Fire Captain Matt Kearney, Paving the Way While Inspiring Others By: Debbie George, EASET1D.org
When Fire Captain Matt Kearney was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of twelve, his family didn’t know much about the autoimmune disease. Matt had been wetting the bed and falling asleep in class. His father told a co-worker who had Type 1 Diabetes about his son’s symptoms and he suggested he get him checked out. Matt saw his Pediatrician who confirmed he had Type 1 Diabetes. Matt had always been an active child and he wasn’t going to let his diagnosis slow him down. Heavy into off-road racing both car and motorcycle, Matt thought he would pursue a career in racing someday. However, after two bad crashes, Matt started to think twice about his racing career. It was on the ride to the hospital in a fire ambulance that sparked his interest in thinking a career in fire service may be the way to go and, after all, it was his number one job recommendation in high school! Matt soon became a volunteer firefighter at his local fire station and attended his local fire academy where he graduated second in his class in 2007. Matt however, was met with some challenges that he had to overcome. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2007 did not recommend people with Type 1 Diabetes to be in fire service activities, and the California DMV states if you have T1D you cannot drive an ambulance. Matt was unable initially to get his ambulance driving certificate so he went and worked for a basic life support ambulance company as the emergency medical technician in the back. After several months of determination and grit Matt received his ambulance driving certificate from the Department of Motor Vehicles where he went and started working for his local advance life support ambulance company. Matt then went to Paramedic school and worked as a Paramedic on an ambulance for an additional two years. In 2012 Matt was hired by the third fire department he applied for, Palm Springs, which is his hometown. With much hard work and perseverance, Matt was promoted to Fire Captain this past June, 2018! Matt’s wife, Amy, had the honor of pinning him with the Captain badge. We congratulate him on this great achievement! Matt is truly a role model for others to follow… never let Type 1 Diabetes stop you from pursuing your dreams or achieving your goals. It’s not surprising Matt made Fire Captain in such a short time, he has always strived to push himself to go beyond his best and that includes his physical capabilities. Matt has accomplished many physical endurance races and events including the Stagecoach 400, a challenging non-supportive bike-packing race that travels through a mosaic of contrasting landscapes taking riders from remote mountains through a seemingly endless desert, into the city, and along the sea. This grueling ride is 400 miles and took Matt 72-hours, non-stop! Matt finished 11th out of 90 participants. WELL DONE!! Amy shares the same passion for the outdoors, in 2013 they hiked the John Muir Trail, a trail that that starts in Yosemite and travels South to Mount Whitney. It took them 21 non-stop days; an experience Matt describes as “life-changing” which I can only imagine! Being one who helps others, Matt had the opportunity to share with his Endocrinologist, Dr. Gaja Andzel, who also has T1D, that he follows a low carbohydrate diet and has had great results, his last A1c was 5.0. Not too many fluctuations with highs and lows like many people with Diabetes experience. Dr. Andzel had been struggling with her sugar fluctuations despite her great A1C of 6.2. She decided to give the low carbohydrate diet a try and has had fantastic results. Within two months she had stabilized her blood sugar fluctuations as well as transforming her health. Dr. Andzel is now recommending the diet to her patients and has started a weekly class at her clinic to teach others. Matt and Dr. Andzel started a local Facebook group two years ago called Low Carb Talk IE to help inspire others to transform their health. In the two years since inception, they have helped countless people with Type 2 Diabetes get off their medication which is great news! Speaking with Matt certainly inspired me to persevere in our mission to raise public awareness on Type 1 Diabetes and to continue to touch lives and help others when we can. Oh, and did I mention, Matt coaches the high school mountain bike team, as well as being a fire instructor for the local fire academy. I’m pretty sure any parent whose child is on the bike team and has T1D is going to be pretty happy they have Matt as a coach! We appreciate Matt sharing his inspiring story with us. Keep being amazing Matt, we appreciate all you do!