Return to Work Lab: A Firefighter’s Story


Can you imagine rushing into a burning house to save a family inside? Can you imagine the chaos, the stress, the pressure you would feel?

Now imagine doing those things after recovering from a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.

That’s what happened to Brian Stokes, a Chicago firefighter and the subject of our new short film, “Return to Work Lab: A Firefighter’s Story.”

Less than a year ago, the 39-year-old father of three experienced an electrical disturbance in his heart known as ventricular fibrillation during a racquetball game with his friends, and was rushed to the hospital only to find out that his dream job as a firefighter was probably over.

But did it have to be?

All too often, this is the problem for firefighters and police officers, the brave men and women who serve our communities. Just because they are active and typically in good shape doesn’t mean they are immune to heart problems. Just because they are strong and brave doesn’t mean they don’t have apprehension about returning to work after a heart scare. Brave or not, heart problems are no joke.

The “Return to Work Lab” at Baylor Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital offers an uncommon solution to this somewhat common problem. To our knowledge, the “Return to Work Lab” is the only program in the country that provides cardiac rehab training specifically designed to put our public servants or “industrial athletes” back to work.

The training is equal parts physical intensity and mental re-teaching. It aims to get participants in great physical condition, but also helps them establish confidence in their ability to do their jobs again.

It’s like going through the police or fire academy again, only with a new and improved heart.

Watch Brian’s story below and tell us what you think in the comments. We debuted this short film last night at the Dallas International Film Festival before the premiere of the movie, Decoding Annie Parker about the discovery of the BRCA-1 genetic mutation that causes breast cancer. Visit us again soon for a review of that film by one of our genetic counselors at the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.

Please share Brian’s story with others that you think may benefit from this advanced and unique rehabilitation program.

About the author

Chris Callahan
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Chris is the former marketing director at Baylor Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital. He is a former television journalist, an Oklahoma Sooners fan and music lover who can no longer imagine life without Twitter.

9 thoughts on “Return to Work Lab: A Firefighter’s Story”

  1. The story is heartfelt. The team members are like no other, their dedication, passion and doing what makes logical sense in the road to recovery is not so easy to find in similar programs. There is no question it is “the right thing to do” for this man and all public safety heroes and industrial athletes. I know you have touched many lives in the Return to Work Lab, and as a whole society benefits too. Keep up the good work cardiac rehab team, your country needs you.

  2. Thanks to the Cardian Rehab team at Baylor University Medical Center for helping the men and women who risk their lives helping other people. This is a terrific program!

  3. Why does a Firefighter, this millenium, have to travel so far for such a program? Baylor Cardiac Rehab, great job in helping break the myth! Let’s get these people back to work!!!

  4. Thanks for this life sustaining work. The video is an inspiration. Congratulations!

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Return to Work Lab: A Firefighter’s Story