LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – A group of New Mexico firefighters are coming together to help one of their own and they’re giving up something a lot of people wouldn’t.
“It killed my heart, really,'” said Los Alamos Firefighter Matt Williams.
For Matt Williams, the Los Alamos Fire Department means everything. He’s worked as a firefighter for nearly 20 years. Fifteen of those years was at Los Alamos.
“Every sense of the word service. To be there to help and to give,” said Williams.
“He embodies everything as a firefighter,” said Los Alamos Fire Department Deputy Chief Justin Grider.
In September 2014, Williams’ career came to a screeching halt.
“I woke up and I couldn’t move. It was total paralysis,” said Willaims.
The once healthy firefighter suddenly couldn’t do the simplest things.
“If I tried to get out of bed, I fell out and then once I was on the floor it took me several hours to crawl to where my phone was to get it,” he said.
Williams was about a year shy of retirement when he was diagnosed with Neuromyelitis Optica, a rare relapsing autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the optic nerve and spinal cord.
He was hospitalized and bound to a wheelchair for about two months.
He is now recovering and using a cane to get around, but he still can’t work full time.
“Devastating is the only word I can think of,” said Williams.
“I know the pain he is going through and he has a lot to give still and that’s why we are doing everything we can to help him along,” said Deputy Chief Grider.
Nearly 140 people of the 150 people who work for the Los Alamos Fire Department are giving Williams some of their vacation time. Their goal is to help him make it to his October retirement date.
“I can’t even put words to it,” said Williams.
Williams said this isn’t how he envisioned leaving his crew, who he calls his brothers, but he said he is thankful for the time they had together.
“These guys are giving me the rest of my life,” he said.
Williams was a firefighter in Espanola before he moved to Los Alamos in 2001.
Right now he’s on desk duty, working part time.