Over the past year, we blogged about a couple firefighters who abused the workers comp system. First there was the muscular Albert Arroyo, a Boston firefighter who participated in body building competitions, while collecting comp for a work-related disability. (Due to adverse publicity, he eventually lost both his job and his disability pension.) Then there was triathlete Christina Jijjawi, who parlayed a thumb injury into temporary total disability, during which she swam, cycled and ran for glory. Yes, I know, she was simply having an exceptionally good day.
Albert and Christina give firefighters a bad name. So it's a pleasure to introduce you to Scott Miller, an apparatus operator with the LA fire department. He not only restores the good name to firefighters; he is an inspiration to any and all who believe in returning injured workers to productive employment.
Answering the Call
Seventeen years ago, in the middle of the Rodney King riots, Scott was racing toward a fire when a vehicle pulled along side his hook and ladder truck and fired a handgun. A bullet entered Miller's cheek angled down through his body and severed a carotid artery in his neck. Given the quick response of his fellow firefighters, doctors were able to save his life, but a blood clot on the brain had left him paralyzed on the left side and unable to speak. (By the way, the shooter got 16 years - a bargain, considering that Miller "got" life.)
Miller was in rehab for over a year. He overcame the speech and many of the mobility problems, but never recovered fine motor skills in his left hand. He knew he could never do the physically demanding work of fighting fires, but he was determined to make it back to work. So he joined the Fire Prevention Bureau, where he eventually became a captain in charge of a crew that inspects commercial buildings.
He says of his prevention role: "It's an area of work that I've come to respect. I realized that I had to move on and refocus on the more important things of life, that I can't drag my dream with me until it becomes a nightmare ruining other positive things in my life."
One of the ironies of this story circles back to Albert Arroyo. He, too, worked in the prevention bureau, but he used the excuse of a questionable injury to go out on disability, so he could pursue his dream of winning a body-building competition. Scott Miller's dream was a little simpler and much more moving: he just wanted to be a firefighter again.