Here’s a secret about me – but don’t tell anyone: I’m super afraid of blood. And needles. Getting a blood test is torture for me. Really, I need someone holding my hand. My whole body shakes and I laugh uncontrollably, like a madwoman. Sometimes I’ve even fainted. 

So imagine my face when Catherine started talking about “catastrophical bleeding” at the HEFAT training. The moment I heard “simulation” my heart fell on my feet. I’ve reported from post-conflict countries, dangerous neighborhoods, isolated villages, but I’ve been lucky enough to avoid car accidents and other bloody-friendly scenarios, so I really did not know how I would react in front of a serious injury, squirting blood in all directions. And that scared me.

The trainers repeatedly requested if anyone had any issues or past experiences they wanted to share, but it felt shameful to talk about how I have sometimes even fainted during a blood test. Hey, we’re all #badassfemalejournos here, right? During a lunch break, I briefly mentioned to Catherine I was quite afraid of blood, and she just said, “You’ll be fine.” I wasn’t so sure.

But then we went through our casualty assessment in class, coded as “DRCABCDE” (Danger, Response, Catastrophic Bleed, Airways, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Examination), learning how to follow it step by step and how to act on each of them. When it was time for the simulation, having that list in my head made all the difference. 

I thought I would be overwhelmed by the explosion scene – the noise, the people laying on the ground shouting, the blood squirting – but all I had in my head was “DRCABCDE.” I knew exactly what to do, what to ask, how to react depending on the casualty’s response, and that made me calm, it gave me confidence. 

I actually ended up “caring” for one of the most impressive wounds in the simulation, a guy who had lost the lower part of one leg in the explosion. Of course it was fake blood and he was just folding his leg behind him, but still, I felt more confident that, if something similar happens one day, I’ll just go back to “DRCABCDE.”