You are officially retired is often the most rewarding words you can hear at the end of your career. However, in our profession, the chance of getting injured on the job is high and in some cases ends your career early. That was my case, I was 23 married for 7 months and with a little one on the way. When I responded to a fire call that dramatically changed my life and career.
Well, to make a long story short, the engine was involved in an accident and in that accident I sustained what ended up being a very serious back injury. In fact, one surgeon I seen asked me how I was even walking still. Now, as you can imagine in the fire service walking is key, but lifting quite a bit of weight is also part of the job. Well, the surgeon looked at me and told me news that I never wanted to hear and that was that the career I had trained for and had been involved with for years as a part-time and eventually full-time firefighter paramedic was over.
As you can imagine the shock from the news was definitely not something that I wanted to hear. However, the blow was equally devastating in the fact that my wife was pregnant and we were still within the first year of marriage. Now, the point is how exactly can you cope with the news your career you had worked for years to obtain was over? Well, hopefully you never reach that point in your career, but if you do here are some of the ways that you can cope with the shock of being told that your injury has forced you to leave the career you love.
Now, you may easily think I mean your brothers and sisters at the station as your family support. Yes, it is key to have that support, but the most important support you can have and in helping you transition is the support of your family. It could be your spouse, kids, or in some cases parents. This support is going to show up for you time after time. Not to mention, once you have left the station for the last time, you are going to have your normal crew that will typically check on you, but after a while unless you have some great friends at the station they will stop checking on you.
Brothers And Sisters From The Station
The support you get from your brothers and sisters at the station generally will be quite large. They have a tendency to check on you on a regular basis, make sure you are okay, and help you transition as easily as possible. Now, that typically will wear off, no matter what or the position you held, but the people at the station will tire of checking on you or they get too busy to check. The good news is if you had a partner that you were close with, like your partner in the box for the past 10 years, they tend to check on you because you develop a close friendship. But one key fact remains that over time your name will be forgotten at the station and the number of people checking on you from your old department will become lower and lower.
Find A New Career
This is the hardest part to do if you end up disabled in the career you love. While you may have an injury that is not completely disabling, you may have an injury that prevents you from working in the fire service anymore. Yes, those injuries do happen and one of the fastest ways to get over the loss of your career is to find a new career. The training you get, the co-workers, and the paycheck all will help out, but it will not replace the career you loved. Trust me, you will want to go back and constantly try to think of how you can get back into the trucks, but you need to realize that is not possible.
Hobbies Are Helpful
With most of us in the fire service we already have a hobby that we work on. It could be something from woodworking or even getting a collection of something, like baseball cards. The hobby will definitely give you a return to your normal life that you may be missing at times. The hobby will not replace your career, but it generally allows you to return to a normal part of your life. Now, if the injury prevents you from working at your hobby, then modern technology can help out. The modern cell phones allow you to do anything from making videos, playing games, or arguing with people on social media.
Retirement is often a great milestone to reach when you are in the fire service. However, if you are injured on the job then you may have to retire quite a bit earlier than what you imagined. With that being the case, if you are like me, having this little bit of advice that I learned on the fly from my own injury should help you avoid feeling left out and lost from your career that you loved.
Chris Smith was a career firefighter/paramedic before an injury in 2005 would turn his life upside down. Since the injury he has learned how to live with a disabling injury from the fire service, but also has figured out what works best to help him and hopefully others cope with the loss of a career they loved. Prior to his injury Chris had worked for multiple fire departments in Clermont County and had been involved in the fire service for 10 years after starting off at his local department as a cadet. Chris has a Bachelors degree from the University of Cincinnati in Fire Science and Safety Engineering Technology.