Firefighter Recovers From Hit And Run, Returns To Duty

Retirement was not an option for Lincoln Fire Capt. Jim George.


After being severely injured in April 2003 when a pickup struck the bicycle he was riding, he had one year in which to pass a fitness test to prove he still could do his job as a firefighter. Otherwise, he had to take mandatory retirement.

With one month left before the deadline, he passed the test and returned to work for his first full-time shift last Wednesday.

According to Journal Star files, George, then 60, was bicycling to work last April 19 around 6 a.m. when a pickup hit him near 77th and A streets and its driver drove off instead of offering help. Max T. Bloss later was found guilty for leaving the scene of an accident and two other charges.

"Police were investigating it as a fatality," George said.

But on Wednesday, George worked his first 24-hour shift, marking the end of months of rehabilitation. During his recovery time. Sunday was his third shift of active duty.But on Wednesday, George worked his first 24-hour shift, marking the end of months of rehabilitation. During his recovery time. Sunday was his third shift of active duty.

"I thought it was a big step to getting back to normal," he said.

George, who had enjoyed kayaking, mountain climbing and swimming cold, clear rivers, said Sunday he knew he'd be back with his engine group. But he said others weren't certain.

"Some people didn't think I'd ever be back," he said.

George was in critical condition for several days after the accident. He was moved from Intensive Care Unit about two weeks after he was hit. His back, jawbone, several ribs and his pelvis were broken. He also suffered a collapsed lung and a lacerated tongue.

He said the pelvis injury caused the most pain and discomfort.

Until the accident, George rode his bicycle to work whenever the weather was clear.

"He was in such good shape," said Dianne Campbell, his daughter. He was a member of Nebraska Task Force One, the urban search and rescue team sent to the World Trade Center after the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001.

George, who often rode a bike from his east Lincoln home to southwest Lincoln's Station 8, said he hopes to start doing so again by the end of the month.

George has biked some, but it has been mostly on trails.

Getting back on his bicycle took energy, he said.

"It took me a long time because I couldn't sit on anything," he said.

He said five-mile rides were tough to do at first, but now he can make 20-mile rides.

While George was recovering, other firefighters helped mow George's lawn and trim his shrubs.

Several dozen firefighters volunteered, said Capt. William Fowler.

"They just wanted to help out," he said.

Since being back, George said, firefighters from other companies have greeted him when they arrive on the same calls.

When interviewed Sunday, George said he had gone out only on medical emergency calls that afternoon. Among the calls was one to Lincoln Southeast High School, where a 14-year-old boy had suffered a broken leg at a basketball tourney.

He said he felt bad for the boy's discomfort, but he said he thought the boy would recover well.

"Kids heal quickly, quicker than me," he said.

George said his rehabilitation was difficult at first.

He spent two weeks at Bryan