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Retired Onalaska officer shares battle with PTSD

Retired Onalaska officer shares...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Two police-involved shootings in just the past few weeks in the La Crosse area are highlighting the dangerous work officers face everyday on the job.

And for those officers who end up pulling the trigger, it can be difficult to leave the trauma of a shooting behind them.

Retired Onalaska police officer Jim Page was in law enforcement for 27 years. Of all the things he's experienced as an officer, it was one incident that lead him to leave law enforcement for good early last year.

And it's not because he was forced to, but after he was involved in a shooting back in 2010, he developed PTSD.

It's a feeling many of us won't ever feel. The aftermath of what it's like to pull the trigger on another person.

"The adrenaline wore off, and you start to feel the gravity of the situation," Page said.

For some cops, it's another day on the job but for Page, it's a day he won't forget.

"I didn't sleep, I was way up here because all the years of training, all the years of preparation culminated into that three or four minute call that we were on and I had survived."

The 50-year-old retired Onalaska police officer may have physically survived that night in March of 2010, when a man charged at him with a knife after setting a house on fire.

But he says mentally he was trying to survive a new battle: PTSD.

Gundersen doctors say the disorder affects people in different ways.

"Part of it that we aren't often aware of is, it's not just the physical experience, the phyiscal experience stays with a person, and they do have physical reactions to things, but it's the cognitive piece, how it affects how you think about yourself, how you think about the world, can I be safe in the world? Am I safe to be around other people?," said Marcia Dunn, behavioral health specialist at Gundersen Health System.

PTSD affected Page in a way he didn't think was possible and he says he can't ever go back to being an officer.

"I had a lack of training. I didn't get the training I needed to deal with the traumas that I had," he said.

But he wants people to know there's good and bad in every profession and those split second decisions don't come easy.

"It's not a decision any cop takes lightly, any *good* cop takes lightly, it's not something any good cop wants to do," he said.

And he wants those with PTSD to remember one thing:

"What happens to you and not what's wrong with you."

Page also wants people to remember that seeking help is not a sign of weakness.

He says he's taking his PTSD as an opportunity to help others who may be going through the same thing.

His biggest advice to people is to accept what happened, to write down everything and to keep a good circle of friends.

He's now working on trying to start a PTSD panel in La Crosse and hopes to move forward with it soon.


 


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