1. #1
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    Default Worried about job opportunities

    I will try to keep this short but today I had a terrible realization. About 5-6 years ago I injured my back while playing football as a sophomore in high school. The doctors never confirmed and called it a fractured vertabrae but they did say "something" was wrong in my l4-l5 area. I saw 3 different dr's and finally went to a chiropractor. The muscles in my back were almost horizontal as opposed to vertical and we did a lot of work on that. I have been going to the chiro ever since. Recently my back has gotten worse, nothing I cant deal with but still pretty painful none the less. I will be making an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon today and hopefully getting in there soon. Depending on what he says, could something of this nature basically nix me form becoming a FF?

    I ask because I wouldnt know what to do if that is the case. I was at a 4 yr college and left to come home and get my A.A.S in fire science because I always knew I wanted to be a FF and to me that seemed like the best bet (in hindsight maybe it wasnt, but I wasnt very well informed). I am only 20 y/o so I do have time but this is what I want to do and I dont know what to do if something such as this can derail me.

    Any advice or thoughts whether positive or negative would be greatly appreciated, I need to figure this out ASAP.

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    Stages,

    First of all, sorry to hear about your back. That's a tough spot to be in. To be honest, having a bum back can disqualify you from this line of work. A city is not going to hire someone who's got a hx of back problems, serious ones at that, that might get them or their crew injured or killed.

    I'm sure you can see the wisdom in this, considering you could become a huge liability if your back goes out while attempting a search/rescue or extrication.

    On the other hand, being only 20y/o, there's a chance you heal well enough to get a job and not have your back be an issue. I'm not educated enough on your circumstance, nor am I a Dr. who is treating you. So, it's tough to say.

    Either way, be honest about your back when you apply or interview. If they ask. They might not. They might only go by how you do on the PAT and the physical that the City will have you go thru.

    Also, if this doesn't pan out, keep in mind that there are other aspects to FFing than actual fire supression. There's education and prevention, as well as other areas that might not require serious physical exertion.

    Just something to consider.
    Pete

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    Thanks a lot pete. Physically I would have no problem passing a CPAT or something of the sort, I work out 5-6 days a week, well not recently, but I know that I could easily pass one, even in pain I would be able too because this is something that I have been dealing with for so long.It is just the physical that worries me, I did just recently pass a physical for a job on a private ambulance and was not even questioned. My only worry is if I spend years testing for fire departments and then learn that it will never happen, I would rather figure out my plan now while I have time. After I see the surgeon, do you think contacting local fire departments and asking what they would do with X,Y,Z back problems and just take it from there?

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    You need to see a neurosurgeon and stay away from chiropractors and orthopedics too.

    I broke my back on the job in the L3 to S1 and had a rebuilding surgery and fusions by the best neurosurgeon in Virginia. He later did my neck surgery where the vertebras were messed up there.

    You want someone who is very knowledgeable working on your back. I don't trust those other guys.

    You have to disclosed any surgeries or condition of the present and pass when you apply for a job.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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    Quote Originally Posted by sTages19 View Post
    I did just recently pass a physical for a job on a private ambulance....

    There will probably be a buncha guys disagreeing with what I'm about to say, but:

    GET AWAY FROM THAT AMBULANCE! GET AWAY FROM EMS FOR A WHILE!

    That is a sure way to aggrivate your back. Stay with studies, get a light duty job and keep up with low impact exercise.
    I've never been a volunteer, but if it's experience you're looking for, I'd try to cultivate a relationship with volunteers in your area. Explain your situation and that you'd like to learn and have future references, but that you can't over reach for the time being.
    Find another way to monitarily sustain yourself, but lifting pts can only lead to trouble.

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    Default Nfpa 1582

    This may help also. My department requires the examining physician to follow NFPA 1582 when determining fitness for duty. 1582 has category A conditions and category B conditions. Basically if you have a category A the examiner is supposed to defer you from active firefighting. See below the category A conditions for spine issues.


    6.13 Spine and Axial Skeleton.
    6.13.1 Category A medical conditions shall include the following:
    (1) Scoliosis of thoracic or lumbar spine with angle e40 degrees
    (2) History of multiple spinal surgeries or spinal surgery involving fusion of more
    than 2 vertebrae, diskectomy or laminectomy, or rods that are still in place
    (3) Any spinal or skeletal condition producing sensory or motor deficit(s) or pain
    due to radiculopathy or nerve root compression
    (4) Any spinal or skeletal condition causing pain that frequently or recurrently
    requires narcotic analgesic medication
    (5) Cervical vertebral fractures with multiple vertebral body compression greater
    than 25 percent; evidence of posterior element involvement, nerve root damage,
    disc involvement, dislocation (partial, moderate, severe), abnormal exam,
    ligament instability, symptomatic, and/or less than 6 months post injury or 1 year
    since surgery
    (6) Thoracic vertebral fractures with vertebral body compression greater than 50
    percent; evidence of posterior element involvement, nerve root damage, disc
    involvement, dislocation (severe — with or without surgery), abnormal exam,
    ligament instability, symptomatic, and/or less than 6 months post injury or 1 year
    since surgery
    (7) Lumbosacral vertebral fractures with vertebral body compression greater than
    50 percent; evidence of posterior element involvement, nerve root damage, disc
    involvement, dislocation (partial, moderate, severe), fragmentation abnormal
    exam, ligament instability, symptomatic, and/or less than 6 months post injury or
    1 year since surgery
    (8) Any spinal or skeletal condition that results in a person not being able to
    safely perform essential job tasks

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcl312 View Post
    This may help also. My department requires the examining physician to follow NFPA 1582 when determining fitness for duty. 1582 has category A conditions and category B conditions. Basically if you have a category A the examiner is supposed to defer you from active firefighting. See below the category A conditions for spine issues.


    6.13 Spine and Axial Skeleton.
    6.13.1 Category A medical conditions shall include the following:
    (1) Scoliosis of thoracic or lumbar spine with angle e40 degrees
    (2) History of multiple spinal surgeries or spinal surgery involving fusion of more
    than 2 vertebrae, diskectomy or laminectomy, or rods that are still in place
    (3) Any spinal or skeletal condition producing sensory or motor deficit(s) or pain
    due to radiculopathy or nerve root compression
    (4) Any spinal or skeletal condition causing pain that frequently or recurrently
    requires narcotic analgesic medication
    (5) Cervical vertebral fractures with multiple vertebral body compression greater
    than 25 percent; evidence of posterior element involvement, nerve root damage,
    disc involvement, dislocation (partial, moderate, severe), abnormal exam,
    ligament instability, symptomatic, and/or less than 6 months post injury or 1 year
    since surgery
    (6) Thoracic vertebral fractures with vertebral body compression greater than 50
    percent; evidence of posterior element involvement, nerve root damage, disc
    involvement, dislocation (severe — with or without surgery), abnormal exam,
    ligament instability, symptomatic, and/or less than 6 months post injury or 1 year
    since surgery
    (7) Lumbosacral vertebral fractures with vertebral body compression greater than
    50 percent; evidence of posterior element involvement, nerve root damage, disc
    involvement, dislocation (partial, moderate, severe), fragmentation abnormal
    exam, ligament instability, symptomatic, and/or less than 6 months post injury or
    1 year since surgery
    (8) Any spinal or skeletal condition that results in a person not being able to
    safely perform essential job tasks
    Yea good thing I've already discussed this with quite a few members of this NFPA group.

    I had my spine fused, yet here I sit at Company 11 typing this reply. Spinal Fusion should not be an automatic disqualifier. Every person is different. I am in better shape and have a stronger back since the surgery than before.

    So, like CaptOldTimer said. Go to a Neurosurgeon and get evaluated. Mine repaired my back and knew what I do, and cleared me for this line of work. The specialist will have a better clue than a general FD Doc.
    Co 11
    Virginia Beach FD

    Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong. Which one are you?

    'The fire went out and nobody got hurt' is a poor excuse for a fireground critique.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnVBFD View Post
    Yea good thing I've already discussed this with quite a few members of this NFPA group.

    I had my spine fused, yet here I sit at Company 11 typing this reply. Spinal Fusion should not be an automatic disqualifier. Every person is different. I am in better shape and have a stronger back since the surgery than before.

    So, like CaptOldTimer said. Go to a Neurosurgeon and get evaluated. Mine repaired my back and knew what I do, and cleared me for this line of work. The specialist will have a better clue than a general FD Doc.
    I know what you are talking about, one of my dad's employees had 5 vertebrae fused in his lower back. He is just as strong after the accident, as he was before the accident. Will it be a long time after surgery before being full strength? Yes it will be. Even if you don't decide to pursue the fire service, you will feel a lot better later in life if you have surgery, or whatever needs to be done. Just remember, you aren't growing any younger, and you only live once.

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    Quote Originally Posted by safdkiltie View Post
    There will probably be a buncha guys disagreeing with what I'm about to say, but:

    GET AWAY FROM THAT AMBULANCE! GET AWAY FROM EMS FOR A WHILE!

    That is a sure way to aggrivate your back. Stay with studies, get a light duty job and keep up with low impact exercise.
    I've never been a volunteer, but if it's experience you're looking for, I'd try to cultivate a relationship with volunteers in your area. Explain your situation and that you'd like to learn and have future references, but that you can't over reach for the time being.
    Find another way to monitarily sustain yourself, but lifting pts can only lead to trouble.
    Take this advice. Working on the ambulance you are doing a lot of lifting, often in not the best situations.


    A word of warning, back problems are a very common problem for firefighters. Be very honest with yourself about the strength of your back and whether or not you think it can hold up to 20 years of firefighting. Many firemen have had disabling back injuries, injuries that practically cripple them. You may want to be a firefighter, but if you doubt the strength of your back I'd be very cautious. You really don't want to be disabled by 35.

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    Thanks to all for the replies. As for getting off the ambulance, I was told to get accepted to paramedic school I would need 6 months prior on an ambulance, and also around where I am from most departments being a paramedic is a requirement for applications, so as much as I respect your comments I will stick with it until I find out whether my injuries will or will not affect my job status. I feel I need to stick with it hoping that I am cleared and then have to go to paramedic school.

    I cant get into the surgeon for another couple weeks and I will just deal until then. There is this stuff called biofreeze that I am confident can get me through anything ha.

    I also have a lot of confidence in my back, I have been powerlifting for a couple of years and have been able to deal. Also I spoke with one of my fire science teachers today who is also a Chief at his FD and he told me its a very big gray area. Not to lie about anything but also to get my hands on my medical record and see exactly what was written down so I am able to tell them the truth while also not disclosing too much info. Hopefully the new surgeon will clear me.

    Once again thank you all for the comments, any more are greatly appreciated.

    Evan.

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    Don't ever mess with the back. Don't be cheap either, go straight to a specialist.

    Your back isn't like a knee or ankle injury you can take some meds and live with.
    Jason Knecht
    Assistant Chief
    Altoona Fire Dept.
    Altoona, WI

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    whats with you f'ing new guys lately? Come on here whining about some medical problem and when you don't get the answers you want it suddenly turns into "oo nevermind its fine, minor problem. no issue"

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    Not remotely how that went. I got answers that i appreciated, but with my current circumstances I dont feel i should leave the ambulance because if i get cleared I will take the next step towards my career which would be paramedic school, of which i NEED the ambulance time. Im not saying its a minor problem, it is something that I have dealt with for 5+ years and was wondering if it would hinder my chances of becoming a FF. No it is not just a little scratch and it is something that must be taken care of, but having dealt with it for this long, another month before I see a surgeon wont kill me. Thanks for your wonderful input though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnVBFD View Post
    Yea good thing I've already discussed this with quite a few members of this NFPA group.

    I had my spine fused, yet here I sit at Company 11 typing this reply. Spinal Fusion should not be an automatic disqualifier. Every person is different. I am in better shape and have a stronger back since the surgery than before.

    So, like CaptOldTimer said. Go to a Neurosurgeon and get evaluated. Mine repaired my back and knew what I do, and cleared me for this line of work. The specialist will have a better clue than a general FD Doc.
    You have to remember this is the employer's decision and not yours.

    What ever department you are looking at trying to be employed at see what the physical and health requirements are.

    Many may not hire you because of the prior injury. They do not want the financial burden of you getting another back injury and paying disability for something you had in the past. There's a lot of risk management decisions in the hiring process (that would be risk management and the bean counters.)

    Good luck in your education and in reaching your goal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sTages19 View Post
    with my current circumstances I dont feel i should leave the ambulance because if i get cleared I will take the next step towards my career which would be paramedic school, of which i NEED the ambulance time.
    You're in the driver's seat. You have to make the decisions. If you feel working on the ambulance is what you need, go for it. Just don't take the warnings you've been given lightly. You will do heavy lifting every day in EMS.

    A lot of people are heavy -- literally. (I'm still a young man but would take a dollar for every 300+ pound patient I've run on.) But also, lots of people do not live in EMS-friendly places. This mean you're lifting folks in places where you don't have sufficient room to move properly. You will carry people out of places where cots won't fit (including up and down stairs). You will have to move people using less than ideal form to keep yourself out of pee or poop or general filth.

    EMS is a minefield for back injuries. Know that before you go into it.

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    Cozmosis thanks for your reply. As i said I am not taking it lightly but will stick with the EMS until i see a surgeon. Also i work for a private and we do not have any 911 contracts so it is basically all transfers, and on top of it we have just now gotten these new power cots. "+" goes up "-" goes down. I really do appreciate all the feedback I have received and will be seeing the surgeon on the 26th and make all important decisions at that time. Once again thanks to all for your responses, and I am not trying to just brush this off and not listen to your responses, I do respect them and will take all of that into account while speaking with my surgeon.

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    Take care of yourself now...see your specialist get it fixed. You are young enough that you can still look at a career later on in life.

    My husband served in the military and broke his leg(permanent rod), skull fractures, broken fingers etc..., once out of the miltary he broke it(leg) again and broke his back(just above t). They said he would never walk again....he walked out of the hospital.

    He then became a firefighter....so don't discount yourself until a doctor says you can't do it and you know you can't do it.

    You still have an opportunity....what are you going to do with it?

    Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by fieryred943 View Post
    Take care of yourself now...see your specialist get it fixed. You are young enough that you can still look at a career later on in life.

    My husband served in the military and broke his leg(permanent rod), skull fractures, broken fingers etc..., once out of the miltary he broke it(leg) again and broke his back(just above t). They said he would never walk again....he walked out of the hospital.

    He then became a firefighter....so don't discount yourself until a doctor says you can't do it and you know you can't do it.

    You still have an opportunity....what are you going to do with it?

    Cheers

    Thanks thats actually really inspiring, obviously my injury is nowhere near as severe as your husbands was which gives me lots of hope. Also congrats to your husband for being so strong in that.

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