Wash. fire lieutenant back on duty after heart transplant

East Jefferson Fire Rescue Lt. Reece Chambers is believed to be the first firefighter in the state to return to front-line duty after a heart transplant


By Laura French

CHIMACUM, Wash. — A Washington fire lieutenant who received a heart transplant in 2018 has recently returned to front-line duty.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue Lt. Reece Chambers, 42, is possibly the first firefighter in his state to receive a heart transplant and go on to resume front-line duty, according to Peninsula Daily News. He returned to work on Jan. 2 after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy two years ago and going into heart failure.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue Lt. Reece Chambers recently returned to full duty after receiving a heart transplant in 2018. (Photo/East Jefferson Fire Rescue Facebook)
East Jefferson Fire Rescue Lt. Reece Chambers recently returned to full duty after receiving a heart transplant in 2018. (Photo/East Jefferson Fire Rescue Facebook)

“New heart, new start,” Chambers said on Friday. “I get a new start at life.”

Chambers received the heart of 42-year-old Kevin Irby, and eventually developed a relationship with his family.

“All the things he gave me, he lost. There’s so much joy in our relationship and there’s so much sad(ness),” Chambers said. “I cherish that relationship.”

When he was first diagnosed, Chambers tried to continue working as much as he could, which Fire Chief Jim Walkowski said was caused by exposure to toxins while fighting fires. Chambers performed light duty until his condition became too severe and, after his surgery, he focused on getting back in shape so he could go back to work.

“He was focused on Plan A: coming back to full capacity,” Walkowski said.

Chambers said his fellow firefighters supported him throughout his entire recovery, bringing him food, doing yard work for him and going to his children’s sports matches to take videos for him to watch at the hospital.

“What attracted me to the fire service was the family that you get on this job and this place proved to be nothing but that,” said Chambers. “These guys and girls are brothers and sisters for sure. They were there for me.”

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