Tuesday, February 9, 2016
"Are You Kidding Me!? You Want Me to Do What?"
As firefighters, a lot of folks look at us with a special eye; they often see us a heroes. Most of the time, like the gentle folks that we are, we brush it off saying, "Thanks, but I was just doing my job." However, some of us, actually see our selves as heroes. Big, strong, brawny men; tall, strong and fit women, who climb any ladder, hold onto a powerful and wild firehose and other feats of great prowess. There's almost nothing we won't do. Except one.
We hesitate and often refuse, to take care of ourselves.
Thanks to so many of our great fire service leaders and many of our fire-related organizations, some of us are beginning to not only hear, but listen to their message. Just as we are not impervious to injuries and even death from flames, from smoke and from falls, we are not impervious to the most insidious disease that wreaks it terror on man and animal alike: CANCER. And it doesn't discriminate whether you're career, volunteer or on-call, neither does it matter if you're still on the job or retired.
As of late, there has been a good push for those of us still active on the job, to be more aware of what our PPE looks like. We all remember the each time in our careers that we received brand new PPE, clean beige, clean black, clean mustard-yellow, clean white. Not anymore. It's dirty, grimy, smoky, covered in all types of burnt residual material that very likely contains numerous carcinogens.
All too often, we've used our dirty, grimy, filthy PPE as a badge of courage. We can no longer afford to do that. We must make a real effort to create a set schedule for making sure that our PPE is cleaned to the standards set by both fire and health officials. Good, but that's just one step.
Here's another. Although the American Cancer Society recommends that both men and women have their first colonoscopy at age 50, it might do us well to realize that our chances of developing cancer are greater as firefighters as are those of "Joe," the barber or "Nancy" the owner of five pack & ship centers. No one can deny that even with our PPE, we still average a higher exposure rate to carcinogenic material that our "friends" mentioned above. And with that in mind, we never know what type of cancer we may be diagnosed with. Just one quick review of our dearly departed brothers and sisters who worked on the 9|11 pile and the vast array of cancers that they suffered, should be enough of an incentive for us to be proactive.
I'm not a doctor. But I will tell you to speak with either your fire surgeon or your personal physician and ask him/her what their opinion is regarding when to have your first baseline colonoscopy. And let's not forget that the dangers are not just from our jobs, but from all the crap in our food, water and environment. Sure, everybody is exposed to that, but we have that extra exposure from our work. Put them together and you'll start playing, "Go to the head of the class!"
I've been off the "active" job since 1985. That was pre-AIDS, pre-BioHazards, pre-gloving & masking, etc. However, since my late father worked for major supermarket chain up north and was a former meat cutter, we ate steak every Monday night, meatloaf every Wednesday. On the weekends, we had plenty of eggs, white bread and real butter; not to mention real ice cream (frozen yogurt?) So, I was concerned when I had to go for my test.
I was concerned for what might be found, I was concerned about the "horrible, painful" ordeal I was about to go through. But you know what, it was all hype! That's right, there was no pain, no discomfort. The cleansing plan was relatively easy to follow and no, I wasn't running to the head every 10 minutes!!
And when I went in for the test, your put under with what is called, "MAC" anesthesia, which stands for Monitored Anesthesia Care, otherwise knows as "twilight sleep." It's a very light sedation. You have no idea of what's being done. Best of all, you wake up clear-headed and bright, if if you have a great nurse like we did, she'll yell, "You wanna go home" Fart for me! As soon as I hear you pass gas, you're out of here. So start farting!"
Listen, what we do is dangerous enough. We've know that from day one. And it didn't stop us. We joined up anyway. But you can't shirk your responsibility to your family and loved ones, as well as your comrades and your job. Just do it!
BTW - one small favor: If you haven't made it over to Amazon Studios to help support our effort to get a really great show about the fire service on TV, please do. We really need your support. It doesn't cost a penny. It takes just a few minutes of your time.
Just head back to the list of posts on this blog and find the one with the instructions on how to give us your support.
Till next time...
Stay Safe and Every One Goes Home!