DUBLIN — When Emergency Department Nurse Practitioner Kristin Horton logged into her LinkedIn account April 24, she found a message from Ashton Ridings, a former U.S. Army Ranger, who required emergency intervention on April 17. The first line of the letter read, “You guys saved my life.”

“My night terrors left me with three or four sleepless nights, and knew I needed help now,” Ridings said. “I was overwhelmed, my (post-traumatic stress disorder) hit me hard, and this time I couldn’t run or work it off. I felt like suicide was my only option, so I planned it out step-by-step.”

Ridings made up his mind that he was going to die by suicide if he couldn’t find help immediately. He called the Veterans Crisis Line and finally the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center. Ridings thought enrolling in a PTSD program at the medical center would be a step in the right direction.

The Veterans Crisis Line contacted the Dublin VAMC Emergency Department informing the staff Ridings, who was suffering from severe PTSD, would be presenting sometime that day.

“As soon as I walked into Dublin VA, I was immediately admitted to Urgent Care, where I was treated by a nurse practitioner,” Ridings said. “She knew that I needed help, was determined to provide whatever care I required, and that I couldn’t leave the medical center.”

Horton and Dublin VAMC Urgent Care Nurse Adrienne Warnock treated Ridings during his stay at Dublin VAMC.

“I’ve been in the medical field for a decade, a provider for almost four years, and this was the most heart-wrenching case I’ve experienced,” Horton said. “My heart felt so heavy for him and his wife, and I wanted to help so bad, but I didn’t feel like I was reaching him.”

Horton saw the situation escalating and decided that Ridings was going to be involuntarily admitted for his safety. When an involuntary admission is ordered, VA police are notified. Moments later, three officers arrived at the emergency department. Typically, the presence of law enforcement would aggravate a volatile situation, but that was not the case.

Dublin VA Police Officer and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Mickey Malone developed a rapport with Ridings by sharing his military background.

“Most of our police officers are veterans, and that goes a long way when interacting with patients when we are called,” Malone said. “I sat with Ridings by his bed when he agreed to treatment.”

When the time came for Ridings to receive in-patient treatment, his only condition was to be escorted by Officer Malone.

“I was only too happy to help,” Malone said.

Approximately 20 veterans die by suicide daily. On April 17, that number was reduced to 19 because Ridings had the courage to pick up the phone and call for help. Veterans in crisis — or anyone who knows someone in crisis — can call the Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1). That call may save someone’s life – perhaps even your own.

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