Firefighter back on job after two back injuries

Keizer, Oregon Firefighter

“Without my back I could not do this job,” said Greg B., a firefighter/paramedic with the Keizer Fire District for the past 14 years.

Unfortunately, Greg hurt his back while on the job on two different occasions. The first was in 2012 while lifting a man onto a stretcher. Greg ended up with a ruptured disk and needed surgery.

Then two years later at the scene of a house fire, Greg felt his back pop as he was cutting siding off an exterior wall to get at the fire.

“That took me to the absolute lowest that I’ve ever been,” Greg said. “With the injury and my mental state of being hurt again and not being able to go to work, I felt hopeless.”

His doctor referred him to Salem Health’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services and its Work Injury Management team of physical and occupational therapists.

“The staff there is just amazing,” said Greg. “They create a routine that mimics your work, whatever it is. In my case, they customized all of the exercises for firefighters.”

“I eventually pulled a 50-pound bag that was strung from a second floor balcony in the rehab center to mimic lifting a bundle of fire hose from one floor to the next,” said Greg. “Also, I pushed a 300-pound sled to simulate moving somebody out of a fire or the heavy gear we have.”

“The exercises shadowed the constant barrage of bending and working your back on the job. The rehab staff took the time to research my job and customize my experience there,” Greg said.

The Work Injury Management physical therapist also developed a customized workout routine for Greg to help prevent future back injuries.

“Every time I get off work, I have a set routine that strengthens my back and core, and puts me back to square one,” Greg said. “And hopefully it will see me throughout my career.”

“I owe them my life,” Greg said. “I really appreciate what those folks did for me. I’m back on top again.”

The Work Injury Management program at Salem Health Rehabilitation Center can customize a workout plan for the demands of your job. The program is by referral only, so ask your doctor if it could benefit you.