Chicago,
27
September
2022
|
17:20 PM
America/Chicago

Diagnosed with terminal cancer, an Illinois firefighter takes his final ride home in the same ambulance he once used to transport patients

Summary

Itasca firefighters transported 34-year-old Frank Nunez home to Crystal Lake, Illinois, along with his fiancé and family dog

Itasca firefighters transported Frank in the very same ambulance he once used to transport patients.

CHICAGO, IL -  At 34-years-old, firefighter Frank Nunez has spent the past few days saying his final goodbyes from a hospital room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

In 2019, after experiencing pain in his left leg, Frank was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue cancer called synovial sarcoma. Frank was treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, and went into remission.

But in 2021, the cancer returned in his left lung. Frank participated in several clinical trials, and during his treatment he never stopped working at the Itasca Fire Protection District in Itasca, Illinois. 

Frank loved being a firefighter and had an incredibly strong work ethic. He started his career in 2014 and joined the Itasca Fire Protection District in 2018. Frank responded to fire alarms and medical emergencies and participated in fire prevention and training. He recently finished a fire inspector training class before being admitted to Northwestern Memorial in late September with terminal cancer.

During this hospitalization, Frank’s fellow firefighters have never left his side, rotating visits every day. Because Frank is intubated, the team communicates with Frank via text messages and dry erase boards. When asked to describe Frank, his colleagues told him:

  • They wish they could have his personality
  • He was admired
  • A warrior
  • Intelligent
  • An incredible human

On Wednesday, Sept. 21, Frank celebrated his 34th birthday with a commitment ceremony to his fiancé, Christina, inside his hospital room at Northwestern Memorial. Frank and Christina, who live in Crystal Lake, Illinois, met two months before Frank was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. From the moment they started dating, Frank knew Christina was “the one.” They got engaged in June 2022, and share a dog, Max, who still waits by the door for Frank to come home.

“All of my patients are absolutely wonderful, but every so often we get these phenomenal people like Frank who you just know would walk in a room and light up the room and make everyone feel safe,” said Khalilah Gates, MD, pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “To provide care for Frank means a lot.”

“When you talk about someone who is dedicated and loves life, you're talking about Frank,” said Itasca Fire Chief Jack Schneidwind. “He has not missed a day and always came in with a great attitude wanting to make a difference to the people that we serve. When you talk about somebody who looked forward to living each day, that was Frank.”

Frank continues to provide counsel to other loved ones battling cancer – including his own mother, who just received a stem cell transplant for leukemia at Northwestern Memorial. Frank’s mother was able to visit him in the Medical Intensive Care Unit where the two shared their final goodbyes via messages on the dry erase board.

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Frank went home on hospice care with a special escort. Itasca firefighters transported Frank in the very same ambulance he once used to transport patients. Members of the Chicago Fire Department were also there to salute Frank as he was lifted into the ambulance. As a first responder, Frank took his final ride home with his fellow firefighters, his fiancé, and furry friend Max – who couldn’t wait any longer for his best friend to come home. 

 

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Itasca firefighters transported 34-year-old Frank Nunez home to Crystal Lake, Illinois, along with his fiancé and dog.

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