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This was me just a couple of years ago – recovering from an injury, feeling lost and no longer in control of who I wanted to be. I was six months into recovering from an injury that should only have lasted about four months. To say that my future as a firefighter was in question, would be an understatement.
I was a few months into my probationary year as a firefighter when I suffered an on-duty injury while training when my left bicep tore. For those of you who don’t know, as a probationary firefighter you’re an at-will employee. The original timeframe I was given for a full recovery from my doctor was around four months, then I could return to full-duty.
However, I wasn’t healing as expected and unable to physically play with my son who then, was three years old. I was in excruciating pain every second of every day and trying every medication out there to get just one moment of relief. The constant pain was torture. My thoughts were not mine. I was not in control. I wasn’t very nice. I wasn’t me. I allowed myself to be a victim of my circumstance and as a result, my marriage was suffering. Moreover, due to the unforeseen circumstances, our financial situation was the worst it had ever been and the future I envisioned and worked so hard to earn for most of my adult life, was dark.
I remember my six-month appointment with my surgeon quite vividly. I was still unable to lift more than 5 pounds! I had (and continue to have) nerve pain 24/7, as well as documented nerve damage from the nerve conduction study. During that appointment when I most needed my surgeon’s help to determine why my bicep wasn’t healing and how to move forward, she looked at me and said, “There is nothing more I can offer you. I don’t know what to tell you.”
I was at a complete loss. I literally thought that my career I had worked so hard to earn was over before it could even truly begin.
The 3rd time’s the charm
When I went in for a second opinion it allowed a glimmer of hope. The doctor informed my wife and I that my bicep tendon wasn’t actually attached to the bone and that the screws put into place in order to secure everything together were just “bouncing around”. The new surgeon looked at me and said “ We need to start all over.” As bad as it was, I was hopeful because at least this time, I had an answer. I knew this would be an uphill battle as my doctor shared stats that 99% of patients in my condition leave their career on disability. Being a probationary firefighter, I would not be one of those people. I would have been sh*t out of luck.
I first heard about the Wim Hof Method when I was a healthy and happy firefighter for Colorado Springs Fire Dept. I originally stepped into the method to achieve the plethora of physical benefits — Last longer on my bottle, thrive in extreme temperatures and go home full of energy for my family. Even though I practiced intermittently, I still achieved all of these great results.
I thought back to when I first began practicing the Wim Hof Method. Reading about the overwhelming number of people who raved about both their physical and mental benefits they achieved while practicing the method. With all that I had been going through I had not practiced for over eight months. I decided that after the second (of three) surgeries I would dedicate every morning to doing the breathwork and somehow get into an extremely cold environment every day.
I was truly lost and looking for any form of hope to grasp onto. Waking up unable to recognize myself in the mirror every morning, this commitment gave me a routine to look forward to. Those of us that have been injured as first responders know full-well how our routine is thrown upside down very quickly. I had found a new purpose to waking up to “get after it”. I was able to begin to train my body and mind to be a little bit stronger every day — even with the limitations I had.
Being on light-duty at our training center, many of my co-workers would walk through the doors and inevitably asked me the questions “how are you doing?” and “so when are ya coming back?” For several weeks after the second surgery the answer was always the same – “I don’t know.” I was still in a lot of pain and was not able to do many simple tasks with my left arm.
About two months after the second surgery I specifically remember when a captain came in and asked me the same old questions regarding my current health status. However, this time was different. Without even thinking about it my answer was “Honestly, I have never felt better in my entire life!” We both paused and looked at each other oddly, both being surprised and taken back at my answer. But that was truly how I felt — Amazing!
Even though my arm was far from healed, mentally I had never felt as good as I did at that moment. This was my “AHA!” moment.
If I could find a sense of great happiness, despite all the uncontrollable circumstances that I continuously faced, then how many of my fellow brothers and sisters in the fire service could benefit from this as well? It’s no secret that having the best job on earth has its price to pay — mentally and physically. It’s no secret that we face traumatic experiences on a routine basis as we’re the ones who are called on the worst day of someone’s life. So what if this commitment that helped pull me out of my darkest days could also benefit other firefighters who are struggling in silence?
So I did the training and became a certified Wim Hof Instructor.
I invite you to experience how simple and amazing the Wim Hof Method can be to both your physical and metal health as well as what it can do to significantly enhance your home life.
Whether you’re injured or recovering from an injury or your marriage is struggling or you’re having financial issues or maybe you’re one of the many whom are having a challenging time letting go of a stressful call and you just want to find a way to be happy again, then I hope you really hear me when I say that this method is for you!
After all, you all deserve to be happy, strong and healthy.
Today, I’m happy and appreciative of the lessons that came from my experience of being lost. I’m now a firefighter and proud member of the Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department. I’m extremely grateful to the organization for taking better care of me and my family than we could have ever imagined, and even assuring me that my job would be there whenever I was able to return.
Where are your thoughts right now? Seriously just take a second a bring awareness to what you are thinking about as you’re reading this. As humans we are inundated by moments that have happened to us in the past or anxious about moments that may happen in the future – rarely ever living in the present. When we are stuck in this thought pattern we are no longer in control of who we are or who we want to be.