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Monday, Sep 22, 2014
Commentary

‘My life was nearly stolen from me’

Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published:

Sadly, there are many more victims of the Boston Marathon atrocities than readily apparent. Although those who were uninjured are extremely fortunate, they too are victims and may not realize it.

One need not be seriously injured in order to feel the terrible effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or “Survivor’s Guilt.” Simply having been at the event and feeling the emotional stress created by one’s compassion for those killed or wounded can cause this. There is deep sorrow for their families and, of course, the children.

The human mind is very complex. It is resilient, yet fragile. Those who at one moment are so thankful that they or their loved ones were not hurt could next be filled with severe anxiety, anger, fear and depression. They should be happy, right, and not depressed? All I can say is that these emotions are real and understandable, and those affected (which will be many) should seek the guidance of a professional with experience in treating PTSD. Take comfort in knowing you are not alone, and you are not weak.

Fourteen years ago to the day, I too narrowly escaped death. At 10:30 p.m. in the parking garage where I park every day, a man put a knife to my throat as I was getting into my car. He not so politely asked for my wallet, which I handed over. The next thing I knew, I was dodging the blade of a hunting knife. Unfortunately, I was sitting in my car, which put me at a significant disadvantage.

The first wound happened when he tried to stab me in my eye. I caught the knife. I was able to push it away, but the blade went completely through my hand. The scar aches to this day. I blocked another attempt to stab me in the face. That wound went to the bone in my forearm. He slashed at me a few more times. I was successful in blocking most of them. I say most because I ended up with eight significant entry wounds.

I asked the assailant if I could go now. Then, like a slow motion scene out of “The Matrix,” he came around with a wide sweeping motion. I dove back across the seat and pushed the knife away. Then he was gone.

I grabbed at my throat, expecting gushing blood. There was blood, but it turned out to be a four-inch long paper cut. Somehow I managed to survive.

My would-be murderer got $20 and my cellphone, which he used to call known crack dealers outside of downtown. He dropped the Waterman pen my sister gave me for my college graduation. The watch my parents gave me the previous Valentine’s Day had scrapes from his knife. I still have the watch.

I couldn’t walk for about a month. The wounds healed in a few months. Physical therapy gave me use of my hand again. However, the extreme emotional stress had triggered something in my brain that I spent five years battling. My anger, fear and frustration began to feed on itself, making the situation much worse. Within a few months I was clinically depressed.

It was a long and emotionally painful recovery that over the years I have managed to block out of my mind.

The war is over for me now — although on the anniversary of what I refer to as my second birthday, my hands twitch and my head sometimes shakes for no reason. I am fairly certain that I have developed underlying emotional issues, but I am fortunate to be alive. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and two healthy, happy children.

 My life was nearly stolen from me. My happiness took five years to steal back. The sweet, happy 5-year-old boy who was still in my heart hasn’t been seen since May 5, 1998. Please do not let what happened to me happen to you.

 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real, and its effects can be devastating. One need not have been physically wounded or had a loved one wounded in the Boston attack in order to experience the negative effects created by PTSD. Please be cognizant of your emotions and err on the side of caution when contemplating whether to seek help from a professional. If you are wondering if your emotional strain has led to PTSD, it likely has.

Its important to note that I am a veteran of the U.S. Army. PTSD affects even those who were trained to fight and endure the effects of war.


Rick Narkiewicz, 38, is first vice president at CBRE Industrial Properties in Tampa. He is regarded as one of the top industrial facility brokers in Florida. He is a Florida native and lives in Land O’ Lakes.

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