A firefighter who found himself caught up in the aftermath of last year's Las Vegas shooting has spoken of how counselling stopped him 'going over the edge'.
Tony Dumbleton, from Warwickshire, was on the holiday of a lifetime with his wife Lucy when America's most deadly gun attack happened near the hotel where they were staying.
Gunman Stephen Paddock had opened fire at a country music festival on 1 October 2017, killing 59 people and injuring hundreds more.
Tony was left extremely traumatised by the incident after taking a leading role in helping the injured at his hotel.
He was out walking when he first became aware of the devastating incident after two people ran by him shouting that there was a 'shooter'. Confused by the situation, he walked towards the lobby of the MGM hotel, where he was staying. Soon he was surrounded by people panicking.
He said: "Nobody knew what was going on. I opened the door and grabbed a man who was bleeding heavily, he'd been shot in the shoulder."
After helping the man into the hotel, Tony looked around and realised he was surrounded with other people who were injured.
Tony, who is trained in first aid, started to help the man and others. He said: "Nobody knew what was going on, there were reports of two shooters. I felt out of my depth.
"I looked around and saw another man who had been shot in the shoulder, and a girl who had been shot in the wrist. I was trying to process it. I thought this is surreal. How can I help?
"It was like being in a Guy Ritchie film, on fast-forward."
Tony took a leading role in helping the injured, assisting and reassuring others, while they waited for medical help to arrive.
Suddenly Tony was trampled to the floor as the lobby was filled with people fleeing from reports of a second gunman. Tony got up and started to move with them, but something stopped him. Instead of hiding Tony ensured the most seriously injured casualties were in a safe position.
Then, despite reports that the gunman was in the lobby, Tony darted out into the lobby to fetch medical equipment.
He said: "I poked my head out, saw nobody was there and ran."
As well as emergency medical supplies, Tony helped a young girl and her mother, who were cowering behind a pillar, to safety. He did this multiple times before there was a crashing noise, and to his relief paramedics ran into the hotel with trolleys for the injured.
He said: "It was like the cavalry had arrived. I thought what has just happened? I knew straight away I would need support to deal with this. I didn't sleep for the next few nights. I got in the shower, and that's when I had an overwhelming rush of emotion. Reality hit me."
Trying to cope
Tony arranged to see two BACP therapists, one to help process the trauma using eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), the other for person-centred therapy to look at the effects on his personal life.
He said: "My first session my therapist said I was like a scared child going in. I was in bits. I was trying to cope with people calling me a hero, but I felt like a fraud. I realise now I was showing signs of extreme trauma."
Tony and his family noticed the impact the events had on him. He was anxious, scared, showing signs of aggression and having nightmares. He wrestled between feelings that he hadn't done enough and the realisation that he had actually showed real bravery.
He stopped therapy for a couple of months at the start of this year and the impact on his behaviour was immediate. His family told him he was difficult to live with, not knowing if he would be up or down. He was avoiding seeing people and had feelings of worthlessness. He realised he had not prioritised his self-care – he returned to therapy.
He said: "I felt like I was going to go over the edge. I was convinced I would never get back to how I was prior to the events of Las Vegas.
"A year down the line I'm in an okay place, I feel steady with the events around that night. I will still get emotional sometimes but I've accepted that that is okay. I could not have done it without counselling and my friends."
To find a BACP counsellor in your area who can help with trauma, visit our Therapist directory.
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