From life-altering diagnosis to dream job

Tyler Dyke has been a firefighter at CFB Halifax since November 2018. SUBMITTED

Dockyard Firefighter Tyler Dyke: From Life-altering Diagnosis to Dream Job

By Sydney MacLeod,
CFB Halifax Public Affairs Intern

The daily routines of our Department of National Defence (DND) firefighters at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Halifax looked very different eight weeks ago. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, special kits consisting of masks, gloves, gowns, face shields and sanitizer are now stored in the trucks at HMC Dockyard fire department, ready for quick access in any emergency situation. There have also been quite a few adjustments to firefighters’ practices on the job, from the installation of a hand washing station at the entrance of the Dockyard fire hall to the restriction of personnel movements except when responding to emergencies. It’s undeniable that COVID-19 has changed how our firefighters must act and respond to safely and effectively do their jobs.

Dyke says he’s always wanted a job that allows him to help people and serve the community. SUBMITTED

But while the pandemic has presented unique mental and physical challenges within the emergency/first responder community, Dockyard firefighter Tyler Dyke is taking it in stride. One reason for this relatively smooth adjustment to a new routine is due to the dynamic nature of the job, of course, as each call to which Tyler responds is different; he has to be flexible. Beyond that, however, he’s also no stranger to overcoming immense obstacles in his personal life.

Tyler was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was just three years old. Epilepsy, the fourth most common neurological disorder, is characterized by unpredictable seizures and can cause other health problems. A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain that can cause changes in your behaviour, movements or feelings.

Despite being a very capable child, Tyler was faced with some difficult realities very early on due to this diagnosis. “From a young age, having to deal with seizures and taking medication, I knew that I was different from all my friends,” he explains. “I was told there would be challenges and I would not be able to do everything that everyone else was able to do.”

After undergoing multiple EEG’s, CAT scans and other testing that included cranial surgery, the location of the problem was identified. This meant Tyler was considered a candidate to have the affected area removed through risky brain surgery. He jumped at the opportunity.

On June 16, 2006, when Tyler was 19 years old, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert Brownstone, successfully removed the piece of Tyler’s brain that was causing his seizures. The outcome of the surgery was promising, as Tyler stopped having seizures. He now had a chance to lead a ‘normal’ life.

Tyler took full advantage of this new, seizure-free reality, following his passion and becoming a volunteer firefighter in 2010. Eight years later, on November 27, 2018, he landed his dream job as a DND firefighter at CFB Halifax.

“Growing up I always wanted to help people, and working at the Dockyard fire hall has given me the perfect opportunity to do what I love and serve the community,” Tyler explains. Beyond the rewarding work, he also feels right at home working with the women and men on his team. “It’s really like gaining a new family. Everyone looks out for each other through the good times and the bad while on shift and outside the workplace.”

The Base Fire Chief, Brian MacDonald, has been grateful for the addition of Tyler to his team. “In the limited time Tyler has been employed with the CFB Halifax Fire Department, he has contributed well to the team,” he explains. “He has added a diversity of perspective and a sense of compassion that will serve both Tyler and the department well for years to come.”

Tyler’s sense of compassion is regularly on display at work, but is also evident in his everyday life, as he is passionate about helping others whenever (and however) he can. While attending the Nova Scotia Community College for pipe trades back in 2008, the Epilepsy Association of the Maritimes (then the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia) awarded Tyler a scholarship. Beyond grateful for this opportunity and all the support shown to him by family and friends throughout the years, firefighter Tyler has been looking for a way to give back.

To help others dealing with epilepsy, Tyler plans to organize a fundraiser next year in honour of Purple Day, March 26, 2021 to raise awareness around epilepsy and to help those individuals and families who are experiencing challenges due to an epilepsy diagnosis.

People like Tyler make a big difference in trying times such as these. The fact is, we can’t face it alone. We must stick together and stay connected (at a physically acceptable distance, of course).

After overcoming past challenges and currently working in the midst of another, Tyler looks forward to continuing to help others in the future in whatever way he can.

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