By NICOLA CUTHBERTSON
It's hard to imagine that just the day before I spoke to her, Danielle Purcell was reduced to tears and overwhelming depression, even harder still to connect the calm, gentle aura she exudes with the image of a war veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Danielle, who as a young woman working in holistic medicine, joined the US Air Force to heal and promote wellness, found her experience of active service in the 1991 Gulf War impacted so much on her own physical and emotional being that she has spent the past 13 years coping with the fallout.
"The adrenaline is very, very high which is probably why the sleeping is non-existent," she said of her period as an Air Evacuation Medic with the 65th Squadron.
"You're just so on the edge, even when you're resting you know you're going to go out again on another crew."
After the war Danielle returned home without any de-briefing on how to cope and found in subsequent years, that she was deteriorating physically and emotionally.
"I didn't know what was happening to me, I had a miscarriage, I noticed rashes, digestive problems, if something dropped in the kitchen I would just jump," she said.
It was when Danielle's marriage fell apart that she made the decision to try and heal herself by coming to the Byron Shire to do yoga for nine months.
Here in 1999, she found out about 'Gulf War Syndrome' and received the support of the Lismore Vietnam Veterans Affairs through meeting Vietnam veteran, Don Goetz.
"I was given refuge by meeting Don," she said.
"He asked me if I was being looked after, if I had a pension, he introduced me to the Lismore VA, who took me in and gave me counselling despite the fact that I had no money and was not a resident."
This support combined with yoga and Danielle's 'spa living' approach to life helps her maintain a quality of existence she feels she would find harder to find outside of the Byron Shire.
Yesterday when she received yet another refusal from the US government to compensate her more than the 30 per cent entitlement she receives for an unknown substance in her bone marrow, the temptation to descend into despair was overwhelming.
Luckily Don was there as veteran support.
Danielle says that since the war, peace is something essential for her to live.
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