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The Lake News Online
  • A friend to the firefighters

  • As youngsters, many of us aspire to become fire fighters or police officers. We're caught in that mindset of excitement and wanting to help others.
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  • As youngsters, many of us aspire to become fire fighters or police officers. We're caught in that mindset of excitement and wanting to help others.
    Jay Layden, 19, the son of John and Suzi Layden of Osage Beach, had the same dream. Aside from a fascination with the flashing lights and sirens as a youngster, Jay's interests were piqued by a family friend in Kansas City. Uncle Chip (Clifford Conklin), now a retired Kansas City fireman, often shared stories of his fire calls and emergencies with Jay.
    But Jay can't make the grade as a full-fledged fireman, responding to fires and other emergency situations.
    He has a brain malformation called a partial agenesis of the corpus callosum.
    As explained by Suzi, the corpus callosum is the stem in the brain that helps the two lobes of the brain communicate.
    "Most of ours is about as long as an index finger," she said. "Jay's is about as long as one knuckle. This takes him longer to take in information, process it and apply it. He has no physical disabilities."
    To the rescue is the Osage Beach Fire Department. Thanks to the compassion of Fire Chief Jeff Dorhauer and the camaraderie of stationhouse firemen, Jay is now an honorary member of Station 1 on Bluff Drive, and spent most of the summer "on duty" with the rest of the crew.
    "Jay has such a passion for firemen and fire trucks," Suzi said. "And I've thought for awhile now that since Jay is older maybe he could have a job coach at the fire station. So, I emailed Jeff (Chief Dorhauer) and told him what Jay wanted to do. Jeff was very responsive."
    Jay is back in school, but his mom hopes to work out transportation issues so he can continue to be part of the Station 1 team. He doesn't actually climb aboard the fire trucks when there's an emergency, but he's still a valuable part of the crew.
    Jay ate with the crew members, and even helped them do some cooking ― or certainly watched over their shoulders to make sure they did it right. He worked closely with the other firefighters, doing daily chores such as keeping the station spotless, washing trucks, taking out and trash and participating in training including rolling and unrolling hoses.
    One aspect of training is to jump into fire gear as quickly as possible when there's a call to action. Firemen are timed on how quickly they can put their suits, boots, helmets and other gear on.
    Despite Jay's challenges, he was able to improve his time with the encouragement of the other firemen.
    "This is something new to us," Assistant Fire Chief Steve Stafford. "We've established some structure for him, and that seems to be working out well. We certainly don't want this experience to be a detriment to him."
    Page 2 of 2 - Suzi says Jay's involvement with the OBFPD "has been really awesome." He came home in the evenings and told about the various emergency response calls the firemen had, about different truck and equipment repairs or issues the department had.

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