Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Sadness of Coincidences

I've been writing this blog plus another for several years now. I don't write every day or every week, and usually, not every month. But as it turns out, I'm writing this post one month after my last. So, what would bring me to this point?

Some of you may know that under our Twitter handle of @DalmatProd. All too often, my Tweets begin with the hash-tag, #LODD (Line Of Duty Death). I send out the info only upon confirmation of the loss and it includes the person's name, age, department, date of last alarm, and a compressed URL with details of the notice.

Sadly, all four of the line-of-duty-deaths that have occurred over the past five days have been health-related. No one died while battling a massive blaze; no one died in a collapse. Apparently, all four of our brothers were lost due to medical causes. And this is exactly what I wrote about in last month's column. For goodness sakes, just a month or so ago, we lost a firefighter who was 22 years old, to a health-related cause. 

Last week I was watching, "The View," and actor Kevin Sorbo, who used to play Hercules in a show of the same name, was appearing as a guest host. And during his segment, he mentioned that near the end of the show's sixth season, he suffered  several small strokes, due to a ruptured aneurism near his shoulder. He talked about having to relearn to coordinate his motor skills so he could walk again and speech therapy to help him re-tune his speaking ability. He considers himself one lucky guy and has even written a book about what he has been through, "True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal & How Nearly Dying Saved My Life."

For at least a decade many of us connected with fire-rescue and EMS, along with many in various specialties of the medical community, have worked hard to promote stroke awareness through the re-phrasing from "stroke," to "brain attack." And the reason is simple. Almost everyone older than 13 knows a little about the symptoms of a "heart attack." However, ask them, "What is a stroke?" and many will be lost. However, most of the time, a stroke is exactly the same medical occurrence as a heart attack, except that it happens in the brain, to wit, a blockage of blood flow to the organ. 

Now in Sorbo's case, his stroke was caused by an rupture in an artery near his shoulder. When the artery ruptures, it allows blood to escape its normal path. When that happens, the blood cells don't have the "flow" behind them to push them along. The cells start to "crowd up" and eventually, like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill, a mass of these loose cells get sucked up back into the blood vessel. The problem is that the vessel is built to handle a certain size cell, the like lanes on a highway. When this "clump" of cells re-enter the vessel, the clump is too big for the vessel and stops it up, like your bathroom seek. That stoppage, interferes with the blood flow the brain needs and BANGO! you have a "brain attack!"

While aneurisms can occur on their own due to a weakness in the blood vessel's walls, they are often the by-product of HTN or "hypertension," which we know is a curable and preventable medical condition. You can't walk into most supermarkets or pharmacies and not see one of the blood pressure machines. While they are not always the most accurate readings, they can provide you with a range that you may want to advise your doctor of. Additionally, brain-attacks are often a sign of CAD (Coronary Artery Disease). But all too often, people often relate CAD to heart disease, not brain disease. 

Worst of all, too many of us, male and female alike, still suffer from this "macho" image that we are invincible and that the only danger to us is on the fireground. Do you still fight a fully-involved car fire without wearing SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus)? Or a dark, smoke-charged 2nd story window  of an apartment building? Why are you willing to take care of yourself on the fireground, but fail to care enough about your health to do so off the fireground?

If you have a family, do you make sure your kids get their shots? Take their vitamins? Do you call the doctor if their running a fever and complaining about ear pain? If so, why? Because you want the best for your children, the best for your family. Are you not a member of that same family? Are you not one of its very leaders? Then don't you owe yourself the very same diligence for your own health that you demand for your significant other and children!

It's time for us to put on our "big-boy" pants and schedule a visit with your family doctor or the department surgeon. Find out what your blood pressure is; learn what your total cholesterol is and if you need to change your food and alcohol intake, as well as salt, exercise, etc. to get it under control. If you are already on blood pressure or cholesterol meds, you owe to yourself, your family, and your colleagues, to do what you need to do to clean up your physical act and get as healthy as you can!

I never want send a Tweet about you!