It is around twenty months since I was placed and sick and the last time I rode a fire engine in a fully operational sense. A fairly long time. There were times during those twenty months that many people thought I would never return to an operational role.
Last night I formally took over my new watch and rode in charge of the appliance. A major milestone, considering how ill I became. What is also pleasantly significant for me is that it is at the first station I was posted to after training.
Being in the fire service was something that had become difficult for me on many levels. But it is a job I am thoroughly enjoying again and I am back in love with. It is one of the best jobs in the world. (radio cricket commentator may beat it!). And I think my current role is one of the best roles within that job. You’re still riding the front line fire appliances and in touch with managing the people at the sharp end. You are part of the first response but the great thing is that you are responsible for making operational decisions in the first, early and dynamic stages of the incident. Decisions that can have a massive impact. It’s a great responsibility but also a great privilege.
There are many people who are responsible for helping me to get to this stage after the dark days. But today it is appropriate to single out two. Firstly my OH who has simply been an absolute tower of strength. I think it is too true to say that with out her I wouldn’t be here at all let alone where I am. Last night after I had started work I sent her a message to thank her and tell her what a good place I was in and what I owed her for that. Typically this was her response. “Ahh cute x but you did it, not me x give yourself the credit.x you should be proud of what you achieved x” I used to find it very difficult to hear this kind of comment, or at least to accept them. Part of the changes I have made following my illness mean I find it a bit easier now and that is largely down to her too. The other person is a senior manager in the brigade, Dany Cotton; in fact she happens to be the most senior female operational firefighter in Britain. I am lucky to have her not only as a manager but as a friend. Her support has been significant. She contacted me as soon as I became ill and was supportive throughout my illness without being intrusive. She has also supported my return to work and to this point in a way that has made it gentle for me. I am hugely grateful to her for her faith in seeing that I could do it and making it happen.
As I say there are many other people who have helped on this path, who I will mention another time.