Watson Chapel Fire and Rescue’s Steven Tidwell doesn’t consider his blindness to be a handicap, “It’s a challenge” he says. The valedictorian of Watson Chapel High School’s class of 2002 began his fire service career in February 2004, as the department’s dispatcher. In 2005, Steven went a step further and took a 6 week 1st responder class. With that in mind he has decided to compete in this year’s AEMTA first responder competition.
Born a mere 1.5 pounds and two months premature, his retinas were detached leaving him blind. From the time he was old enough to ride in a car and carry on a conversation, Tidwell developed a mental map of the Watson Chapel area. From road conversations Tidwell memorizes street names, intersections, addresses, and even whether the address is a trailer or house. Chief Tommy Holcomb says, “I think he is amazing. If you didn’t know he was blind, you would never guess it.”
“The challenge is mutual”, Assistant Chief and Medical Training Officer Dwayne Aalseth said. “He can do anything he wants to; I have to figure out how to train him. I depend on my sight for just about everything, and have to adjust to compensate for his blindness.”
“Even though I’m blind, I feel I’m just as much a part of the fire department as anyone else. I do the best I can to help the firefighters, and they do their best to help me.” With a smile and a laugh, “The only thing I don’t understand is why they haven’t let me drive the fire truck yet,” Steven said.
Aalseth goes on to say, “When I get on the scene, he gives me a great patient care turn over with the appropriate care rendered. He will do great at the competition, and I look forward to seeing him compete.”
When contacted about the competition, Region 5 director and competition coordinator Ronny Russell said, “I think it’s great he is going to compete. He will be judged the same as everyone else, and any concessions that must be made — if any — will be granted to the other teams also.”
On a side note, Steven and his wife Mandy are expecting a baby in mid-October.