Friday, March 4, 2011

What I worry about

This morning, Peter and I went out to breakfast for our (somewhat) regular weekly date. We don't have/can't afford babysitters so we try and go out one morning a week while the kids are at school. Fancy, I know. We like to really go all out on the romance thing. This morning we were idly chatting about work and he brought up that another firefighter had been diagnosed with a tumor.

Now here is a little secret - I almost never worry about him dying in a fire. I mean, sure, I do have fears of that sometimes, usually more fears that he will get hurt via an explosion, roof collapse or floor collapse. But most often, I worry about the long term things. Cancer. Hearing loss. Back injuries. These are the things that you see when you look at the leave roster for his department. His department is big, over 300 line personnel, and firefighters talk and gossip amongst themselves a little bit like teenage girls do so you hear all the news. And the news currently is tumors, hearing loss and back injuries. This is  being seen at the national level as well.

And I worry about it. About all the exhaust he has breathed. The hours he has spent next to a rumbling engine. The toxins and chemicals he has breathed in and come into contact with. All the heavy patients, ladders and hoses he has lifted. Really, these are things that only time will reveal as problems but I can say there have a been a good number of young, seemingly healthy firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer.  Who are seeing doctors regarding hearing loss. Who have had to take over a month of leave for a back injury sustained on one call from lifting one patient.

At the same time, I have to commend his department. They are keenly aware of and committed to their firefighters health and safety. They have an incredible wellness program and the new station that Peter works in was designed for it's environmental safety. No more standing in the bay next to an idling engine, no more toxic cleaners. They are continually reviewing their safety policies and techniques to make things better.

But still I worry. What if he hurts his back? What if he breaks a leg? How much exhaust is too much? What exactly is burning in that car fire? What disease does that patient have? Trust me, nothing will cool your blood more than having your husband come home and say "Honey, I had to fill out an exposure report yesterday".  The possibilities are endless once my mind gets going. Then I have to let it go. Either things will be fine or they won't. We will deal with whatever comes our way.

When I meet someone new and they find out my husband is a firefighter, often one of the first questions I get is "don't you worry that he will die in a fire" and usually I say "yes" because oddly enough that is the polite answer. But the truth is, there is a long list of realistically awful things that I secretly worry about happening to him before that.

(Now I am knocking on wood)

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