What a day! It’s Saturday. In case you’re curious, the wonderful folks who put out the CLM wait patiently each weekend for everything to come trailing in through email and web submissions and then they get it ready for Monday morning release. Even though I would like to get my message typed up on Friday, it’s invariably Saturday. This time, it’s a Saturday with me flying to New Orleans to attend the ASCIA meeting that starts Monday and I am coming in early to visit with my Coast Guard son. I truly thought that I would write my message while I sat in the airport at my layover.

Well you know what they say about “best laid plans.” The first flight landed and I gathered all of my stuff and waited to deplane. To make a long story short, I went to move the aisle seat armrest upward so I could get out more easily with my backpack. It wasn’t the usual button. It was a finger sized hole and my finger went right on in and there it stuck; seriously stuck. Embarrassing, especially as everyone else on the plane had to pass by me as they exited. After 45 minutes, I did finally get loose with my finger intact, bruised and still numb even now hours later, but intact. It took the assistance of the flight crew, the plane mechanical staff, the fire department, and an EMS unit. Sigh. While stuck in my seat and trying not to panic about my increasingly painful situation there were 12 folks trying every which way to get that finger unstuck. The EMT sat across from me where he could keep an eye on me in case I passed out or something and/or to respond if they accidentally sliced my finger off. He asked what I do for a living. I’m a Crime Lab Director and you all know how that conversation goes on from there. He turned the conversation from there to the vicarious trauma conversation and self care. He was more worried about what we encounter daily, weekly, annually than what he and other EMTs see. We talked about working plane crashes and it brought tears to my eyes remembering the Comair 5191 crash of 2006 in Lexington, KY. It has been 15 years and it still choked me up. Noting my teary eyes, and making sure it’s not the pain which is significantly increasing in my finger, he told me that WE have to take care of ourselves or WE lose our ability to help others. He had a captive audience and it was a great conversation to distract me. My thoughts shifted to a colleague from the Miami, FL area who made comments last week on a conference call about dealing emotionally with the condominium collapse. I remember thinking how horrible it would be if the condo disaster indirectly caused a great Lab Director to leave her job and how horrible that would be to the Miami area and our ASCLD community. It would be a true loss. The departure of any of us due to the stress of what we deal with is avoidable. Please, please, please… take care of your emotional health and that of your staff. Crime Lab and CSI careers may be something that people think are fascinating but the job does affect you. Asking for help is required. Reach out. We are here. I am here. Laura.Sudkamp@ky.gov

So after the finger stuck in an armrest hole “thing” was over, the message I want to share with you is what that EMT shared with me. What we do each and everyday is stressful. Some events will always stick with you but many of the smaller exposures add up to something larger. Take care of yourself. You are needed. (And never ever ever put your finger in the hole under the armrest on an airplane!)


Laura Sudkamp
ASCLD President