Dave S

First post: May 6, 2022 Latest post: May 15, 2022
Thank you stopping by to read about my journey.  I am 43 year old divorced father of 3 kids (10, 7, and 4).  I have been sober for 4 years and battled back from the brink of depression and PTSD.  I was living my dream of being a Firefighter Paramedic and serving my community.  In August of 2020 I was kicked in the head by a combative patient while rendering emergency meddical care.  I suffered a cervical spine injury that has been causing me pain ever since.  Initially my treatment was covered by the workman comp carrier and I was being treated.  My neurosurgeon requested a second MRI and it was denied.  What once was a dream job quickly turned into a nightmare of me battling to have my health and quality of life restored.  My treatment was stopped in early 2021 as they would not approve more treatment because the insurance carriers IME neurosurgeon after spending 10 minutes with me, after I drove 2.5 hours into downtown Chicago to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, to have him ask me a few questions and have me do some very basic range of motion, balance, and strength testing.  After waiting several more months for his report finding, he determined my symptoms were not related to my work realted injury and that my injury was fully resolved in January of 2021 and no further treatment is needed.  Any guess which medical doctors opinion the insurance carrier went with?  Great guess they choose to accept their hand selected doctors opinion.  I contacted my attorney and he said I think I can get you more treatment but its going to be a battle.  He said if you want to feel better now and not wait you are going have to use your private medical insurance.  Which of course causes a whole host of issues as now my medical carrier is paying for treatment of an injury that should be covered by my employer.  I had the second MRI and had the follow up appointment with my neurosurgeon to review the results.  He said at this point you have two choices, either accept this is your quality of life and deal with the pain and neuropathy, or we can do cervical spine surgery to fix the problem.  I choose to have surgery.  In December of 2021 I finally had cervical spine surgery and was on the road to recovery.  I paid for the surgery and then in 2022 paid for my physical therapy to get myself back to full duty.  I exhausted all of my sick time during this process and recovery from surgery.  I was back on the job working full duty and being very mindful of my physical limitations so early in recovery.  My fire department let me come back to full duty without any medical evaluation , work hardening, or fitness for duty evaluation.  My surgeon released me to full duty without restrictions and that was all they needed.  Having been back on the rig for under 2 months since my return to work, there was talk going around the firehouse about the upcoming VEIS training at a neighboring departments training tower.  Many people were worried about injuries as this is a high risk training and the training tower is not designed to normal building standards which made the training even more dangerous.  Some people called in sick or used time off to avoid going to the drill.  I arrived to work Monday morning April 25 and new that there was going to be training all week at the tower doing VEIS.  My battalion chief informed me that the Deputy Chief of Operations the second in command of the fire department had called and told the BC that I was short on facility training hours for ISO accredidation and had to be sent to the tower for VEIS training.  I expressed my concerns over my safety to the BC and he said told me to not do any of the interior work during VEIS because it wasn't worth the risk and the training hours would count and the goal would be achieved.  I reported to the drill tower and spoke with the Captain who was in charge of the training that day about my discussion with the BC and that he ordered me not to do any interior work and remain exterior only to protect myself from unnecessary risk.  The captain said "You are cleared for full duty without restrictions, right?", I confirmed I was but also stated I didn't feel it was safe or worth the risk for me do this evolution in training.  Captain then asked "Dave what rig are you on?", I said I am not sure what you are asking but my pirmary rig is the Squad but today I was driven to the drill site with the truck company because they had room in their rig. He said thats right "You are on the squad! The squad is tasked with search and rescue at fires.  You are going to be doing this drill and there will be no special treatment for you.".  I avoid making entry the first evolution because my partner was a fellow member of my squad company and he refused to let me make entry and put myself at risk.  The captain took note of that and the next evolution split us apart and assigned me to work with a different group of firefighters and made it clear I was going to be doing the search.  That likely proved to be the decision that has ended my fire service career forever.  I end up falling head first like a lawn dart from 4 feet in the air towards a concrete floor in a room filled with smoke and very limited visibility.  Thankfully at the last second I was able to get my right arm in front of me to absorb the force of the impact and protect my head/neck from taking the direct force potentially killing me.  I am not on restricted duty unable to work pending consults with an orthopedic shoulder surgeon and my neurosurgeon.  

There is so much more to this story and I will use this platform to share my story with my friends, family and anyone else interested.  This situation has put my livelyhood at risk and tranformed me into a man on a mission of healing, and seeing all that conspired to give me a "CODE RED", you know like in the movie a Few Good Men.  The captain is the marines whose carried out the "CODE RED" and I honestly believe he was ordered to teach me a lesson by the Deputy Chief of Operations.  Why did I deserve to be taught a lesson?  Because in the summer of 2021 I requested a transfer from my assignment at the Squad to an engine company due to a hostile work environment created and fostered by the Deputy Chief of Operations hand picked choice for Battalion Chief.  The Deputy Chief and Battalion Chief turned that request for transfer into a civil rights violation nightmare.  The Deputy Chief of Administration brought the situation to the attention of the Chief of the Department.  Stick around if you want to hear more.