Being part of a blended family has it’s challenges…especially around the holidays. This past Christmas Day, I didn’t have my kids and my bonus sons were with their mom…and my firefighter was on shift. So, what’s a fire wife to do…I decided to do something different…I decided to do a ride-along with my husband’s department.
My goals were simple (other than not being alone):
1. Get a better understanding of what an entire day at the firehouse is like. And for those of you who might be wondering…I didn’t sleep there. I had to work the next day and didn’t really care to have my sleep interrupted by the tones going off.
2. See how my husband’s crews operate on scene.
3. Give myself a sense of peace by seeing him use his training first hand.
Although we didn’t get a call for a fire (bummer), I did get to go on four different calls…each of them unique and I learned so much by standing back and watching the crews at work. My “shift” actually started the night before when I spent a couple hours preparing french toast casseroles for breakfast the next morning. I’ve found one of the best ways to get to know the guys my husband spends a third of his life with is to take them treats. After a full night’s rest, I was woken up by my husband’s alarm at 6:15AM. As with most shift mornings, he hit his snooze button and rolled over for 5 more minutes of snuggling, which is honestly one of my favorite moments of shift days. I decided to sleep in just a bit longer and headed into the firehouse at 8AM, the only downside to my extra snoozing was missing shift change and watching everything that goes into getting the trucks ready.
As I pull up to the firehouse, the guys are wrapping things up and heading back in from the bays. After saying my hellos, I went straight for the kitchen. I have to say, I love the big kitchen and the industrial equipment and I still giggle every time I see the shift refrigerators with chains and padlocks. My firefighter does a lot of the cooking when he’s on shift, and that’s probably one of the reasons he so great at cooking for our family of 7. As my casserole was cooking in the oven, they started on the rest of breakfast which include eggs and bacon as well. About the eggs…I’m thinking that his firehouse needs a chicken coop because those guys go through some eggs. I think they cracked around 3 dozen. When everything was ready around 9:30AM, the “breakfast bell” was rung and the guys started trickling in. In this firehouse, Rescue always eats first…because usually, without fail…they get a call. Note: I said usually…I know it was a holiday and all, but apparently I’m somewhat of a white cloud. So we ate breakfast…and they went back for seconds…and we made it through the meal without the tones going off. Just like at my house, when there’s a guest…they don’t let you clean up.
Clean up was done in a flash and the guys started claiming their recliners in the day room. As the hours passed…one of the biggest revelations I had was that the anticipation of waiting on a call is horrible. Some of the guys worked out…some of them took naps…but all of them called their families or Facetimed with their families. They miss us just as much as we miss them. I even tried to sneak in a nap in one of the recliners…but could never relax and get comfortable enough to drift off.
I think it was around 3PM when the first call came in…it was a medical call where the Rescue and the Engine were dispatched. Winter Park has an older population and I think there are 4 nursing homes in the City. This call was for a patient with chest pains and as I stood in the doorway, I was amazed at the care and understanding they gave the patient and also at how well the guys worked as a team. Nobody stepped on anyone’s toes and it seemed as if each guy knew exactly what the other was doing…almost before they did it. They are well trained, but better than that, I could tell that they really, truly love what they do. Although I rode to the call on the Engine, I hopped in the back of the Rescue because I wanted to see it all. The ER was relatively quiet and we were only there for 10 minutes or so. As we got back in the Rescue and headed back to quarters, we got another call. As we’re heading to the scene, I heard “EMS61” responding…and my heart skipped a beat…that’s my husband, my Captain…and I get to see him in action. He was already on scene when we got there and I knew he was good at what he does, but he was so commanding and professional and still loves what he does and that shows with how he treats the patients and his crew.
We headed back to the firehouse and I was a bit amped up…excited to have gone on two different calls and experienced what my firefighter does first hand. We weren’t there long before the tones went off again. So I hopped in the back of the Rescue and off we went. As we pulled out of the bay, EMS61 was right behind us…I could see him and he could see me…hopefully the only time we’ll experience that is during ride alongs. This call was in a really affluent neighborhood at a beautiful house on the water…this was a teenager that had a seizure and as he fell, he hit his head on the tennis court. By this time, it was dark…and there were no lights on the tennis court. After taking a minute to figure out the best way in and out of where the patient was located, the guys immediately got to work. Gathering information, treating the patient and comforting the family. As the guys were working, my instinct took over and I grabbed a flashlight and held it while they worked…and as they loaded him onto the stretcher, I guided them through a maze of landscaping skillfully tiptoeing by the pool so I didn’t fall in. The Rescue loaded the patient up and took him to the hospital just as another call came in…so off we went.
This was a gentleman that was being dropped of by a basic life support private ambulance into a hospice-type facility. He was in respiratory failure, so as the guys got there they started right away trying to find a pulse and work to assess the situation. They were great…skillful, analytical and amazing at what they do. They transferred him to the ER where I watched absolute chaos. The doctor and nurses were all over the place…and operating without structure or direction. It was kind of sad actually. But, it made me so proud of what our department does and how they train their crews. They were well orchestrated and professional and always, always kind to everyone they encountered. As I stood there in the ER while the doctors tried to save this man, I looked at my husband and said…I’m ready to eat…it was probably around 8:30PM…yep, dinner is usually at 6PM so I really got to experience what it’s like to be a firefighter and went back to the firehouse to eat my cold steak.
Although I didn’t get to see any fire, the opportunity and experience was truly amazing. It helped me as a Fire Wife get a greater understanding of what they really go through on shift. I love my firefighter and know that when he walks out the door for his shift, he is safe, courageous and is probably missing me more than I’m missing him. For any wife that gets the chance to do a ride along…go for it.
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