When you think of a potentially career-ending injury, you wouldn’t immediately consider something as simple as turning round on a swivel chair to be the cause of one.
But Anthony Chaplin, who’s an Operational Watch Manager with Nottinghamshire FRS, has been left struggling with restricted movement and serious pain for years after doing just that. He’s now working towards improving both, with our help, and says he’s hopeful he’ll be able to extend his career in the fire service – even if it’s not as an operational firefighter.
He visited Jubilee House earlier this year and says the exercise programme he was given, plus the workshops and group sessions he attended, equipped him with tools he could take home to continue his recovery.
“I injured myself initially in 2005,” Anthony told us, halfway through his week at Jubilee House. “It was at work and it’s essentially a slipped disc in my lower spine, my L2S1. Later in my career, I then got another one in my C5 – the top of my spine.
“The big thing is, they’re not always big injuries… mine was on a swivel chair, my feet were firmly on the floor, I swivelled round and it popped. It wasn’t serious initially, but it’s gradually got worse and worse to the stage now where I’m totally off the trucks and I’ve been office-based for the last four years.
“I joined the fire service to be in the front of the fire engine and be part of the team. So, working on my own and being office based was a real adjustment for me.
“The doctors have recently told me that I’ve got a degenerative spine condition, so my discs over the years have degraded a bit more than they should do, so that’s where I’m currently at.
“I’m just hoping now that there may be some intervention I could try, with help from the Charity.”
Anthony’s back issues mean he’s not able to stand for any length of time, which has started impacting his current non-operational role. It’s this he’s now focusing on improving.
“I get a crushing pain across the lower part of my spine and long shooting pains down my legs,” he says. “My job currently involves me standing and delivering presentations, so I struggle to do that on a daily basis.
“I also struggle to sit down for too long and bending down and picking things up.”
He hopes to now slowly find ways of coping with the pain and strengthening his back, with our help.
“I didn’t know a lot about what the Charity offered before. We do a lot on station for the Charity, but until you need it, you don’t really look at what it could offer you,” says Anthony.
“It was only when I spoke to my occupational health team that they signposted me to the Charity.
“Within about two days, you contacted me and went through what you could support me with. I was offered a place at Jubilee House almost straight away.
“It’s been really good. I was assessed initially by the physiotherapists and they really sort of tailored the plan around me. It’s not one plan fits all, it’s really synced to the individual which is great.
“I’m really hoping that the team can help me move a bit more freely. My ultimate goal would be to get back operational, but I think really that’s too far down the line for me now… However, I’m still fairly young, I’d still like to work in the fire and rescue service, so if they could prolong my working, that’d be excellent for me.”
He adds: “Jubilee has really offered me a different look at my injury, it’s not just about the physio side, they’ve looked after things like nutrition, my mental health, I’m just about to go into a pain management seminar. We do things in the pool to work on my condition, but also the mental health side has really been beneficial so far.
“I’m hoping I’ll take away a better insight into my injury, and how I can prolong my time in the service, but also sitting on a nutrition course… I can take that back to crews that I work with and my family too.”
Anthony says, looking back now, his injury had more of an impact on his mental health than he initially realised – however, attending some of the group sessions and talks helped him identify ways of coping, particularly with the pain and stress over his future career.
He’s now supporting our #HealthyJoints programme, and wants to send a clear message to anyone reading his story: look after your joints for life, so you improve your chances of a fast recovery after a accident like his.
“Preventing getting where I am today is so important… just simple adjustments,” he says. “Manual handling is massive, especially for operational crews but also office-based crews.
“It’s not always a big thing that happens, it’s the small things that you need to keep an eye on – like my injury, swivelling on a chair. Just be mindful.
“It’s about eating healthily as well, supplements, to try and prolong your career within the service.”
You can also join our ‘Share Your Story Group in MyFFC to chat to others who have received our support, or enquire about sharing your own story.