The Iola and Rural Fire Department has a new member.
James Irish officially joined the department on June 9, as a junior firefighter.
The son of firefighter Jim Irish and his wife Karen, James is 7 years old and suffers from primary immunodeficiency disease.
“Right now there is no cure,” said Lieutenant Tyler Hines, with the Iola fire department. “While he may not look like a sick kid, a simple cold is a trip to the hospital for James and the flu could be deadly.”
Hines said the fire department felt that it was important to honor James because of his struggles.
Diagnosed in November 2013, the first grader, who loves art, music, Minecraft and playing Legos, now faces weekly infusion to help treat the disease.
“The whole treatment takes almost two hours,” Karen said. “Two needles are placed in his stomach, and a pump pushes the medication in, along with anti-bodies from the plasma of about 10,000 people.”
“It hurts,” said James. “Sometimes when I know I have to have a treatment, I barricade myself in my room. I am sure I will get used to it after a while. But it still scares me.”
“His infusions are hard,” Karen said. “When you have to hold down your kid and poke him with needles, it is heart wrenching. No parent or child should have to go through that.”
Karen said the injections are painful but necessary due to his compromised immune system.
“He does not have all the cells that a normal immune system has,” she said. “His body does not know what to do with the few cells that he does have. They don’t know to fight off sickness.”
“The T cells tell the B cells what to do, like make antibodies,” James said.
“And James has no B cells,” Karen said.
“It’s no fun to see a young kid with such a horrible disease,” said Hines. “We wanted to do everything we can to help. We hope James can use the fire department personnel and fire station as a place to get away and ease his anxiety a little bit and get a smile on his face.”
James will have his own turnout gear that he can hang next to his father’s gear. He also has a name plate that reads Junior Firefighter Irish.
“I thought it was very sweet, caring and thoughtful for the fire department to try and reach out and care about him,” Karen said. “Even though he was not feeling too good on the day they gave him his gear, he sure looked cute.” she said.
“I think it’s neat,” James said. “I like wearing all that stuff.”
After he put on his gear, James climbed up on Engine 924 for some pictures.
“His strength and courage for being able to fight this disease every day fit the role for being welcomed on the Iola fire department as a junior firefighter,” Hines said. “Not only will he learn from us, but we can learn a lot from him – to appreciate the little things in life.”