The Right Call: N.S. firefighter seeks treatment for PTSD, shares his journey with peers
After a decade of responding to emergency calls, trauma caught up with Kevin Purchase. Terrible memories started affecting the firefighter's relationships with family and friends.
"I just couldn't shake them anymore," says the 38-year-old who volunteers at the Hammonds Plains, N.S., station.
Purchase grew up in Halifax and says he knew he wanted to be a firefighter after watching the red trucks from the city's West Street station roar past his house.
But last summer, he took leave from the fire department and his day job, as his mental health worsened. The sound of helicopters would trigger his PTSD, reminding him of Life Flight calls.
"I didn't think I was going to come back," says Purchase.
The father of two girls says his coping mechanisms included withdrawing from those he loved and burying his pain with alcohol.
"I just kept running," he says.
But after hitting rock bottom last fall, Kevin's girlfriend Melissa, a military nurse and veteran of three tours of Afghanistan, convinced him to enroll in Project Trauma Support. It's a program for military personnel and first responders in Perth, Ontario.
Purchase says it changed his life, "If it wasn't for that I wouldn’t know what would be going on today."
Earlier this month, on a cool Sunday morning at Dartmouth's Bicentennial Junior High School, Purchase opened up about his mental health struggles in front of a room full of his baseball peers.
"I kinda hit a big low in life," he told a room full of men and women at a local umpiring clinic.
"He was one of the more senior guys when I came to Nova Scotia," says fellow official, Chis Roberts. "Learned a ton from umpiring over the years with Kev."
Purchase has been calling balls and strikes for 26 years.
"I think he's really brave," adds Roberts.
Purchase set his nerves aside, shared his stories and hit the mark. After the clinic, two other umpires reached out to share their own experiences with post traumatic stress disorder.
"And I was like, 'See. You're never alone," says Purchase, who's been back on the fire trucks for a few months.
Now, as another local baseball season approaches, Kevin has a new day job and fresh perspective on life.
"I wake up every morning with a smile on my face," he says, knowing he made the right call.
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