Diagnosis: Pectoralis major tendon tear
Treatment: Shoulder surgery and rehab
Chris Tarkir tackles a catastrophic injury - and the Seattle Fire Academy.
Making the cut to train in the Seattle Fire Academy is a distinction that thousands of men and women pursue every year, but very few achieve.
It requires a near- impossible combination of extraordinary aptitude and mental and physical toughness to secure one of the handful of spots in the department’s arduous 15-week intensive training program.
Chris Tarkir, however, stood out through the application process and was among the top recruits when training began last year.
But just weeks into the program, Chris was manning the nozzle-end of a hose line when he suffered a catastrophic injury - a pectoralis major tendon tear.
The tendon connecting the muscles across his chest had essentially ripped from his bone.
INCREASING HIS CHANCE FOR A FULL RECOVERY
He needed immediate medical attention and a friend referred Chris to Dr. Brandon Messerli at EvergreenHealth Sport and Spine Care.
After an initial diagnostic exam and tests, Dr. Messerli consulted with Dr. Michael Codsi, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder repair at EvergreenHealth, to collaborate on the best treatment plan for Chris - one that would increase his chances of a full recovery and eventual return to the fire academy.
The path to recovery for Chris, though, would require surgery and nearly a full year of focused rehabilitation, including physical therapy, chiropractic care and therapeutic massage.
“With a significant injury like Chris faced, my role is to be upfront and honest about the recovery process, but I also try to encourage patients with a sense of hope and optimism. I’m with them every step of the way through treatment, rehab and recovery,” Dr. Codsi said.
“Hearing that news was like throwing a harness on a wild horse,” Chris described. “But Dr. Codsi’s straightforward and supportive approach helped me process my new reality and get in the head space that would be critical to achieving a full recovery.”
TAKING EVERY PRECAUTION
A full recuperation would require patience, allowing the body to heal through a natural progression while methodically adding rehab elements in small, incremental steps.
“It was like being tied to a hitch,” Tarkir explained. “But as a firefighter, I knew I had to take every precaution so that I could get back to my highest level of strength for everyone’s safety—including my own, my fellow firefighters’ and the safety of all the people we serve.”
Following what he described as the longest year of his life, Tarkir completed his training with the Seattle Fire Academy in November 2017 and was assigned to a station in West Seattle. “Through the entire journey, I knew I had the best people on my team—and that’s what kept me going toward the finish line.”
“I’m so thankful I landed at EvergreenHealth, where I found the support I needed to return to complete health,” Tarkir said.