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Sometimes, spouses of injured or “close call” firefighters are willing to share their perspectives with others. When that opportunity arises, the value is so significant – for our readers and their family members, so they can truly appreciate the full dimensions of this kind of event, but also for those involved in the incident. We sincerely thank Shannon Steffen for sharing her account and perspective:
The following account is by Shannon Steffen, the wife of Firefighter Blaise Steffen:
It ended like any other day my husband was at the firehouse. I went to bed alone and knew I would be awakened by him as he came home that next morning. Little did I know that I would eventually be awakened at 1:30 or 2 o’clock in the morning by a pounding on my front door. At first, I was so scared and afraid because I thought to myself, “Who would be knocking at my door this early in the morning?”
I laid there thinking it was some random person and they would eventually go away. But they kept on pounding. So I got up, looked out the front window and saw a white Tahoe parked out in front of my house. All I could point out in the dark was the numbers 911 on the side of the vehicle. I thought to myself that it was a police officer probably going around the neighborhood telling residents of something that had happened in the area. I still was not even thinking about something happening to Blaise at work.
When I turned on the front porch light and opened the door, I then was able to read “Peoria Fire Department” on the vehicle. Right then and there, I knew something was terribly wrong. I saw enough fire movies during my life and knew that when that vehicle is parked in front of your house, it’s not a good thing at all.
From there, I lost it. I started crying and shaking and thoughts just poured into my head. Coming up my driveway was one of the division chiefs at the fire department. All I remember her saying was “He’s alright, he’s alright.” I don’t remember a lot of what she said, because I was still in shock, but as soon as she said, “He’s alright,” I was relieved and knew we would get through whatever was going to come our way.
When she finally calmed me down, she explained to me that he was in a fire and was burned. It was still just an hour or so after the accident occurred, so details were still arising as to what happened. She then took me down to meet Blaise at the local emergency room where they took him. When I saw him for the first time, he was still in a lot of pain, but could talk to me enough to tell me that he was alright and that he loved me. The doctors then told me that they were airlifting him to Springfield Memorial Medical Center’s Burn Unit as soon as they could. He left within the next hour or so and I was driven there by another division chief to meet him there.
The first day or so at the Springfield Burn Unit, the doctors were very optimistic that he would be able to go home in a matter of days. I knew my job during this time was to be there for my husband in every way possible and help get him through this hard time. I knew I had to stay positive throughout this time, and this I did. But as the days went on, the burns started to get worse, and on day five, doctors decided it was best to do surgery. After 12 days in the hospital, we were finally able to go home. Although we were home, we knew there were still months of recovery.
After recollection, I still cannot believe the amount of support we received during this hard time. It was just a matter of hours after the accident that people started calling and texting words of encouragement and sorrow. And by that morning in Springfield, Blaise already had the waiting room filled with visitors! The visitors never stopped either. They kept on coming throughout our stay in the hospital. People even came a number of different times to visit! I think this really helped to speed up Blaise’s recovery. It really helped him to talk about the fire and get his feelings out in the open. We also couldn’t have gotten through it without our family, close friends and Blaise’s fellow Peoria firemen. They were there for us in our time of need and offered anything they could do for us to help us in any way possible.