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Get a yearly physical...PLEASE

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  • Get a yearly physical...PLEASE

    The death of firefighter James O'Shea during the weekend highlighted a fact little-known to the public but one that firefighters live with every day: More firefighters die from heart attacks than from fires.

    The silent killer often strikes after they are back in the firehouse or at home. Firefighter James O'Shea, who worked in Queens and lived in Holbrook, was the latest victim. Although he made it home Saturday night, his death was listed as duty-related because colleagues saw that he was uncomfortable and because he left work early after fighting a fire in Kew Gardens. The city Fire Department, after consultations with the Uniformed Firefighters Association, O'Shea's union, listed his death as occurring in the line of duty, making his family eligible for increased benefits. But the death still raised the sensitive issue of how much the Fire Department should monitor the health of its workers, whose job carries high mental and physical stress.

    Of the 97 on-duty firefighter deaths in the United States last year, 37 were from heart attacks, according to a July report by the National Fire Protection Association.

    "Stress and overexertion, usually resulting in heart attacks, continued to be the leading cause of fatal injury, as it has been in almost all of the years of this study," according to the report by the group, which develops standards for fire protection.

    Unlike some other jurisdictions, the city Fire Department has no continuing program for firefighter fitness training.

    Some departments require daily physical training, called PT for short, in the firehouse, others work out at local parks or accept free workouts at a local gym, according to Rich Duffy, who specializes in health, safety and medical issues for the International Association of Fire Fighters, an umbrella union.

    "We have always recommended that guys do PT one hour a day," Duffy said in an interview. "Some have regimented PT and some have less formal PT."

    Fire Department spokesman Frank Gribbon said that although there is no department requirement, "most firehouses have a gym and most firefighters have their own training regimen.

    "We do perform annual physicals, not quite annual, but that is our goal," he said. "It is now in the range of 15 to 18 months." O'Shea was found fit for duty at his last physical in December 2001.

    The department started compiling data on firefighter weight and body fat more than a decade ago. The study showed that first-year firefighters gained just five pounds on average in 2000, down from a gain of 15 pounds in 1995. The data became public in February 2001 after three firefighters died of line-of-duty heart attacks within a four-month period.
    NEVER FORGET 9-11-01
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  • #2
    Good advice Ray..

    My brother, who was employed by the Florida Division of Forestry, failed to report to work one morning. He had died in his sleep.

    The cause? An undetected heart problem. One he should have known about, but failed to consult his doctor. The signs were there. Mild chest pain, which he thought was symptoms of indigestion or heartburn. He didn't go see the doctor for a physical. It might have saved his life. A chest x-ray might have revealed the condition. We will never know for sure.

    Get an annual physical! It won't kill you, but NOT getting one just might!

    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
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    • #3
      I read the report of FF O'Shea's death with a great amount of sadness. It prompted me to take a look at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Database, available here

      Use the tools on this page to locate the content you're looking for on our website.

      and I was completely amazed by the number of deaths due to heart attack. It has definitely convinced me to step up my aerobic activity considerably as I do not want this to happen to me. I've started suggesting it to the other guys in the firehouse too. Any death in the service is a tragedy but if it's caused by something that could so easily be prevented, it's doubly so, in my humble opinion.

      My prayers go out to FF O'Shea's family and brothers, and all the loved one's that give themselves so selflessly.


      • #4
        The physical and stress tests that my department and many around here give are minimal exams at best (this is my own opinion) thats why I choose to take a complete physical from top to bottom every year, outside of the department. Every department should provide their members with medical insurance that allows and covers the costs to do this form of testing at least once a year. I've known more than few fireifighters that have been excercise nuts for a long time and this is a good thing (no argument there). The bad thing is that in recent years I've also known at least 4 of these members who suffered heart attacks without knowing they even had a problem, even with the excercise they were involved with (1 was a marathon runner, another rode a bike 30 miles a day and the others would work out in the gym for at least 2 hrs 4 times a week). The majority never thought about yearly physical and stress tests (not by department picked doctors) to help insure their good health. They just took it for granted that they were in good shape because of the amount of excercise they were doing.

        I'm lucky enough to have great medical coverage and this allows me to take a complete stress test once a year. This year because of my age, bad knees and occupation my doctor decided to do a new stress test that is drug induced. This new type of stress test for the heart is much more reliable (according to my doctor) than the standard treadmill test. According to the cardiologist the drug constricts the arteries more than the treadmill test does and gives more reliable results. I was hooked up to all the wiring for monitoring heart rate and blood pressure etc. Then I was injected with the drug, then a dye and put under a weird looking x-ray or MRI machine (this thing had two sides that took constant pictures from various angles as it rotated around me about 10 times). There was a cardiologist right there while the testing procedure went on. He never walked away and constantly monitored the readings. After the test they injected a drug to reverse the constriction medication. All this took about 30 minutes and I'm glad I came out with a good bill of health on the old heart along with the other tests (blood, chest x-rays etc). Ah modern medical science, I love it.

        If departments would invest in excellent health insurance benefits for their members and the members used them, I believe it would save lives. I also believe it would be a good investment for them to do so.
        Last edited by FireCapt1951retired; 10-01-2003, 02:34 PM.


        • #5
          Unlike our high priced athletes, we get no warm-up before the game. Our physical as well as mental condition must be kept at a peak. However, we are like a top fueled dragster. We go from 0-300 in 5 seconds. No matter how much preperation we put into the engine, this is a stress that, at times, is too great and the engine fails.

          Heart attacks may not seem a glorious way for a firefighter to die but the rate is high due to the stresses of the action. The physical and mental condition is a factor but this remains a dangerous occupation.


          • #6
            I will wholeheartly agree with everyone on this issue, we lost one of our lieutenants in September to a heart attack, This job is too tough and too stressful not to have a yearly physical and some sort of PT plan.
            NYS FF1/AEMT-CC
            IAEP Local 152
            "You stopped being in charge when I showed up"


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