New patient program helps firefighter after traumatic experience

FRESNO, Calif. -- Pat Scanlon served as a firefighter for 28 years. One fire almost destroyed his life.

"I encountered a young woman and a little girl and the young woman said four words to me: 'he's still in there,'" Scanlon said.

Scanlon searched frantically, but ran out of air and had to retreat. Inspectors scoured the building and found the remains of a three-year-old child.

"All I could think about was this child and this fire, and it was happening over and over and over," Scanlon said.

Scanlon sought help from UCF Restores, a clinical research center for active duty military, veterans, first responders and other survivors of trauma. Therapists use exposure therapy with virtual reality, motions, sounds and smells.

"So smells that are associated with trauma are very intense and they're very emotional smells," says Deborah Beidel, Director of UCF Restores.

Pat did their three-week intensive outpatient program, with at least three sessions a day, five days a week.

"As my three weeks progressed, my stress levels went down considerably and I can talk about it today," Scanlon said.