A Story of a Malfunctioning Smoke Alarm, Huge Fire Truck, and Five Firemen

My husband is disabled and I’m his primary caregiver. I can be gone for a short time, but limit that time to one and a half hours. While I’m gone I worry about my husband constantly. Is he warm enough? Did he change the position of his wheelchair every 30 minutes, as prescribed? Returning home is always a relief.

The other day I went to get a haircut and color touch-up, a welcome break from caregiving.  Before I left, I helped my husband transfer from wheelchair to hospital bed, positioned his over-the-bed table, and handed him a cell phone. I also moved his wheelchair close to the bed in case he needed it.  

When I returned home from the beauty shop I was surprised to see my husband in his wheelchair, watching television. “Did you get out of bed yourself?” I asked.

“No, a fireman helped me,” he replied.

His answer puzzled me. Maybe I had missed a linking sentence, or my hearing aids needed new batteries. “What fireman?” I asked. Then he told me this story.

Shortly after I left the house a smoke alarm suddenly went off. This signal alerted our alarm company, and a representative called. The man asked if my husband was okay. “I don’t smell any smoke,” my husband said, “but I can’t give you any more details because I’m a paraplegic and in bed.”

According to the representative, the local fire company had already been notified, and he asked how they could enter our home. “Well, the front door is locked,” my husband explained. “I’ll give you the garage door code and they can come in that way.”

About 15 minutes lager a huge fire truck pulled up in front of our townhome. Three firemen (two stayed on the truck) came in the back door and entered my husband’s bedroom. They asked him some questions and my husband said he could be more helpful if he was out of bed. “If I try to get up myself that will take a half hour,” he explained. “If you swing my legs to the side, I can be up in a few minutes.”

The lead fireman swung his legs to the side and moved the wheelchair closer for easy access. Meanwhile, the other firemen checked all of the smoke alarms. They tried to disable the blaring alarm and, when that was unsuccessful, removed it from the ceiling. It turned out to be a defective alarm, and we had a new one installed.

Then I did something I needed to do. I drove to the fire station, which is only a half mile from our place, and rang the doorbell. A fireman came to the door. I handed him my business card so he would remember our address, told him the story of the malfunctioning smoke alarm, and asked him to thank the crew. “I didn’t work that shift,” he noted. “That was a different shift and I will thank them for you.”

“Thank you,” I replied, “because helping my disabled husband get out of bed was above and beyond the call of duty.”

The fireman smiled. “We’re here to serve,” he answered. Certainly, the afternoon crew served us. We are grateful to all the firemen who serve their communities day and night. They are caregivers, too, and face a myriad of challenges, many of them life-threatening. My husband and I thank the local firemen for their prompt, caring service.