When Scott McDowell, 38, was cleared to fight fires and become a certified paramedic again, he called it a blessing.
Less than 18 months before, the Montrose, Mich., volunteer firefighter lost both his legs to a mysterious infection, The Flint Journal reports.
“I felt like I was going to lose every freedom that I had, being able to walk,” McDowell told the news outlet on facing a life without legs. “I kind of saw myself at the kids’ graduation in a wheelchair.”
But McDowell overcame the obstacles his new life presented, rebuilt his pre-injury physique and returned to the Montrose firehouse, he told The Flint Journal.
“It’s really tough,” McDowell told firefighternation.com. “Everybody’s the same but you. Everyone’s doing the same thing, the procedures are the same, but you’re different.”
Until fireproof prosthetic limbs are approved, McDowell cannot enter burning buildings, but he can drive the firetruck, run the pumps and respond to medical calls. He’s also been training with simulators, he told firefighternation.com.
“Someone is always asking me if I’m OK or if I need help,” he told the news outlet, describing what it was like returning to work. But he knows his limits, adding with a laugh, “They do help me get my boots off, which is really difficult.”
McDowell sees his experience as a positive one and works to help others overcome similar injuries. "So much good has come out of this," McDowell told the Flint Journal, "The door of opportunity has opened to help so many more people."
In his spare time, McDowell volunteers for the Flint Area Amputee Support Team where he visits new amuptees while they are in hospital rehabilitation programs, the Journal reports.
“I go and talk to them, try to encourage them,” he told firefighternation.com. “But mostly, when they see me walking around, and I have two prostheses—most of them have only one—and hear that I’m working for the fire department, they can’t believe it. It gives them hope for their own future.”