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Inextinguishable: The Fire Inside Bud Gadow

by Scott Hutchinson
May 03, 2018

The Fire Service is a noble calling, one which is founded on mutual respect and trust between firefighters and the citizens they serve.
          ~Firefighter Code of Ethics             

It’s no wonder that firefighter is perennially cited as one of the most trusted professions. People don’t need to be reminded that these are individuals who run TOWARDS fire. 

Firefighting as a calling is grounded in and defined by service, dedication, and courage. The terms “brotherhood,” “sisterhood,” or  “firefighting family” are often used to describe the connection and trust that exist among those who do this for a living as well as those who are called to volunteer.

For Bud Gadow, a longstanding member of the firefighting family, there is no single concept more important than trust. 

“In my profession, the word trust is not taken lightly,” said Gadow. 

The Kaukauna resident is well known and trusted among area firefighters, since he’s trained many of them over the last 40 years.

Gadow’s career path has always been service-oriented. Following his college education, he began working as a paramedic in the Fox Cities, eventually developing the paramedic program at his department. After 15 years of service, Gadow left to train people in firefighting and pre-hospital emergency care.

The call of firefighting was strong in Gadow, however, and he left the classroom to return to the stationhouse.

“I missed the business,” Gadow said.

For another 12 years he pursued the calling that one of the brotherhood described as “a small fire of its own, inextinguishable.” 

Upon retirement, Gadow felt he still had plenty to offer and went back to the same educational institution he worked at previously, taking a job in the fire protection division.

To this day, 10 years later, Gadow continues to train firefighters. And while Gadow makes use of a projector and white board in his classroom, his teaching equipment also includes an extensive network of ladders and scaffolding, harnesses and climbing gear, and fire trucks even more immense than those in childhood dreams.

“I pride myself in being able to train younger firefighters,” said Gadow, “but forty years of these activities resulted in a tremendous amount of wear and tear on my joints and muscles.”

Click here to watch Bud's video.

Like maintenance on a dependable vehicle, Gadow had his regular tune-ups – surgeries, in other words – over the years to keep himself on the job. More recently, however, Gadow was dealing with near constant pain in his hips, a byproduct of the wear and tear as well as the arthritis that had developed.

Over time, it had become increasingly difficult to walk, certainly to climb ladders.

“It got to the point where the pain was unbearable,” said Gadow, someone with a very high pain tolerance, a threshold he deemed both a blessing and a curse. He knew it was time for both hips to be replaced.

Gadow returned to his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. David Eggert of the Orthopedic & Sports Institute (OSI) in Appleton, the very same surgeon who had performed minor procedures for Gadow throughout his career.

“When I first was injured many years ago, I needed to find an orthopedic surgeon I could trust,” said Gadow. “And Dr. David Eggert was that surgeon.”

For his hip replacements (yes, plural), Gadow decided to go with the robotic option available at OSI. Known as Mako, this robotic-arm assisted surgical approach to joint replacement uses a 3D model to guide reconstruction for precise implant alignment and positioning.

Eggert is a enthusiastic proponent of the Mako platform. Prior to learning and utilizing the technique, where the surgeon guides a robotic arm that stays within pre-defined boundaries, Eggert had his own hip replaced via the Mako technology.

Gadow did his own homework and spoke knowledgably of the procedure.

“My understanding of the robot is that it is so accurate in its ability to place the prosthetic devices that there is no room for error,” said Gadow. 

The process for his hip replacement – CT scan, the programming of information into the Mako software to guide the personalized procedure, and the surgery itself – was explained to Gadow in depth, and he felt very comfortable with what was going to take place.

Following his surgery, Gadow was wheeled over to Recovery Inn, OSI’s attached skilled nursing facility. Physical and occupational therapy began right away. The therapists and the nutritionist educated Gadow on what he needed to do to get back to normal function. 

The next day, the physical therapist instructed Gadow to walk around the inside of Recovery Inn. He had prepared mentally for this challenge, but it turned out to be less of an obstacle than Gadow had anticipated.

“I had no pain, and that was without any type of pain medication,” said Gadow. “It was such a pleasure to be able to move freely without that constant pain in my hips. It made the therapy enjoyable to be able to move like that.”

After completion of his rehab, Gadow was virtually pain-free and his range of motion had been returned.

The robotic process was repeated for the second hip replacement. Gadow reported being able to bear full weight on day two, with an even shorter rehab process needed to regain almost full range of motion, although he continues with a physical therapy program and continually pushes himself to become stronger every day.

“My job necessitates a certain level of fitness,” said Gadow, “so even though I have zero issues doing the things I need to do, I continue to be aggressive with my rehab.”

Two months after his second surgery, Gadow says his hips are giving him the best movement – and joy – he’s had in many years.

“I hope the rest of my body can keep up with them,” he said.

Gadow again returned to the concept of trust when asked to sum up his experience.

“Since my very first surgery many years ago, I have developed a relationship with Dr. Eggert,” said Gasdow. “I trust his skill level. Working with him has allowed me to keep doing what I do in this line of work.”

Gadow’s schedule continues to be hectic. Teaching has its mental, physical, and time commitments, and Gadow pursues excellence in every phase, accepting the challenges as he has done for four decades. 

“I plan on training firefighters as long as I possibly can,” said Gadow. 

With that mindset, expect Gadow to continue providing guidance and wisdom to a new generation of firefighters for many years. Gadow’s influence on area firefighters is already considerable.

Captain Ryan Relien of Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue, a former student of Gadow’s, put it this way:

“When it comes to training a bunch of stubborn firefighters, some guys have it and some guys don’t,” said Relien, a 27-year veteran of the force. “Whether it was rappelling off the side of a tall building or crawling around in a collapsed structure, Bud was going to be right there participating. Anyone that has been on the training grounds with Bud knew he was going to make you a better firefighter.”