Thursday, March 15, 2012

Waiting for the Dust to Settle

Warning: This post is pretty lengthy. It's not a positive upbeat post. This post is keeping it real. To break things up, I've included some pictures from when the hubby was in firefighter school.

We've been on a bit of a roller coaster for the last couple of months. Back in January we got the call that the hubby was offered a job as a Firefighter/EMT in a semi-local county. To say that we were excited is an understatement. It took nearly a month from that initial phone call for all of the paperwork, fingerprinting, drug testing, etc. to clear before the hubby could actually start the new job. Meanwhile, his previous job was wonderful about working with him and getting him ready for the new job.

As the hubby's start date drew closer, I grew more and more nervous. Could I handle being the wife of a firefighter? Could I handle the long shifts? The potential danger the hubby would be finding himself in? Well, my anxiety didn't last too long...

The training program that the hubby had started was 10 weeks long. Considering what we've heard from other people who graduated with the hubby, 10 weeks is a pretty long training program. Most in our area seem to be only 3-5 weeks. Granted, this training would also provide additional certifications (free of charge!) that other counties in our area just don't offer.

But probably the biggest shocker was the fact that this training was being run military style. Boot camp style. Not at all what the hubby had invisioned. Sure, he knew there would be physical training as part of the 10 week program. Sure, he knew it'd be tough - he'd been warned - but he didn't know just how tough it was going to be. He thought his schooling had fully prepared him for what he was about to walk into. Unfortunately, he was wrong...

Half way through the second week, the hubby was ready to call it quits. He was miserable. I got a call from him one night asking me to make the hour long trip to Orlando to discuss the options that were being given to him.

Let me back track a little bit... About 2 years after high school, and right before he enrolled in the firefighter program, the hubby's back had been giving him problems. It bothered him enough that he went and saw a specialist. The results? Not one, but two herniated discs in his lumbar spine. Although the doctor was hesitant, he gave the hubby the green light to proceed with firefighter schooling. However, he gave the hubby very wise advice, "You're only given one back in your life. We can't replace it like we can hips and knees. My advice? Try to avoid back surgery as long as possible - as in not until you're at least 60."

Why do I bring that up? Well, something that the hubby had to do during training really upset his back. He went to them the next day and told them about the problem, and they put him on temporary light duty. However, they said that he couldn't stay on that forever and that they were going to treat him the same as everyone else regardless of his back problems. Fair enough. You can't fault them for that - they're just doing their job.

He tried to tell them that day that he didn't think he'd make it through the program and he wanted to quit then. They asked him if he had spoken to me about it. We had had a couple of text messages back and forth during his lunch, but nothing in-depth. They suggested that he sleep on it, talk it over with me, and then let them know his decision the next day. I have to say, for all the hate I was feeling for these people after putting my hubby through hell, I totally respected them for that.

So I came home after work, packed an overnight bag, left extra food out for the cats, and headed off to Orlando. We went out to dinner and walked around Cranes Roost in Altamonte Springs. We talked - a lot - about the options and consequences of each option.

After a couple hours of talking everything through, we ultimately came to the decision that the hubby needed to quit this new job. Quit a job that he'd worked many years for. A job that we had been praying would come.

Why? A couple reasons...
  1. As a firefighter, part of your job is to save lives. If the hubby's back were to go out while he was trying to rescue someone from a burning building, he risks not being able to save that person.
    • To expand further, he'd be risking the life of his partner who went into the burning building with him.
    • But, the biggest risk, is that if his back did go out during a call, he'd be risking his own life. Sure, every firefighter is risking their lives. But, typically, these guys/gals have stronger backs and muscles with a much smaller risk of something like that happening.
  2. Even if we look past that scenario, if the hubby tore up his back at a young age, that means surgery.
    • That means a lot of money spent on medical costs.
    • That also means that the hubby could potentially be limited on what jobs he can apply for in the future - could mean a much smaller salary.
    • And, surgery means that he wouldn't be able to be the "dad" he wants to be to our future kids (no, I'm not pregnant). When the hubby was young, his dad had back surgery, and he remembers what it was like to have a dad that was limited on what he could and could not do. He wants to prevent that at all costs.
We both wish we had forseen all of this prior to the hubby quitting his previous job. Heck, we wish that we had forseen this before the hubby had started schooling for this career. Yes, we know what the specialist advised; but we also figured that he could at least get quite a few years on the force before having to leave due to a back problem.

We keep telling ourselves that there had to be a reason for all of this. The hubby went through  firefighter schooling for a reason. We waited nearly two years for the first job offer for a reason. The hubby's back failed him for a reason. Even though we feel at times like all the hardwork and effort were for nothing, we trust that there is a bigger picture that we just don't understand yet.

So where does that leave us?

Well, the hubby has been out of work for the past two weeks. He searched for jobs in our area that his EMT certification qualified him for. But none of our local hospitals are currently hiring.

The position at his old job has already been filled, so that isn't an option. However, the hubby called his old boss when he started to worry that he wasn't going to make it through the program, and she said she would try to work something out for him if he decided to go that route. Let me just tell you, that woman is amazing! She had been creating a new IT position, and agreed to make the job description fit the hubby's qualifications (considering he doesn't have any experience in IT besides his pure curiosity, its not an easy task). The only problem? It's going to take a while for the hospital beauracracy to approve everything.

We were told that it could be weeks or it could be months before the hospital approves not only the new position, but approves the hubby's application for that position. To wait that long for a paycheck isn't something that we can afford. But again, the hubby's boss came the rescue! She talked the hospital into bringing the hubby in as a "pool" employee. He'd get paid less than what he was previously making, because technically "pool" is code for "part-time," but his boss has guaranteed he'd work 40 hours/week. But, it would keep us afloat money-wise until the IT position opened up.

It's not the ideal situation, but we're not going to complain. It's a job. It's something. And it has the potential for higher pay and a new career. Plus, the boss has really pulled some strings to make this all happen. We're just keeping our fingers crossed that the "pool" position isn't going to last too long.

So that's where we are right now. For a while we felt like we were in limbo. But now the dust seems to be settling and things seem to be calming down. On the plus side, I don't have to worry about all the stresses that come along with being the wife of a firefighter. But, I never imagined that that would mean the hubby losing out on his dream job.

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