Paul Rossi, wearing more than 60 pounds of turnout gear, was guiding a “victim” down a ladder when he missed a rung and fell more than 10 feet, landing face first on the pavement below. The Mountville Fire Company chief was participating in a certification course, a regular and normally risk-free occurrence for the experienced firefighter. The last place Paul and his family expected him to end up that day was the Emergency Department at Lancaster General Hospital where trauma surgeons discovered he had no feeling or movement from the chest down.
Doctors diagnosed Paul’s condition as central cord syndrome. He was transferred from the LG Health Trauma Unit to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital where he worked to retrain the signals from his brain to his muscles, learn how to do simple tasks like feeding himself, and regain movement in his arms and legs.
After two months at Magee, Paul transitioned to the Lancaster Rehabilitation Hospital where he continued working toward his goal of one day being able to walk again.
A Christmas Miracle
Paul got out of his wheelchair and took his first few steps to join his fellow Mountville firefighters for Cookies with Santa, a tradition he was instrumental in bringing back to the Mountville community. Many people at the event thought they’d never see Paul walk again. It was a true Christmas miracle.
A Hero’s Homecoming
After spending 11 months in rehabilitation, Paul was released from the hospital. He was surprised to be greeted by not only his wife Denise, but also his fellow department firefighters. They helped him into the Mountville command vehicle and drove to the fire station with a police escort, followed by fire and rescue teams from neighboring areas. When Paul arrived at the station, he was welcomed by cheering family, friends and community members.
“Coming home never felt so good,” he recalled.
Getting Stronger Every Day
While Paul was in the hospital, his wife Denise worked with a builder to design an addition to their home that was ADA (Americans with Disability Act) approved so all the amenities would be accessible for her husband. He continued his therapy – getting stronger every day.
“I think having a positive attitude is what makes me work so hard to get my life back. Anything less is wasted energy,” said Paul. “Thank you to all who assisted me immediately after my injury at the training center, the Lancaster General Hospital Emergency Department and all of the physical and occupational therapists I worked with.”