Detroit Firefighter Paralyzed On First Assignment Will Lose Health Benefits

A Detroit firefighter who was paralyzed during his first assignment ever will now be losing his medical coverage due to the city’s bankruptcy.

Brendan Milewski was called to a building in the summer of 2010 when a chunk of limestone collapsed from the structure, striking him and fracturing his spine. The Detroit firefighter was left as a T6 paraplegic, and will need physical therapy for the rest of his life.

“I do nine hours of physical therapy a week to keep from atrophy from my muscles shrinking up, losing mass and shriveling away,” he said.

Milewski has been offered a stipend a $200 a month, but said he feels abandoned by the city he served.

“I definitely feel discarded. It’s disheartening that guys like me put ourselves on the line everyday. These Detroit firemen, they put their lives, their bodies, on the line every day,” he said.

Firefighting is particularly hazardous in Detroit, which has many vacant and crumbling buildings. The city also has an estimated 30 cases of arson each year.

Brendan’s story came to light this week after a report from My Fox Detroit’s Charlie LeDuff, who interviewed Milewski and captured the pain and uncertainty the Detroit firefighter now faces.

“It’s a complete loss of identity for me, to be in this position now and not amongst my peers, and seen as weak and feeble and handicapped and disabled,” Milewski said. “I hate all these words. I hate that they describe me.

“When there’s a school shooting, or when there’s a building fire or a whatever, a car accident, hazardous chemical release, soldiers don’t show up. When you call 911, we do. We’re the first line of defense. And sacrificing our lives, our health, one would only assume that we would be taken care of…. The benefits that we got, they weren’t given to us. They were earned.”

The story itself was posted on October 30, known in Detroit as Devil’s Night. It is seen as a time of mischief, but in Detroit it means a number of fires will be set, usually in vacant buildings.

Detroit firefighter Brendan Milewski has also been featured in the documentary Burn, which aims to bring more attention to first responders who battle fires.