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Post Traumatic Stress: Tsunami Survivor – Fran’s Story

On Christmas Day 2004, my husband and I together with our four children set off to Phuket, Thailand for a family holiday.

We arrived in the afternoon on Christmas Day. We checked into our hotel, the Patong Beach Hotel,  unpacked and made one quick phonecall, prior to setting off to enjoy the busy streets of Phuket.

My husband and I had been to Phuket many times and had become close friends with a Thai family on our previous visits. Now we had brought our four children with us to meet this family.  We had talked about doing this for a number of years. The phonecall had been to this Thai man.  We had made arrangements to meet him the following day, being Boxing Day, in the afternoon.

The next morning I was woken by a strange movement of our bed shaking, I had a very eerie feeling. My husband was also woken by this movement. We decided to ring our Thai friend and ask if he would like to meet us in the morning instead of the afternoon. He agreed.  We woke all the children and told them to quickly get dressed, as the plans had changed. We went down for breakfast, without our money or personnel belongings, and within 30 minutes, our Thai friend arrived albeit a little early. We thought we would just be saying hello, and then meet up again for our evening meal with him and his family, but he insisted we get in his car and take us for a drive. The children hesitated as they had no money with them or even any shoes on.  I quickly replied “Don’t worry, we will only be gone for a little while, so let’s go.”

Our friend was a taxi driver and owned a tut tut which is like an enclosed small ute.  He took us out of the busy Patong strip, to a quieter location at another beach.

We stopped at a small village restaurant where we all got out and sat down. We ordered a drink each and started to catch up with our good friend.

Before long there was noise, then screaming. It was getting louder. We looked up to see people running. We had no idea what was happening, we stood up to have a look, and to ask people what was all the commotion.  Someone yelled “Run, big water.” As we looked towards the road to the left of us, to our horror it was a wall of dirty water, filled with cars debris and bodies coming our way. We ran to the car which was parked on a slight hill, which gave us enough time to run so the water would slow down. As we sat in the back of the tut tut, safe we watched behind us as the wave took many lives.

It was the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

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Stay tuned for the next post where Fran shares the impact of PTSD on her own life and how she has overcome it.

Have you or anyone you know suffered from PTSD?  [Share your thoughts by commenting here.]

for Part 2 – go here