Stress Syndrome Strikes After Amigo Store Disaster
Jul. 21, 1988
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Stress disorders have afflicted some survivors, medical personnel and rescue workers involved in the deadly collapse of a department store.
Fourteen people were killed and 47 others were injured when The Amigo Store collapsed July 7.
Tamara Cowen, a 35-year-old nurse who supervised a triage center near the store, said she still cannot remember everything she did in the hours after the disaster.
Ms. Cowen identified bodies as they were pulled from the rubble and scheduled doctors and nurses around the clock to treat victims and exhausted rescue workers.
For days afterward, she said, she could not sleep without dreaming she was back at the treatment area, the sound of dump trucks and bulldozers ringing in her ears. She cried, and repeatedly returned to the scene after the rubble had been cleared.
Counselors at Valley Regional Medical Center said Ms. Cowen suffered from ''post-traumatic stress disorder,'' a normal response to such an upsetting experience.
Psychologist Jay Martinez led a counseling session last week at the hospital, where a group of mostly medical professionals expressed their feelings after the disaster. All reported some form of post-traumatic stress, including feelings of irritability, frustration, helplessness and guilt, Martinez said.
Dr. Ralph Jones, another counselor working with disaster survivors, said the stress disorder ''is the same thing many of the Vietnam veterans experienced and are still experiencing.''
Jones said he counseled one woman who is afraid to leave her house, especially if it means going downtown. Other survivors are irritable toward family members or have suppressed emotions altogether.
''The major thing is to get them to talk about it - express their feelings,'' Jones said.
It is important for those affected to revisit the disaster site, accept what happened and move on, Martinez said. For that reason, city officials held a memorial ceremony on the lot once it was cleared.