George: “After the support we’ve had I’d highly recommend the Charity to other on-call firefighters”

On-call firefighter George Christmas and his wife received financial support and guidance from us after a back injury meant George faced months off work with a huge cut to his income.

Often, out physical health is closely linked to our mental wellbeing – but many may forget that there can be a huge impact on our financial wellbeing too following an injury.

When East Sussex on-call firefighter George Christmas suffered a herniated disc in his back, it meant months off work from his day job as a self-employed builder and decorator – with no sick pay.

We were able to offer him physical health support on our Outpatients Programme at Marine Court, followed by welfare support and guidance for him and his wife, who’s expecting their first child.

George Christmas, an on-call firefighter in East Sussex FRS

“I’m still not sure what started my back issues, it was more of a gradual thing,” says George, 31. “It started around the time I was getting into firefighting and it just got worse and worse, until I couldn’t really carry on with either of my jobs – I was in so much pain.

“They found after an MRI that I’ve got a herniated disc which is putting pressure on a nerve. So it’s incredibly painful.

“I was advised to stop working, so I’ve not been able to do my day job properly for four months and I’ve been off the firefighting for a similar amount of time.”

George immediately looked for help with his back pain, so he could get back to work as quickly as possible – and that’s when he remembered hearing about the support we’d offered some of his colleagues.

George Christmas, an on-call firefighter in East Sussex FRS

“I went through the NHS at first, but they couldn’t offer me much physio at all,” says George. “They’re trying some steroid injections first, but considering surgery, so I’m just praying they work.

“In the meantime, I got in touch with the Charity having heard about some of the support available. I was primarily asking about physio support, but that led to welfare help from there.

“I was offered both digital and face-to-face support, but I’m only 50 minutes from Marine Court so I opted for the Outpatients Programme, as it’s not far for me to go for one-to-one support.

“I’ve found the sessions really helpful, and I’ve been able to continue the programmes at home in between.”

George Christmas, an on-call firefighter in East Sussex FRS

While there, George enquired about out welfare guidance, as he was growing concerned about the time he was off work and supporting his family.

“I’ve just got married and my wife’s pregnant, so it couldn’t have come at a worse time,” he explains. “I need to get back to work as soon as I can really, because you can’t live on peanuts for very long!

“I talked through my finances with the welfare team. At that point I thought I’d be okay to be honest, and I declined support at first because I didn’t think I needed it. But I ended up accepting some guidance and support in January.

“After the support I’ve had, I’d highly recommend the Charity to other on-call firefighters.”

George himself became an on-call firefighter after moving to a smaller community and meeting others who were in the role on his cricket team.

“Half of them are firefighters and they got me interested,” he adds. “Trying to fit the on-call work in with a full-time job, family life, drill night, it is a lot – but you know that when you sign up. It’s incredibly rewarding and I can’t wait to get back on the run myself.”

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, you can call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or visit the ‘Access Support’ tab in My Fire Fighters Charity.

And remember – if you’re feeling suicidal, you can call our Crisis Line 24 hours a day on 0300 373 0896.