Dear Fire Wife Sisters,
What crazy times we are facing. But some of you are no stranger to this. Our firefighters are “first in” on many contagious situations.
And for some of you, this is a first. Maybe you are a new fire family or simply haven’t faced this situation yet.
First of all I want to say this: ALL THE EMOTIONS ARE ALLOWED!
One thing I see often in the fire family is that a more experienced fire wife, or a first responder / health care provider just trying to “get thru the battle” replies with a strongly worded, preachy, “suck it up” kind of message. Or even a “Stop overreacting. This is how we handle it.”
I don’t want to be that in any way. After 16+ years of this life, and 8 years now running this community, I’ve seen that divide and push people away. I am working towards a response here that unites, not divides, and reminds you that feelings are real and we don’t have to be superhuman at all times *virtual kiss – not contagious*
I am in no way a medical official so for all official advice on Corona virus please go to this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/ There you will find information on “How to Protect Yourself”. Additionally, you can go to this link to find “guidance for Health Care Professionals with potential exposure” https://www.cdc.gov/…/…/hcp/guidance-risk-assesment-hcp.html
Here’s my unofficial, fire family to fire family response:
For ANY contagion (and there are many first responders are exposed to) each department is “supposed to” have protocols such as:
- Removing and leaving contaminated gear and uniforms at the station
- The first responder showering after the exposure
- Proper cleaning of the gear / uniform / tools
- Training on all of the ways to use protective gear (gloves, masks, etc) during calls that have been identified as exposure risk.
Not all protocols are in place, clearly understood or practiced for a thousand reasons I don’t want to get into because it’s negative energy and not helpful here.
My personal opinion as a mom of 4…… first responders should be doing that stuff EVERY SHIFT before leaving the station and coming home fresh and showered in clean clothes.
(Some background on me for why I feel that way…. we had a viral meningitis scare when I was post partum with a 6 week old. And yeah, I pretty much packed up and hit the road for my parents before we finished the phone call where he told me he was exposed. Freakish? Maybe but who’s taking chances when you are in that situation? In other words….. I’ve had the “this is not a drill” experience for contagions.)
So why doesn’t that always happen?
Reality is…. some days they are exhausted and just want to get the H out of there and head home in uniform to crash. (also reality is that some stations don’t practice, train or encourage this….and in fact may even discourage it as “dirt” is a badge of honor.)
So you control what you can control: you and your fire family.
As a fire family here are some things to consider putting in place:
- Keep yourself extra healthy and strong – eat well, sleep well, hydrate, sunshine, exercise, vitamin C, etc. You know the routine. Healthy people fight off infections easier
- If you are already immunocompromised…. you know better than me what to do. Keep doing it.
- Practice all those hygiene practices even if your department isn’t
- TALK and come up with a plan TOGETHER. In extreme situations like this…. it might mean time apart. Which is hard but if you have at risk family members, may be the best choice.
- Keep talking and assessing this situation as it develops. Which is literally day by day right now (watch communities ahead of you like Seattle and to prepare for what might be coming)
Now…. all of that is fine and good and somewhat “expected”. Here’s where it gets tough:
- What if your first responder is approaching the situation with dark humor? Seems to be blowing it off? Maybe hiding info from you to “protect you” from it? This might happen. Be direct with them and ask clearly for what you need. Another helpful step…… find another fire wife to lean into and talk about this.
- What if you are REALLY freaking out? Like, can’t sleep, can’t eat, panic attacks, can’t stop obsessing over it. Notice this. Pause. Take a deep breath. And find some tools / support to help with that anxiety. There’s zero shame in needing help for this…. especially in these kinds of times.
Which brings me to some very important thoughts…..
Right now in the world there is a lot of STRESS, ANXIETY, FEAR. What is happening is TRAUMATIC. There are things to GRIEVE. Big things and little things – no comparing that. You can grieve a postponed wedding, long awaited vacation or you can grieve that you won’t see your firefighter for a week due to overtime or that your kids are home from school for 3 weeks or….or…..or…..insert your own grief.
We don’t yet know what the other side of this will look like but this is heading towards the caliber of events such as 9-11, or like our grandparents experienced the Great Depression perhaps. Every generation has their “thing”. I hope this blows over quickly and we forget about it but it might not. And even this amount of stress already needs to be healed within us.
We all need to stop and breath and journal and pray and meditate and “phone-a-friend”.
Let’s look out for each other, can we?
Let’s watch for the worst case – increased risk of suicide.
And the quieter symptoms of PTSD or depression / anxiety.
I’ve personally been through a LOT of trauma these past few years but also a LOT of healing and this I know well….
– Acknowledge the feelings (don’t stuff them)
– Express them but don’t let them control you
– Process and learn and grow from them
To me, being “fire strong” (a phrase coined many years ago during an especially rough season of LODDs) means not that we are always strong but that we have faith that “this too shall pass” and we will be stronger together because of it.
Let’s all “do the right thing” with our thoughts, words and actions
Big Fire Family Love <3
Latest posts by Jessie - (see all)
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