Our Stories: The Type 1 Diabetic Firefighter

These stories are shared by firefighters to enable, educate, and encourage other firefighters who have similar experiences, unique characteristics, or may not understand the adversity of their brother and sister firefighters. Many of these stories are submitted/shared anonymously due to the nature of the story and the need for anonymity. Do not assume you know or understand other firefighters battles. The degree of adversity in the stories cannot be judged by others, take them as they are shared and share them with other firefighters if you see fit.  If you have something to share, please email FireCritic@FireCritic.com with the subject “My Story”. Previous “Our Stories” articles may be found here.

The Type 1 Insulin Dependent Diabetic Firefighter

our stories finalI have been in the fire service for eight years now, 6 full time.  Doesn’t sound too exciting or difficult, aside from the fact that I have been a type 1 insulin dependent diabetic for 20 years.

I was diagnosed at the age of nine, and had to take four insulin shots per day and follow and very strict diet schedule, until I was introduced to the insulin pump at the age of 17.

Being a fireman was always a dream of mine, ever since I could remember, but there were several people who told me that getting hired would be impossible, simply because I would never pass the health physical.  At the age of 19, I decided I was through listening to that terrible advice, and I went after my dream.  I began taking classes at a local community college that had a fire science program, and I was instantly hooked.  At the age of 21 I began applying, now having several certifications under my belt.  I joined a local department as a volunteer and then eventually was brought on as a paid reserve, where I still work today as a reserve.

At the age of 24, I received a conditional offer from my current full time department, having devoted all of my time to getting in the best physical shape possible, managing my disease religiously, and working my butt off to be the best possible candidate, I was chosen 2nd out of 12 hired full time.

Every day on the job requires special preparations and strict management, not only for my health and safety, but for the safety of my crew members and the people we serve.  Bunker gear, mask, helmet, gloves, nomex and a few other pieces of equipment are things that we all use every day.  However, for me, a few bottles of Gatorade, cliff bars, and a glucometer are things that ride the truck in order to do my job to the highest level possible.  I work very closely with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to help spread awareness to young people who have type 1, so that they can have the inspiration and guidance that I never knew.

Being a firefighter was always my dream, and now, helping others understand that diabetes never has to hold you back from what you want to do in life, has become a passion.  I am now a primary back-up Officer, a back up engineer, a shift instructor, and consider myself a very hard worker and leader.

The best part is, diabetes never slowed me down, but gave me more determination to succeed and be great at what I do.

– Shared by an Anonymous Firefighter

Type 1 diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. The far more common type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. (source)

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF.org)

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D.

As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring $568 million in scientific research in 17 countries. In 2012 alone, JDRF provided more than $110 million to T1D research.