”…….We Marked RESPONDING….and next thing I knew I was laying in the street with severe back pain…….”
AND THE RESULTS WERE:
“…..If everything goes well, I should be back to work after 12 weeks in a turtle shell brace and 8 weeks of physical therapy…..”
On 08/16/04, at approximately 1750 hours, E-321 was alerted for an emergency local alarm for odor of smoke inside of a dwelling. I put on my turnout gear and proceeded to the officer’s seat of the engine. After placing my helmet on the dashboard, I sat down in the seat, closed my door and called the engine responding. Upon replacing the microphone, I reached my left hand in front of me to complete the buckling of my seatbelt (that I was already holding with my right hand). The driver began to make the left turn out of the station and the next thing I knew is that my door had came ajar due to the centrifugal force. I was hanging from the seatbelt that was still in my right hand while trying to grab the doorframe or door to stop my fall with my left hand. In a matter of seconds instinct kicked in and I realized that I could not stop my fall. I just tried to protect myself. The next thing I knew I was laying in the street with severe back pain. Where is a better place to be thrown out of a fire engine then right in front of the station with the medic unit actually in the quarters.
After a short medicvac flight to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, it was determined that I had sustained a compression fracture of my L-1 vertebrae and a laceration to my right elbow. Lucky is an understatement when describing my accident. I never lost consciousness, I had no neurological deficit, and for the most part I did not have a lot of pain. If everything goes well, I should be back to work after 12 weeks in a turtle shell brace and 8 weeks of physical therapy.
The purpose of me writing this is to remind the brother/sisterhood how complacent we all can get. Unfortunately, I got the reminder the hard way. We all read the statistics, but until we can put a name or face to the statistic do we believe it? I am guilty in the past of thinking I dont need a seatbelt. I am riding in this nice big fire truck. Fire trucks help save people, what can happen to me? This time I just needed another 10 seconds as I was putting my seatbelt on. In those few seconds, someone elses emergency became mine.
I cannot even begin to thank everyone that treated me. From the crews on scene, the Troopers in the helicopter and the hospital staff Thank You! The greatest thing to come from this horrific experience is the outreach from the fire department family. It is beyond words. In my wildest dreams I never thought I might need to rely on someone else to do the simple daily tasks like doing laundry, taking out the trash or cutting the grass. I have had brothers and sisters that I do not even know offer to help. The offers have been from offering rides since I cannot drive, all the way to cleaning my house. Yes, I have a career that I love, but I can proudly say that I am part of the greatest family out there the Fire Department.
Michael B. Weil
Baltimore County Fire Department