Last week myself, Kelli Krupa, and Paul Gardner had the privilege of delivering the ILFFPS message to firefighters in MABAS 21 which was hosted by the Chicago Ridge Fire Department. Two weeks prior to this event, I presented the message to the firefighter candidates at the Moraine Valley Fire Academy. My thoughts about those few days will be included in the next team newsletter, but it really got me thinking about the two main reasons we exist as a team.
In the latest in a continuing series of posts, Tom Howard tells us that he was returned to duty after recent cardiac issues. Although he is “cleared” physically, thoughts still tumble around in his head as to what’s next.
If you haven’t been following, I had developed what I called a “feeling” in my chest at a recent fire. In all honesty was chest pressure. I hesitate to call it that, after all I’m 49 not 69. Anyway, its official, I have returned to work full duty with no restrictions. That’s what the paper from the doctor says, with the added bonus from the city doctor that it was not duty related. According to my cardiologist when I am under a severe physical load the arteries around my heart go into a spasm causing the pressure and the feeling of fatigue. I cannot duplicate this on a stress test as it’s just not stressful enough. I think it is important for us to really understand that the stress levels we encounter cannot be duplicated outside of doing what each of us, as firefighters, are prepared to do every day.
When we think about heroes the list is endless: Batman, Robin, Spiderman, Hulk, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, The Justice League of America, and so on. How about sports figures: Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Derrick Jeter, etc. As kids (past and present) our list was endless as to who we wanted to be like, especially if they were a key player in either stopping the bad guys or winning a world championship. Alas, we are all grown up and yet we will still hold on to these fond memories for time and eternity. As first responders, we are often viewed as heroes to this world. This begs the question: Who are the real heroes to the men and women who pin on the badge?
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a new friend and business mentor Dr. Debra Lindh (Owner of Mindful Effect), to co-host on her new Twitter chat with the moniker #MindfulEffect. I connected with Deb through another Twitter chat I participate in (#PTSDChat) when she contacted me to learn more about the Illinois Firefighter Peer Support team. We had an awesome phone conversation where I then accepted the offer to co-host the inaugural chat. Fellow team member and Peer Coordinator Andy Perry also participated in this chat after he learned about it through a blast email sent by Josh.
The next day, I sent Andy an email thanking him for participating in the chat to help further educate the masses about behavioral health issues. Andy wrote back and said that the healing effect of helping (peer supporting) fellow firefighters is in and of itself a paradox. Andy, not only is this a paradox, but also a very cathartic (cleansing) experience as well. I said this once before: the more you tell your story, the easier it becomes. Tom Howard has recently answered this call to action.
In my personal experience as a peer supporter, I have seen and heard the relief (in the eyes and voices) of a brother or sister in need when they realize that someone else out there just like them, has felt the same raw emotions of this career. Today (9/3/15), I was bestowed another God-given opportunity to cleanse the echoes of my mind when I participated (along with several other members of the team) in the filming of a video about our group. I was asked to tell my story, how I am healing, and what involvement in ILFFPS means to me. I held it together up until the very end when I talked about my best friend in the whole, wide, world: my wife Judy who rode the rollercoaster of PTSD emotions with me for over 16 years. A lesser person would have walked away from this, yet she did not. My love for her grows stronger with each passing day as I am still in awe of her courage to face this head on.
The paradox that Andy spoke can be simply stated as this: we are given the gift to help others in need and at the same time, heal from our own wounds. How great is that!!! My new friend Dr. Deb, in a recent tweet, captured the essence and mission of what ILFFPS is all about and I quote: “Peer to peer support provides mentoring & positive role models on the journey of healing & recovery.” I leave you with the latest installment from the Zac Brown Band that eloquently states the key ingredient needed for both the success of our team, and personal growth as individuals. Enjoy.
Stay safe and be well,
In this latest of a continuing series of blog posts, Tom Howard shares the results of his angiogram. While he should be elated by the good news, Tom still has doubts and wonders what is truly going on with him from both a physical and professional standpoint.
So I survived my angiogram.I know that it’s a big deal to think about how they take a camera and look at your arteries from the inside but I really felt as though it was no different than going to the dentist.Kind of weird but really it is what they do all day.So now I know I have no blockages around my heart.Great news, right?Well yes it is but at the same time it leaves me wondering what is going on.I had felt this tightness on three different occasions, I know something isn’t right and now I am right where I started, not knowing.