Firefighter returns to work after surviving massive heart attack
At 47-years-old, and more than 20 years as a firefighter, firefighter-paramedic Bruce Moore wasn’t ready to give up the work he loves after a heart attack that is often fatal, caused when a certain key artery becomes completely blocked. There’s even a macabre nickname for this: the Widow Maker. Surviving the heart attack is one thing, but Moore is doing much more than that.
“I’m not one of those types of persons who get tossed around and I can’t do it because that is only going to make me work that much harder.”
But his body almost forced him into an early retirement, after a massive heart attack last October which very nearly killed him.
“Coming back is a big shock to pretty much everybody out here on the floor.”
But after eight months, Bruce Moore is back on duty again Monday with the North County Fire Protection District.
“Attitude is everything, everything (firefighters) do.”
There’s no time for a welcome back party at the fire station in Fallbrook; instead, there’s a 2-mile hike in the hot sun and a practice hose lay. But for a while, no one – even Bruce – was really certain this day would be possible.
“I had a lot of nay-sayers – including my doctor, my cardiac rehab nurse saying ‘you’re more than likely never going to be able to go back to work and do the same thing that you did.'”
Last October, Moore was driving home from the gym when the firefighter-paramedic says he glanced up in the car mirror to see a familiar sight: someone having a heart attack.
“I saw this ashy gray, profusely sweaty person… and the person was me.”
On the day of Moore’s attack, the artery in his heart that supplies most of the blood flow from heart to the body was completely blocked. Doctors at Loma Linda Hospital put in two stents to allow blood to flow from his heart again during emergency surgery. But before he got to the ER, Moore says he almost died like many other cases before him that he has witnessed.
“My heart wasn’t functioning well enough and they were really fearful that my organs were starting to fail.”
About three months ago, Moore began to think he just might have a shot at coming back to work at Station Four, but first, he would need the okay’s from his doctors and full approval from his department. Moore swore he wouldn’t go back to a desk job. So, with approval from his doctor, he asked his rehab nurses to let him work harder – to push him to the limit.
“I wanted to make sure when I came back, the guys wouldn’t have to worry about if I was going to have another heart attack on the line.”
Firefighter-engineer John Buchanan has worked with Moore for years.
“A lot of the guys were ecstatic; a lot of them thought he wasn’t ever going to come back.”
Buchanan says Moore had to pass the same tests as everyone else to prove he could still do the job.
“He has to drag hose for a certain length, he has to basically drag a dummy through a tunnel. The dummy weighs about 150 pounds, making sure he can do that.”
It’s tough work, and it’s not for everyone. But on Monday, Bruce Moore knew that his work is where his heart is.
“A lot of people would have given up hope that there was even a chance to come back. With Bruce, mental toughness and strength – it’s great to have him back.”
“I’m one of those guys,” stated Moore. “You can’t tell me there is something I can’t do, because then I’m going to do everything in my power to prove you wrong.”
Yet another reason for his tremendous drive is family: his wife and two young children – a boy who is 5 and a girl who is 6. And credit the fact that Moore got those stents would eliminate an hour of his heart attack; they call that the Golden Hour. At rapid intervention and his own hard work in rehab are the main reasons he is welcomed back.