Chantelle Pohl

Chantelle Pohl

Firefighter

My story starts with a fluke accident on a water slide that suddenly transformed me from a healthy and happy 20-year-old to a depressed and suicidal young woman suffering from Chronic Back Pain. For two years, I was in constant pain, unable to work, and seldom even able to get up from my couch. Despite being unable to earn money, I gave away thousands of dollars trying to remedy the pain as well as seeking its root cause. I was told that I may have chronic pain for the rest of my life. This was simply not something I was willing to accept!

My journey to recovery started with seeing a sign Got Back Pain? at a trade show and laughing inside, thinking: You have no idea! I kept walking, assuming that this back place would be no different from the other dozen that I had already tried that had just band-aided the situation, offering no real improvement.

. . . But, something inside made me turn around and go back and inquire. Best mind-changing decision I’ve ever made! They looked at my X-rays and confidently said, We can help you with that!

 And, they were right!

 After my first treatment, I was able to go from maxing out on painkillers everyday to taking them once a week (if that), and also being able to have a clear mind, not the faded, hazy feeling of being “on something.” I finally had hope that this could actually be fixed, and I might possibly live a somewhat normal life.

I had no idea what my new normal would look like, but I began to notice that activities, such as rock-climbing that would have been previously painful, were now completely pain-free. And as my health continued to improve and my body became stronger, I made the big decision to become a firefighter, a challenge that requires hundreds of hours of training and hard work. It also includes lifting 50 pounds on a regular basis, carrying my fellow firefighters down ladders, and “rescuing” the 180-pound dummy. No one with a sore back would be capable of doing those jobs or any of many other similarly-challenging duties.

I was recently awarded my Firefighter Officer 1 certificate. If you had told me 10 years ago, in the midst of my chronic pain and depression, that I would be here now, I would have laughed in disbelief! I didn’t even believe that getting to 10% of where I am now was a possibility. Words cannot describe my feelings as I walked to the stage to receive my certificate after having beaten such unbelievable odds.

I am beyond thankful for all the people along the way that helped me to get to where I am now, especially the BackFit team for helping my body to heal and to be even stronger than before the initial injury. Being part of Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue is more than just being a firefighter, it has provided me with an amazing extended family that is supportive and genuinely caring!

My passion for Fire and Life Safety Education stems from my desire to prepare people to prevent emergencies. I am glad to be of help when it comes to putting out a fire, cutting the door off of a car, rescuing someone who has taken a long fall, or providing some medical care. In those situations, helping to make the outcome better is the least I can do for the unfortunate people who need to call the fire service. But, providing the public with education that prevents some of these incidents from happening in the first place is my greatest passion. It’s not something that is easily measured, but the result is rewarding.

When I finish teaching another class of grade 9 students the life-saving skills of CPR, teaching a kindergarten class a song about smoke detectors, or providing instruction on how to use a fire extinguisher. I leave knowing I’ve somehow made an impact on the future of the people I have taught. As much as I hope they won’t need their new skills, the reality is that some of them will. I am glad that they will have the know-how to help remedy the situation as well as possible. Improving the outcome by even just a little bit is entirely worth it!