Nowhere on Earth does there exist another organization that has the closeness and love for one another that the American fire service has." These words from my friend, Rick Lasky, I have personally experienced in a way no one would ever hope to experience. My husband Rob and I have a beautifully blended family, which has been together for over 16 years. In August, Ryan, our youngest headed to Kansas University to start his dream of becoming a computer engineer. He was accepted into the ROTC program, and planned to graduate as an Air Force officer in 2020. On the evening of August 30th, that plan changed and brought a new love and appreciation for our fellow fire fighters.
We were introduced to the clinical diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. As the hospital staff told us to prepare for Ryan's symptoms to get worse, our family was terrified. Our son was virtually paralyzed, but thankfully able to breathe on his own. How could he go from running 7 miles a day, to not being able to walk? The physician explained, the virus Ryan had before he left for the University became pneumonia. The antibodies which suppressed his infection, were now attacking his central nervous system.
We left Maryland, and before the wheels of the airplane hit the ground our fire family had activated the brotherhood! Friends from the fire department of Kansas City, Kansas, met us at the hospital to see how to help. Brothers who I just spent two weeks with at the National Fire Academy, were our initial support system. No questions asked! Folks back in Baltimore County notified the local union in Lawrence Fire Department, where our son was initially transported. LFD showed up in full force, thanks to the notification from our union President, Mike Day. Lieutenant John Darling and his colleagues, took care of things we didn't want to think about. They became our contact with the University; and, they orchestrated everything from the withdrawal process, to packing up Ryan's dorm room. The reality is, we are looking at several months of rehabilitation; and, our young man's dreams are being put on hold.
The fire service has brought so many amazing people into our circle of support. As President of iWomen and a Board Member for FDIC, I'm fortunate to have contact with members globally. Our extended family from the US to Australia have supported our family by sharing their personal experiences with this rare disease. They've reassured us, even though Ryan may end up on a ventilator, the outcome is almost always a full recovery. To hear encouraging news like this, from people we trust, brought us unspeakable comfort.
Back home, the outreach of support continues with BCoFD. A metro department of nearly 1,000 career members were eager to help. The brotherhood and sisterhood stood strong in our family's time of need. Members of Station 17 and our local union organized an exchange calendar, so we can focus on Ryan and getting him home. We have been told, "not to worry, we've got this!" I don't know if this would happen in any other profession.
We cannot wait to say, "we are NOT in Kansas anymore." However, we will never forget what Kansas and our fellow firefighters have done in support of our family. We have learned, when life gives you the unexpected there is one thing you can trust: the brotherhood and sisterhood is alive and well!