Fireworks cause stress for veterans with PTSD

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the Independence Day holiday approaches–fireworks stands are open and fireworks are already being set off, which some in the metro say they find annoying.

But it’s more than annoying for some military veterans. One local family wants to remind everyone to celebrate responsibly.

Before you set off fireworks, local veterans want to remind you to be respectful, as your celebrations could be triggering some traumatic memories for those with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

“It just sounds like a constant ‘boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,’” said  Wendy and Bob Kiddey, who say the week before July 4th is extremely stressful as Bob, a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with PTSD about 20 years ago.

“I would get a phone call at work because he`d hear a shot go off, and he`d drop to the floor and crawl along the floor thinking he was back in the jungle,” said Wendy.

Bob has nightmares, sweats and says loud noises set him over the edge.

“For people who have Alzheimer’s and PTSD and babies, I can`t even imagine people trying to let their babies sleep around here,” Wendy said.

“Fireworks are unfortunately a fairly common trigger for veterans with combat related post-traumatic stress,” said Thomas Demark, a psychiatrist at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, specializing in PTSD.

Demark says triggers: sights, sounds or smells, can be reminders of combat.

“Even though the veteran can tell himself ‘I’m home, I’m safe, I’m not in combat there anymore,’ there`s a part of the brain when it hears a loud boom, or a loud noise, that acts as a trigger,” said Demark.

He says triggers can spike symptoms, like increased anxiety, panic attacks or flashbacks.

“We don`t try to keep people from having fun, we love for people to have fun, it`s just the fact that it`s constant, and we got a whole week before 4th of July, and he and other people have to suffer and listen to this all week long. It hardly seems fair,” said Wendy.

The Kiddeys say they too love fireworks, but when it’s safe and expected.

“It`s very sad to see how our brothers and sisters who had to fight wars have to come back and can`t even be comfortable in their own homes,” said Wendy.

If you’re setting off fireworks Demark suggests waiting until the fourth, not setting them off at odd hours or near homes, especially if you know there`s a vet living nearby.

Fireworks laws and information by city can be found by clicking on the links below:

MISSOURI:

Belton
Blue Springs
Gladstone
Grandview
Independence
Kansas City
Lee’s Summit
Liberty
Parkville
Raytown
Riverside

KANSAS:

Johnson County
Lawrence
Leavenworth
Lenexa
Merriam
Olathe
Overland Park
Shawnee
Spring Hill
Wyandotte County

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