CAF Story | PTSD – Invisible Wounds

Lieutenant-Colonel Rhonda Lee Crew

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And so, I walked into my boss’s office and I was terrified. I swear, I was shaking like a leaf. And I said: “Sir, I need to talk to you.” And he goes: “Well, I’ve

got, you know…” And I said: “No, I need – I need to talk to you.”

There were a lot of things through my career that kind of added up: trauma nursing, MedEvac. You know, it all adds up.

My name is Lieutenant-Colonel Rhonda Lee Crew, I am a nursing officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Initially, when I was first deployed to Bosnia, I was the victim of a sexual assault.

It never crossed my mind that this was something that would happen to me.

I did come forward immediately that night and I was believed from the start. He was actually put on a plane that same day and sent home. And since their country was one that didn’t see this as a true crime, I asked that NATO put a sanction on them or put a note on their file that they can’t ever deploy with NATO or United Forces again. I was told that that happened and over the next week, I had no less than ten girls come up to me who had been sexually assaulted by the same individual. And they thanked me for coming forward.

When we bring into Afghanistan, seeing people with catastrophic injuries that you just can’t imagine, and feeling that the lives of these folks are so much depending on you. Even though I had a positive demeanor on the outside, it was almost a “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude.

I met my husband in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, in 2006. We became a couple almost immediately. We hit it off right away. And in 2009, there had been an accident. They weren’t actually sure if Duane was going to live. He did have a head injury. He has continued to deteriorate daily almost. It’s shocking when you see it.

That was very difficult for me. I really was going down a bad path for me health-wise. And I started focusing more on the loses. And so, I walked into my boss’s office and I was terrified. We sat down and we talked and I explained that I had a post-traumatic stress disorder.

As a senior leader within the Canadian Forces and the most senior nurse, perhaps I can help other people to feel comfortable about coming forward.

When I got accepted in the Invictus Games, I said to myself: Well, this is gonna be the year of Rhonda. You are just gonna pull yourself up, you’re gonna sort yourself out because how am I gonna be able to look after Duane if I don’t look after myself?

So, I got on the bike and I started cycling and cycling and cycling and I started running. I don’t expect to win a medal and I don’t expect to do really, really well. I’m not even sure if I’ll qualify to run in the final races. But I’m motivated to do the things that are healthy for me.

I get to see people, some of whom I actually provided care for in those trauma days, overcoming their injuries and illnesses. Not just surviving, but actually thriving and making the best of their life and using sport as a way to recover.

That’s what the Games are about. It’s about getting to the start line and not giving up.

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