Brownsburg Fire Territory Firefighter Serving Community Again After COVID-19 Recovery
As a Brownsburg Fire Territory firefighter, Kevin Byron faces the unknown every day, never sure of what danger may come during any given shift. Last spring however, Byron, who works with the Brownsburg Fire Territory, encountered a different kind of danger that caught him and the rest of the world completely off guard. It was mid-March when Byron started feeling fatigued.
“I could do what I needed to do, but a lot was taken out of me,” he recalls.
Then the breathlessness started.
He assumed he had the flu, but soon learned it was COVID-19. When his oxygen saturation levels began to drop, he went to the emergency room. Then a period of his life began that he can’t recall, until he woke up in an intensive care unit three weeks later. Though he was disoriented at the time, it’s a day he can chuckle about now.
“I glanced at the TV screen and saw the World Series game was on,” says Byron, who didn’t realize it was a rebroadcasted game.
All he knew was that he had been admitted to the hospital in late March, and the World Series occurs in October.
“I’m thinking, ‘Geez, how long have I been out?’” Byron says.
About that time, a young lady standing at his bedside explained that she was the daughter of one of his lieutenants.
“My dad is really worried about you,” she said. Byron immediately felt at ease knowing that he was surrounded by good people and extended family.
“We talk about being in a brotherhood, and it’s very true,” says Byron, who became a firefighter in 2003 after serving in the Navy and working as an engineer.
Byron pursued a career in firefighting because he saw a need for people to step up and protect the community.
Byron was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit for two weeks. Then, he moved to a different medical facility for another two weeks. When he finally got discharged, the medical staff lined the hallways to applaud his recovery.
“That was a little overwhelming,” he says. “When you think about it, all these people lent their talents to keeping me alive. They shouldn’t be cheering me. I should be cheering them.”
Despite being an active person, Byron acknowledges that the coronavirus brought him to his knees.
“Every time I’d try to stand up that first week after the ICU, I’d pass out because my blood pressure would bottom out,” he says.
According to doctors, Byron had a viral heart attack. His kidneys had also failed but seem to be working properly again. Though Byron is officially considered recovered from COVID-19 and says his stamina is improving each day, his energy is not where it was before the pandemic began. He was, however, able to return to work at the fire station on July 29.
Byron, 52, says getting sick was humbling. He once thought of himself as invincible before the virus reminded him of just how human he is.
“I thought of myself as bulletproof, but there are limits to what you can put your body through,” says Byron, adding that what plagues him the most is not the lingering symptoms, but the worry that he may have unknowingly passed the virus on to somebody else.
Byron’s battle with the coronavirus helped him put life into perspective. A lot of things that were important to him prior to getting sick don’t seem like such a big deal now. The things he had previously taken for granted are now foremost in his mind – things like being able to hold his wife, hug his children and pet his dog Bella.
When Byron is not at the fire station, he’s typically at home with his wife Becky and their children, Aiden, 18, and Riley, 16. Aiden is on the autism spectrum and loves to sing.
“If you’re ever out at the store and you hear someone singing at the top of their lungs, that’s Aiden,” Byron says. “He’s very friendly and will come up and try to engage with you. Most of the time, people are pretty good about it.”
When Byron got sick, his brother Keith dropped everything and came from California to stay with the family for six weeks. While visiting, Keith also developed a new perspective on life’s priorities.
“He realized after living with my son that maybe we could use some help, so he decided to move here and bring my mom with him,” Byron says.
Another person who came through for the family when Byron was down and out was his friend Robert Peters, with whom Byron served in the Navy. Because Byron incurred a number of medical expenses, congregation members at his church, Connection Pointe Christian, set up a GoFundMe page.
“The church raised $10,000 and an anonymous donor matched it, so in total they raised $20,000 for my family,” Byron says. “I was blown away. They rallied so hard around my family and kept us afloat.”
Byron would like to individually thank each and every person who donated and prayed for him, but he doesn’t know who they are so he plans to pay it forward the way he knows best – by giving his all at his job.
“The only thing I can do is continue to serve my community to the best of my ability,” he says. “The level of support this community gave us has been absolutely mind-boggling.”
As for advice regarding the pandemic, Byron advises everyone to wear masks, wash hands and socially distance. He also says folks should avoid fighting.
“We have weaponized this virus for political advantage, and I think people are suffering because of that,” Byron says. “We need to get beyond it and do what we can to keep ourselves and our community healthy.”
Because he’s been on several news segments, Byron often gets recognized when he’s around town, and people tend to ask how he’s doing.
“I’ve gone to lunch a few times and people behind the counter refuse to let me pay for my meal,” Byron says. “It’s very nice.”
Just as nice, in his eyes, is the opportunity to reciprocate.
“It’s always been a pleasure and honor to serve my community,” Byron says. “But now it means so much more.”