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Today was an epic “win” for firefighters in Ohio. Today, Governor Kasich signed The Michael Louis Jr. Palumbo Act (formally known as Ohio Senate Bill 27). This law allows firefighters (who are constantly exposed to an array of chemicals on the job) to have easier access to Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation benefits, should they become diagnosed with cancer as a result of their on-the-job activities. It will take effect April 4, 2017.
While there are regulations regarding age, length of time since separation from duty and other contributing factors (tobacco use, etc.), any fire personnel with cancer is presumed to have incurred the disease from the job if: 1. they have been assigned to hazardous duty for six or more years and 2. exposed to certain agents that are classified as high-level carcinogens. Laws like this already exist in thirty other states. And did you know that it has taken three, yes THREE, prior attempts to pass? It was opposed due to an argument that the benefits would be too expensive for local governments.
So you’re telling me that my fiancé willingly runs in to burning buildings to save you and your families lives… but you’re not willing to provide funding to protect his? I’d like to think those are words I would utter, should I ever be face to face with those who oppose. Not only do they risk their safety putting out fires, but they are the first to respond to the [enter a ridiculously high number here] drug overdoses in your neighborhood, the car accident with a terrified teenager who was texting while driving who may have just killed someone, or your family member who is having a medical emergency. The list goes on and on, but I digress.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that firefighters have higher rates of several types of cancers, and of all cancers combined. “Firefighters can be exposed to contaminants from fires that are known or suspected to cause cancer. These contaminants include combustion by-products such as benzene and formaldehyde, and materials in debris such as asbestos from older structures”. Yuck.
While ultimately I’m thrilled this law will now be in place, I pray to God our family never has to utilize its benefits. I also send up millions of prayers every third day for 24 hours when my fiancé is at his full-time fire job (and 48 hours if he’s also working one of two part-time fire jobs after) just to ensure he gets home safe. My heart either sinks or flutters when I hear our garage door opening in the mornings; a mix of sadness and fear when he’s leaving and utter joy when he has returned.
And while I know I’m more sensitive to the sacrifices of his job, because well I’m a sensitive/emotional woman, I couldn’t have more respect, be more proud, appreciate or love my firefighter more. There’s a poem (author unknown) that I’ve come across several times that pulls at my heart strings every time I read it. While terrifying to think of what he deals with on a daily basis, it 100% confirms why in 16 months I’m marrying my best friend/my hero:
What Do I Make?
“I make holding your hand seem like the biggest thing in the world when I’m cutting you out of a car. I can make 5 minutes seem like a lifetime when I go in to a burning house to save your family. I make those annoying sirens seem like angels when you need them. I can make your children breathe when they stop. I can help you survive a heart attack. I make myself get out of bed at 3:00am to risk my life to save people I’ve never met. Today I might make the ultimate sacrifice to save your life. I make a difference.”