Eve Bucca lost her husband, New York City fire marshal and 23-year veteran of the FDNY Ronald Bucca, in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. And while she certainly grieved, the tragedy started her on a project that she now says she has a "moral obligation" to finish.
"When 9/11 occurred, so many people reached out," said Bucca on a recent rainy morning at Friends of Firefighters in Red Hook. "I feel it's important to give back."
And give back, she has. After a series of personal hardships, including the loss of her husband, father and father-in-law, Bucca turned to biofeedback. Bucca, a nurse, said it gave her the power deal with her loss in a positive way.
"I really credit biofeedback in helping keep me as balanced as I am," she said.
Biofeedback is a treatment technique in which people are trained to improve their health by trusting and understanding signals from their own bodies. Psychologists use it to help anxious patients learn to relax and specialists in many different fields use it to help their patients cope with pain and stress.
Bucca also used biofeedback when she was a nurse, and found it to be successful. She then thought why not apply this technique to first responders, firefighters and people in the military, as a way to train them to deal with tense situations? By using biofeedback techniques, she said, uniformed people who are constantly dealing with fear, fires, confined spaces and stress, can learn to take control of their bodies.
"With biofeedback, you the person, are ultimately the one who heals yourself," she said.
And so Bucca got involved with deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other related trauma-induced issues.
Bucca, through the organization Health and Performance International, introduced a biofeedback pod, an enclosed capsule-shaped pod big enough for a human to sit in, to Friends of Firefighters this summer. She funds the rental of the pod.
"The biofeedback pod is a great addition to the wellness services we offer here at Friends of Firefighters," said Friends of Firefighters Executive Director Nancy Carbone. "We're so grateful to Eve for her continuous support, and for helping us offer this unique stress relief tool to the firefighters and their families."
Inside the pod are sensors that monitor heart and breathing rates, and a computer with games that are played, or controlled, by breathing techniques and mind power. The idea, Bucca says, is to learn to control your breathing and your heart rate, in order to achieve control over your body.
"By putting your body and your mind in this optimal state, you allow your body to heal itself, to repair itself," she said. "Biofeedback helps people when they're under stress."
Bucca says the pod is an essential tool. It was initially created, she said, for race car drivers who are in confined spaces, moving quickly under high stress levels. Her goal, she says, is for biofeedback to be used for all first responders, police, EMS and people in the military.
"These people experience trauma in a way the general public does not," she said. "It's tremendous wear and tear on your psyche and your body."
A handful of firefighters have used the pod at Friends of Firefighters, and are working with Bucca and others to determine how best to use it for first responders.
"Those who have participated have said it's been really helpful," said Bucca, who added that a great benefit to biofeedback is that once you've learned how to take control, you're done with the treatment. "It's not an instant fix. You have to train your body. But once you get it, you don't need to keep coming back."
For Bucca, her devotion to the cause comes from a personal desire to help those that worked alongside her husband, and indeed, her whole family.
"I love the fire department. They are my family. My husband, father, grandfather were all FDNY," she said.