CONCORD, N.H. >> When Carolyn Hyde called the fire department, she was merely hoping to find an organization that might help pay for a wheelchair ramp for her fiance.
Instead, the Rochester department volunteered to build it. With materials provided by a lumber supplier, about 15 firefighters showed up at the couple’s house last week and got to work. The ramp on the front of the house was done in a few hours.
“It was unbelievable,” said Hyde, who was looking for assistance because her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of the ramp. “Words cannot describe how wonderful. I will be forever in their debt.”
The trouble started for Hyde’s fiance, Raymond Olson, a few months ago when he had a part of his right leg amputated because of circulation problems. At the same time, doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer.
Returning home, the 53-year-old Olson found it difficult to get up and down stairs and even leave the house for doctor’s appointments. But since the ramp has been installed, the laid-off factory worker said, he is starting to regain freedom.
“I can actually get in and out of the house on my own without having somebody pretty much carry me,” he said. “It changed things drastically for me. It gives me more independence. Before any of this happened, I was always a go-getter, helping somebody out if I could.”
Sam Morrill, president of Rochester Professional Firefighters Local 1451, said his fellow firefighters jumped at the chance to put their carpentry skills to work after hearing about Hyde’s plight.
“She needed help and had nowhere else to go,” said Morrill, who took the initial call from Hyde and was especially touched by the fact Olson was dealing with cancer on top of his mobility challenges.
“Cancer is a growing concern with firefighters. It is kind of on the rise,” Morrill said. “We kind of have an understanding of what he is going through. It kind of hit home, if you know what I mean.”
Morrill said he wasn’t surprised by the response of his colleagues, given that the fire department has a long history of helping the needy, from running a coat drive to handing out hundreds of gifts to children around Christmas.
“It just feels good that we made a difference in their lives, made things a little bit easier,” he said. “We are more than just about putting out fires and going on medical calls,” he said. “We help in the community in other ways.”