08-11-2005, 10:48 PM #1
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
I thought this was pretty awesome, thought you guys could use some good news.
Firefighter badly injured in crash headed back to work
By Edward Barrera, Staff Writer
UPLAND - In May, firefighter Tom Barilla couldn't write or even hold a pen in his hand.
Three months later, the engineer-paramedic, badly injured in a horrific March 15 collision on the 10 Freeway, is scheduled to begin light duty at the Upland Fire Department, with the eventual goal of going back to firefighting full time.
The Aug. 15 return to work is one more miracle in a parade of miracles since the day of the crash, said Tom and his wife, Dora, who have dubbed their lives as "before the accident" and "after the accident."
Tom Barilla nearly died after suffering major injuries in a crash as he and two other firefighters were responding to an emergency call on the freeway. Barilla's head injury was so extensive that a part of his skull needed to be temporarily removed because of brain swelling. While the prognosis was grim, within days he was using hand signals to communicate, and in the following weeks astounded doctors with his recovery.
By mid-May, though, the 40-year-old realized he was regressing. Movement in his limbs was becoming more difficult, and he spent a day or two pondering the long-term implications before he confessed to Dora.
"I was sitting there thinking this will prohibit me from doing my job. It will prohibit me from doing many jobs. Worse-case scenario, I'm going to have to find (another) way to take care of my family," Barilla said in a recent interview at his Rancho Cucamonga home. "I'm thinking of all that before I said anything to her."
At first, doctors couldn't explain why Barilla was regressing, though they said brain damage could be playing a part.
"Usually, it starts getting better, and now it was getting worse," said Dora Barilla, a health-care consultant. "He had to relearn everything, and then to nose dive like that" was frustrating.
After a battery of tests, doctors concluded that skin was putting pressure on Tom's brain where the piece of skull had been removed. Once the bone was put back into place in June, all his motor skills quickly came back, and he continued his speedy recovery from the March accident.
Tom, along with Capt. Joel Cascadden and firefighter-paramedic John Ruppert, were responding to a minor car accident on the freeway median near 4th Street when a casino tour bus collided with the fire truck.
One bus passenger was killed and dozens of people, including the two other firefighters, were hurt. The injured, except for Barilla, were all later released. The cause of the accident is still being investigated by the California Highway Patrol.
Barilla said he doesn't remember anything from the day of the accident or the first two weeks that he was in intensive care at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.
Those were nerve-wrecking days for Dora, 35.
"After the first 72 hours, they knew he was going to physically survive," she said. "But then you don't know what you are going to get. Is he going to have brain damage? Is he going to be able to walk, to talk? You just don't know any of that."
But every day brought better news, outside of May's setback, the Barillas said. They praised the staff at Arrowhead and the emergency crews that quickly responded to the wreck. They also said an outpouring of assistance, including from people they didn't even know, helped the family deal with the near-tragedy.
"God works through people, and so many people were faithful in being kind that I fully attribute that in helping his recovery," said Dora Barilla.
Tom Barilla said the family, including daughters Rebecca, 10, and Catie, 7, has become closer because of the accident. He spoke with awe about how Dora's faith and strong convictions inspired him to overcome many early obstacles.
Both Barillas said the daily physical and mental battles since the accident have overwhelmed any emotional reflection on the tragedy. While they prayed for all of the victims, the Barillas said they are still dealing with what happened.
With his return to duty looming, the Barillas are ready to move on to the next stage of recovery -- Tom's job, which put him in the hospital in the first place.
"Initially, I was petrified," Dora said. "But I think psychologically, if he didn't go back, it would be worse."
Tom Barilla knows that he has been given another chance to be a better friend, father, husband and firefighter.
"I have the ability to be reborn into the job that I have done before but do it differently -- do it better," he said.
"I'm going to take this gift because it was almost taken away from me. I'm going to use it to help others as much as possible. It's a way for me to give back to (everyone) that helped me."
Last edited by chris269; 08-12-2005 at 12:04 AM. Reason: change title
08-12-2005, 01:04 AM #2
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
glad to hear he is going back to work, thanks for the good-news"Let no man's ghost come back to say my training let me down."
08-12-2005, 02:16 AM #3
Thanks for sharing the good news. Its truly amazing what the human body and spirit can endure (with a little help from modern medicine, of course). I figured he'd have to retire after his injuries, but I'm glad to hear he's getting the chance to go back to the job he obviously loves.
Tom's a former member of our department (before my time...haven't had the honor of meeting him myself) and a few guys have been keeping in touch with him and his family, but we hadn't heard this news yet.Chris Gaylord
Emergency Planner / Fire Captain, UC Santa Cruz FD
08-14-2005, 12:05 PM #4
- Join Date
- May 2002
- Now in Victoria, BC. I'm from beautiful Jasper Alberta in the heart of the Can. Rockies - will always be an Albertan at heart!
Awesome story, thanks for sharing!September 11th - Never Forget
I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.
IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
RAY WAS HERE FIRST
08-15-2005, 02:59 AM #5
Thanks for some good Firefighter news. Sure beats all of the California sex scandals lately.
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