Feike van Dijk spoke to a room of mainly fire service individuals about the 2014 home fire that claimed two of his children, Zephan and Noah. He, too, was, injured in the blaze while attempting to save his boys. He can still smell the smoke, feel the heat of the flames. The memories have contributed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Van Dijk is on a cocktail of medications to help with the pain.
Medication, however, wasn't a cure-all. He also took steps to address his emotional trauma, steps that go against what he says is "firefighter culture." For example, he highlighted the "silence when dealing with personal problems" and "machismo" persona that doesn't tend to ask for help. Finding that help, however, was what led van Dijk on his path toward healing. His steps and his story were highlighted during his session, "Addressing PTSD in the Firehouse," at NFPA's Conference and Expo in Vegas.
Complementing van Dijk's path to recovery was additional emotional support services by the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. Amy Acton, executive director of the organization, highlighted these services during the session, including peer support.
Van Dijk's journey from burn survivor to safety advocate was documented in NFPA's five-part podcast series, "The Survivors." Please listen to the podcast to hear his full story and about the far-reaching impact home fires have had on the fire service and many families nationwide.