Writer Denise Crosby develops even more respect for firefighting profession
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org June 9, 2012 8:14PM
Liz Bartholomew speaks to a group of firefighters from the Fox River Valley Fire Protection District about her husband's story. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 11, 2012 10:20AM
After listening to Joe Bartholomew’s still-vivid account of the house fire that almost claimed his life back in August of 2004, I developed even more appreciation for his profession than before.
The inferno affected his health and eventually shortened his career — with an unpleasant legal battle that pitted him against the fire department he served so admirably for almost three decades.
Everyone agrees, the city included, this situation was unfortunate. And in an e-mail response to questions concerning this story, Aurora officials wanted to “thank Mr. Bartholomew for his many years of service to the City.”
But they also wanted to point out the financial impact to the taxpayer of Bartholomew’s extended absence and disability retirement. In addition to full health insurance he and his family receive, the city paid Bartholomew’s salary for five years, and he received full worker’s comp and disability benefits. He also receives a disability pension of $66,845 per year, 65% of his salary when he was employed as a firefighter.
Bartholomew’s wife Liz points out that had management talked with her husband about what he was undergoing; and offered to put him into a less stressful position — such as handling hazmat duties — they would not have to be paying all this money.
“But they worked against him,” she insists, “because they didn’t take the time to understand what he was going through.”
Which is why I hope that, as fascinated as I am about the 2004 fire, the focus of this story is on the future.
“While the issue of PTSD is out there,” points out Fox River Valley Fire Chief Greg Benson, “there is not a great amount of focus on its affects on first responders and their families.”
Liz Bartholomew has made it her mission to change all that. And the more I listen to her own fiery passion about this topic, the more I appreciate what she is trying to do.
“Liz clearly brings to the table a new perspective,” says Benson. “We are all just one incident away from this happening to us.”