical volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps, my greatest contribution has been playing a victim in emergency training exercises. So far, I’ve been in an airplane explosion and a train wreck—at least those have been the scenarios. I’ve also had some nasty-looking but not life-threatening injuries, thanks to the moulage makeup added for high-fidelity realism.

My first experience had me laying on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, in 2014, waiting for medical attention. The critical patients were carried away first, by stretcher. Then it was my turn. With my dislocated shoulder, abrasions, and crushed hand (with third-degree burns), I was strapped onto a stretcher and loaded in an ambulance. Inside, I was miraculously cured and scampered away. 

Most recently, I spent a beautiful Sunday morning at the SEPTA Media station in a scenario where a train and a car met on the tracks. There were bad outcomes for the dummy in the car (an actual training dummy) and several passengers. I was lucky, just suffering burns and abrasions on my arms. With a mix of silicone, pigmented creams, and fake trauma blood, my arms soon looked like they’d been through the wringer. My only discomfort was minor, and that came when it was time to pull off the silicone-backed wounds.

The hardest part of playing the victim is all the moaning and groaning. I can do it for a few minutes, but after a while it gets tiresome. So I wait until I have someone’s attention before I turn up the misery volume.

For me, being a volunteer victim involves a lot of hurry-up-and-wait to be rescued. For emergency responders, they get to train in somewhat realistic conditions. The point, I’ve been told, is not just to get it right; the point is to practice until they can never get it wrong.

These exercises take on a greater sense of urgency the more the world tilts off its axis. Emergency responders have a hard road ahead, and I appreciate their service more than ever, having seen what they do from the center of these training events. I am happy to play my small part—and to see everyone walk away safely afterward.


  1. Thank you for sharing this experience and perspective ... and I feel compelled to say: I wish the Internet used headlines like yours instead of the wearisome click bait (you will never guess what happened next!) You create intrigue rather than trick to click. A satisfactory payoff in reading your blog. Thank you!

  2. Hi Leslie. I appreciate your readership and your feedback. Hope all is well with you and Bill.

  3. These simultated learning experiences help provide first responders and other health care practitioners exposure to real-world scenarios resulting in a better-prepared work force. Thanks for volunteering and for sharing.