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

March 24, 2016

a friendly fireman in front of his truck

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.

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit www.harriethodgson.com

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  1. I cannot say enough for the fire department of the community where my Mom once lived. As my Mom got older and more unsteady on her feet, refusing to use a walker, I set her up with a Life Alert system. Best investment ever since I lived a good 45 minutes away. Got our monies worth with that system as my Mom would take several tumbles and was not able to get back up on her own being a plus sized woman. Fire department got to know her pretty darn well during many non-life threatening rescues. Would always do a good assessment and decide if she needed to be transported to ER or not.

    Gave me a good piece of mind even though getting the Life Alert notification calls that my Mom had tumbled always set me into panic mode and I would go flying out the door to get to her.

  2. O.M.G…… All this WOULD have taken place, of course, the minute you went out to do something for yourself! What in the world are the chances??? It’s like fate or god or something pulling a sick prank! God bless the firemen, and you and your husband.


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