I have taken for granted for a long time that 374 was not able to perform all duties of a firefighter until now. He has been on the department for two years, but was delayed in getting all his training complete because of his full time work schedule and the lack of classes available at the right time. Since he was not fully certified until a few months ago, he has not been able to pack up and go into an involved building/structure. That was, until Saturday night.
It had been a while since the department has had a call for a structure fire that 374 has been home to run on. He's been on traffic accidents and fertilizer spills, but no big fires. That all changed Saturday night.
I was in the kitchen plating up the kids' dinner. 374 was in the living room talking to my aunt who dropped by for a visit. I made my plate, and sat down at the dinner table. Just as I opened my mouth to ask him if he was coming to eat, his pager went off. Structure fire. He popped up off the couch, and we sent him off with some quick kisses, hugs, and the ever so important "I love you! and "Be careful!" The kids and I have always made sure to do all those things before he leaves the house, no matter how big or small the call. You just never know if something terrible could go wrong.
After we ate, my aunt and I took the kids out into the front yard to play. About an hour had passed since 374 had left. We saw one truck come back to the station for the attic fan and then leave out to the scene again. My aunt and I were chatting on the front porch. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a firefighter coming up the road in his own personal vehicle and thought to myself, "Maybe they are almost done, and will be back at the station soon." Usually the kids and I walk up to the station and they watch and sometimes help with clean up after everyone returns. The truck slowed down in front of my house. We live on a corner lot. The truck stopped at the corner and parked at my house. Then I noticed the chief's car right behind him. My stomach dropped to my feet. My feet grew roots and I couldn't move from the porch.
The assistant chief and the chief's wife (who is a good friend of mine) walked up to my porch. I could tell by their faces they were not coming to report anything positive. With the kids huddled around me, excited for visitors, I tried to keep my cool. They informed me that 374 seemed to have been overheated, and the put him in the ambulance and took him to a local hospital. They assured me it was just a precaution. The chief's wife had come to help out with my kids so I could go to the hospital. My aunt offered to drive me, which was a God send. I was not in any shape to drive myself. My thoughts were everywhere, my hands were shaking and I was fighting back tears. I did not want to scare the kids, the last thing I needed was to be at the hospital with him knowing the kids were a mess at home.
When we got to the hospital, our EMTs were waiting at the doors for me. They explained what they knew, and took me back to his room. I was not prepared for what I saw. He was hooked up to a bunch of wires, and was in the middle of a breathing treatment. He was coughing very badly, and had a lot of pain in his chest. They had given him morphine, which did not even touch the pain he was having. He was also experiencing a very high heart rate, double vision and dizziness.
After a long night in the hospital, it was concluded that not only did he over heat, but he also must have had some insulation or a chemical get passed his air mask that irritated his lungs. We were sent home with orders to stay off work and fire calls until Tuesday night, and to use an inhaler they provided him with.
He feels a lot better now. He was pretty sore for a few days after, and has had to use the inhaler a few times the last few days. But he's home. He's safe, and we are thankful.
I knew being a firefighter's wife came with its risks. I try not to think about them. I do get nervous when he goes out on a call, there are so many things that could go wrong. If I worry about those things all the time, I'd never be able to deal with this lifestyle. I try to stay busy while he's gone. I use the opportunity to get some cleaning done, or the kids and I find something to do outside. If it's the middle of the night, I usually pull the scanner in the room and listen to it until I fall back asleep if they are out for a long time.
I just really wasn't prepared to see those cars pull up to my house. Sunday afternoon my hands were STILL shaking. I find myself reliving that moment when I realized why those cars were here. I am so thankful that he's okay. While the situation was a serious one, it could have been much worse. The fact that he could not come home from saving someone's house, pulling someone from a car on the side of a road, or being involved in a vehicle accident while on the way to the scene is all very real. Much more real now. I will continue to make sure those kisses and hugs and I love you's are exchanged. I will hold on just a second or two tighter now. I will watch him run off to his car a little prouder now. I love my fireman.