Suicide prevented. Army Veteran thanks Dublin VA nurses and police

“You guys saved my life”


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When Emergency Department nurse practitioner Kristin Horton logged in on April 24, she found a message from Ashton Ridings, a former U.S. Army Ranger, who required emergency intervention on April 17.

The first line of the letter read, “You guys saved my life.”

“My night terrors left me with three or four sleepless nights and knew I needed help now,” Ridings said. “I was overwhelmed, my PTSD hit me hard and this time I couldn’t run or work it off. I felt like suicide was my only option, so I planned it out step-by-step.”

Ridings made up his mind that he was going to die by suicide if he couldn’t find help immediately. He called the Veterans Crisis Line and then the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center. Ridings thought enrolling into a PTSD program at the medical center would be a step in the right direction.

The Veterans Crisis Line contacted the Dublin VAMC Emergency Department informing the staff that Ridings, who was suffering from severe PTSD, would be coming in some time that day.

“As soon as I walked into Dublin VA, I was immediately admitted to Urgent Care where I was treated by a nurse practitioner,” Ridings said. “She knew that I needed help, was determined to provide whatever care I required, and that I couldn’t leave the medical center.”

Horton and Dublin VAMC Urgent Care Nurse Adrienne Warnock, RN, treated Ridings during his stay at Dublin VAMC.

“I’ve been in the medical field for a decade, a provider for almost four years, and this was the most heart-wrenching case I’ve experienced,” Horton said. “My heart felt so heavy for him and his wife, and I wanted to help so bad, but I didn’t feel like I was reaching him.”

Horton saw the situation escalating and decided that Ridings was going to be involuntarily admitted for his safety. When an involuntary admission is ordered, VA police are notified. Moments later, Sergeant Lang, and officers Malone, Campbell, and Howard arrived at the emergency department. Typically, the presence of law enforcement would aggravate a volatile situation, but that was not the case.

Two women standing together

Carl Vinson VAMC Urgent Care Nurses Kristin Horton, (left) and Adrienne Warnock

Dublin VA Police Officer and Marine Corps Veteran Mickey Malone developed a rapport with Ridings by sharing his military background.

“Most of our police officers are Veterans and that goes a long way when interacting with patients when we are called,” Malone said. “I sat with Ridings by his bed when he agreed to treatment.”

When the time came for Ridings to receive in-patient treatment, his only condition was to be escorted by Officer Malone.

“I was only too happy to help,” Malone said.

Veterans Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255

Suicide is not inevitable when someone is struggling. Recovery is possible and there is hope. If you are a Veteran in crisis or know someone in crisis, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1). That call may save someone’s life – perhaps even your own.


JW Huckfeldt is a public affairs specialist at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, Dublin, GA

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Juan Carlos Sr.    

    Typing an actual reply with a real name and E-mail address is useless and may be dangerous to any benefits you may be receiving. Anything you write that criticizes the administration and it’s direct report The VA will be taken as a personal criticism and steps will be take to punish you. If you haven’t noticed what happens to any citizen who speaks out on Administration policy, you must be blind and deaf. The Administration has no interest in learning or improving from these comments, revenge and discretization will be the goal of their response. And as they can easily cut off or reduce your benefits, thereby effectively putting you and yours on the street and homeless, you would be a fool to trust them.
    (Signed) a Viet-Nam Vet with many years professional service to Veterans of all Eras.

  2. Rob    

    I am a 20 year retired ssg and i believe its a connection problem. I had so much it got overwhelming and one day… The main problem is connection. During my recovery i was in a Warrior Transition Battalion and my primary focus daily was recovery. But hearing so many professionals, being told so many statistics made me “a number”. I talked to other veterans who’d experienced my overwhelm, shame, hopelessness. Eventually thats how i got back on track. I then got a job (while on AD) in the WTB as cadre. Veterans injured in combat for example were more comfortable talking to me, a combat veteran who’d overcome their own demonic situation. To them (just like me) it was a soldier wanting to help another soldier and that is the strongest camaraderie there is! The military builds confidence among each other and the trust is built with someone who relates and listens! Stop these statistics, writing your books and published studies makes us think you want “our stories and experiences” to line your pockets with $ and build a name. Stop being fake with your certificates from all these universities. If you havent experienced it then dont try to understand by making us relive! We go thru these programs which end up bringing the nightmares stronger or the ptsd anxiety triggers more often and then suddenly “youve faced it, youre cured”. But what happens, we are discharged from a system and not maintained. Im not a salesman or anything, but on a call to veterans try TRUE non profit organizations. Ive had great success with Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and another is Combat Wounded Veterans of America (CWVA). These type organizations have events where vets can sign up by a representative and then sit in a corner if he/she chooses or connect with other wounded warriors or combat veterans. Thats who we want to be around, talk to. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Guardsman, i believe we may open up to fellow comrades before drs and focus groups… Just An Opinion. As i said, 20 year retired ssg, somalia and x2 iraq tours, recovered from 2 ischemic strokes (while on AD) and had to fight against being medically discharged. Situations we can relate with is where its at. Soldiers returned from combat medevac and i was assigned as medevac Liason. Theyd meet me, a uniformed soldier with a combat patch and a combat action badge and sometimes it made them automatically build a connection. Any who didnt connect would usually hear my ordeal of migraine suffering, stroke recovery, medevac from combat and all rolled up into combat ptsd and anxiety. Thats what we need i believe, is veterans understanding other veterans firsthand. If a friend confided me suicidal thoughts first thing i WOULDNT do is call 911 or somewhere. They are trained by people to deal with people. When people finally understand soldiering truely changes you is when we can help or be helped. When dr iskabibble has been in the foxhole on perimeter guard for 18 hours at my shoulder and had 3 hours sleep before his next 18 hour shift is the tip of trust and camaraderie! There is no bond like that of a veteran, but each war experience is different due to combat tactics. Match suffering veterans with veterans of that era to help. As a somalia vet i couldnt relate to a ww1 veteran so id stay withdrawn. Bring around a Bosnia vet and the holy war tactics the country itself used would help bridge. Again, i was a SSN for 20 years, stop continuing to call me 22 and recognize me for me. Put down your notebooks and phones and tablets and computers and recorders AND LISTEN TO US. Even if its been a good month, my dr listens to me. A bad month and he gives me his undivided attention. Thats how you help i believe. To quote a great man “THATS THE BOTTOM LINE”…

  3. Cynthia Meyer    

    This is wonderful to read. God speed Mr. Ridings and the team that was willing ready and able. Usually, time is of the essence and you all exceeded all measures of care. Mr. Ridings, this made my day. I work as an LPN in the VA and it inspires me more and more to help my veterans where ever and what ever they are facing. Thanks.

    1. Elaine Guitard    

      What works for one person, doesn’t work for another. PTSD or PTSD fallout, is triggered by other tragedies or underlying illness. Getting help right away, for Talk Therapy is the only approach. However much time consuming, for processing trauma. Before medications, inpatient care, and a wake of hurt loved ones become the evidence for an invisible disability. Addictions, childhood trauma, and chemical imbalance is a deep rooted and different matter to be addressed entirely.

  4. Riski    

    Why does it happen like this? why can you decide to commit suicide? Is it because there is too much pressure?

  5. Chad Childers    

    Glad to hear that this ranger got the help he needed. I was in 2nd Ranger Battalion myself and suffer from PTSD and TBI . The struggle is real

  6. Janita Mastin    

    Great ending!

    Thank you, Ashton, for serving and I am very grateful you reached out for help and here today to share your story – God Bless you & remember you are never alone. Thank you M.H. Team…

    Former U.S.A.F. Major – Nurse

  7. Danny Lee Warner    

    I’m having a really hard time these past months and having thoughts of harming myself. I read the message today in VA. Oaks news. I. Did contact my VA Psychiatrist and got an appt for 10 July at 1030am but they cancelled it and said the Dr didn’t come in till 11:00 and tried to give me a new appt for late in Aug Aug. I had asked to have refills added. I’m 100 percent disabled suffer from PTSD, Abdominal bleeding, had 2 gastric surgeries, chronic back pain for yes , hospitalized for 2 pneumonia’s. It seems that the Drs are really busy and when you see them they aren’t able to spend much time. I have a great Primary, she’s a Nurse Practioner and does here best

    1. Tony L    

      Hi Danny. I just read this article and then saw your message. It sounds like you’re really struggling and could use some help. It’s very disheartening when people are suffering and can’t seem to find help. The great news is that it is out there. Don’t stop trying. There are people who have such a big heart for you and others in similar places like you. Please call the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, option 1 for vets.

      Wishing you the best brother,

      Tony

  8. Pamela Griffin    

    Thank God he reached out for help. My husband was a Marine and he held everything in from when he was at war. He was lucky he didn’t have PTSD. He died of cancer last July from the contaminated water at Camp Lejune. I miss him so much I lost my husband and best friend. His memorial headstone is at Biloxi Veterans Cemetery.The VA has been very good to me. So please if you think suicide is your only option call someone because tomorrow might just be the best day of your life. My heart and prayers are with all Veterans, please don’t kill yourselves there are a million reasons to live. You’ve already been through the hardest part, now it’s just going to get better. Hang in there we’re all rooting for you and more people care about you than you think. Pam

    1. Donny    

      Dead Veterans don’t need benefits. The current top level administration (2019) welcomes the suicide rate and will encourage escalation. Your current doctors, nurses and therapists are mortified with what is happening within the VA. Know your enemy. It’s not the great people you interact with at the hospitals, it’s the people we vote for to advocate for us.
      Veterans currently receiving benefits and compensation will be challenged at every level and will be decreased drastically and eventually eliminated from the VA rolls. Unless you know someone within the system you are no longer be economically viable no matter what sacrifice you made for your country.
      You have no rights, you have no voice…unless you wake up and vote.

  9. Jacqueline Burow    

    It’s so nice to read about a positive outcome after the serious challenges Ridings faced. I read, so often, about delays and bureaucracy interfering with the care that people need when they finally find the strength to seek help. It is also great to hear about caring individuals like officer Malone taking a genuine interest in this fragile community.

  10. Val McLeod    

    GOD bless you Mr. Ridings and the nurses that met you at the point of your need. Sadly too many Veterans {btw: one is too many} are having a different experience. Tragically six days after your life was saved, Navy Veteran, Gary Pressly could no longer endure the “fight” of trying to get the help he so desperately needed and rightly deserved. https://www.13wmaz.com/article/news/national/military-news/you-are-not-invisible-organization-aims-to-help-vets-struggling-with-their-mental-health/93-40362452-f9f2-413d-866d-1b7ef0d6beee

    Veterans and military families are our greatest national treasure and thank GOD for care providers like Kristin Horton. Let’s keep standing up so our heroes won’t give up! #VetsLivesMatterNow #MarchForOurVets2020 #ValULifeMore

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