Date last updated: Thursday, November 11, 8:33 PST

The Rehab Training Center
with Jeffrey Lindsey

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The missing link in firefighter rehab

After writing this column for the past two years and teaching numerous rehab classes and seminars, there is one area that has stood out to me more than any other. The missing link that we continue to skirt around in our training is personal nutrition.

This area seems to be the least talked about and the least understood in rehab. First, I am going to explain why this topic is so important to our profession and over the next several columns get into more depth on each area of the topic.

Refreshments for Training
How many times have you gone into a classroom where the host is gracious enough to provide a continental breakfast for all of the participants? The spread of assorted donuts is a delight for many. However, what is the nutritional value of this delight?

If the host would have put out fruit, nuts and an assortment of other nutritional foods, would any be consumed by the end of the class? The short answer to this is many guests would indulge in this assortment and quite frankly many would be grateful.

Remember when we started out with our rehab training, I noted that how we train is how we perform. This is not a new concept, but one that continues to be the foundation of our environment.

So, the bottom line is we need to start providing the quality of refreshments at our training sessions that we should be providing on the incident scene and during our time at the station.

So why the big push with nutrition? In December 2006 I was attending my third class of the EFO program. At the start of the second week, my wife called. She discovered a lump in her breast.

It was painful and everyone said that is a good sign, because pain means no cancer. She was actually staying with family in Pennsylvania and it was the week before Christmas. I met up with her after finishing my third EFO class, celebrated Christmas with the family and returned to Florida.

I was the fire chief at Estero Fire Rescue in Southwest Florida at the time. January 2007 started a journey that has presented many challenges and has given us opportunities that have stretched us. Needless to say she was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer.

It was like receiving a death sentence since there is no cure for this type of breast cancer. The average lifespan is three to five years after diagnosis. The next four years brought many challenges, and the cancer kept returning.

The summer of 2010 brought the worst and the future looked very dim for her, the progression of the cancer led to its resistance to treatment. Being in the fire service for 30 years and always being the one in control in a crisis, I knew that this crisis was going to test me beyond my wildest dreams.

I began to look more into the holistic approach and learned more about nutrition and medicine than I could have previously imagined. This was a direct result of being referred to a doctor who practiced holistic medicine. All of a sudden my paramedic training of 26 years ago began to resonate with me — sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and acid-bas balance took on a whole new meaning.

Correlation to Rehab
So what does this have to do with rehab? It has everything to do with rehab. You have one body. If you want the highest quality of life, you need take care of it.

In the fire service, we have placed a lot of focus on physical fitness which is a critical element, but what we put into our body is even more important. Think about your fire engine. You make it look good on the inside, but what happens when you put gasoline in a diesel engine?

It is not a good thing. It may look good, but it isn't going to run. The ability to go through rehab and increase performance is reliant not only on our physical ability but what we put in our mouths.

The next column will focus on the pH balance of our bodies and how it affects our health.

Dr. Lindsey is the coordinator/lecturer for the University of Florida Fire and Emergency Service degree program. He serves as the chief learning officer for Health Safety Institute. He retired from the fire service as chief of Estero (Fla.) Fire Rescue. Dr. Lindsey earned his doctorate and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from USF. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fire and safety engineering from the University of Cincinnati. He also has earned his chief fire officer designation and is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program. He was the 2011 recipient of the James O Page Leadership Award from IAFC. You can contact Jeffrey at

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