Burning building. Car accident. Seizure. Respiratory distress. Stroke. Cardiac arrest. These are just a handful of emergencies that EMTs, paramedics, firefighters and police officers respond to every day. They are trained to save lives, but sometimes doing so comes at a cost to their own health and wellbeing.
“First responders work a minimum shift of 12 hours and can go up to 24 hours. Many of them are experiencing aches and pains but have to work through it,” said Taylor Graham, DC (’21), licensed EMT and aspiring firefighter. “Generally, first responders are not compensated well, and they don’t often have access to great care, so I asked myself: How can I bridge the gap between medical care, chiropractic care and first responders?”
The answer: ChiroTactics. Designed to serve those who serve, Dr. Graham takes a tactical, integrated approach to caring for first responders. In addition to manual therapy and chiropractic care, Dr. Graham offers nutritional counseling and whole-body wellness care. He eventually plans to have a fully integrated clinic that also offers massage therapy, physical therapy, personal training, pre-made healthy meals and more. His mantra is to empower others through education and care.
While working to finalize a brick-and-mortar location in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dr. Graham is traveling to fire and police departments to offer chiropractic care as a concierge service.
“If a first responder is working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., they miss all available office hours at a typical chiropractic clinic or doctor’s office,” said Dr. Graham. “By traveling to them, I can provide care when they’re not on an emergent call. To my knowledge, this model in the U.S. doesn’t exist.”
With a passion for conservative care—which led him to Logan for his DC degree—and an interest in immediate care—which drove him to pursue his EMT license and will hopefully land him a spot in the fire academy this spring—ChiroTactics is the best of both worlds for Dr. Graham. As part of his EMT training, he completed several hours of ride-alongs and shadowing in the emergency room and ambulance that are making him a better health care provider—whether that’s as a full-time EMT or as a chiropractor.
“It was humbling and eye-opening to see what first responders deal with on a day-to-day basis,” said Dr. Graham. “Being on the front lines with first responders helps me treat them better because I understand the job and the equipment and how that extra load impacts the body.”
For example, a police officer’s duty belt weighs 30 to 45 pounds, and a firefighter’s bunker gear, including the helmet, oxygen tank, coat, boots and more, weighs approximately 75 pounds. EMTs and paramedics lift hundreds of pounds each time they load and unload a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance. Simply put, first responders work in nonoptimal positions and circumstances each day, making access to conservative care all the more important to maintain optimal function, said Dr. Graham.
He also understands firsthand the life-changing possibilities of chiropractic care and knows that the conservative care model plays a vital role in our society.
“I was in a severe car wreck at 15 years old—I was rear ended from a dead stop at 70 miles per hour. I was in a small car, she was in a big truck. All I remember is waking up in the grass,” he said. “I was discharged from the hospital that same night with strong painkillers that I couldn’t handle, and I spent the next week in bed throwing up and in excruciating pain. My mom tried to take me to many different doctors who all said it was whiplash and wrote me off because I didn’t have health insurance. Finally, a chiropractor gave me a thorough exam and took X-rays, revealing a small hairline fracture and severe dysfunction and position in my upper thoracic and cervical spine. It took six months of adjustments paired with rehabilitation and strength and conditioning to repair the damage from the accident.”
Whether as a chiropractor or first responder, Dr. Graham said being able to change a few people’s lives in the community he lives in makes it all worth it.
“At the end of the day, I will be a career first responder and chiropractor. My day-to-day work will include extracting people from fires, treating them on the ambulance and treating my fellow first responders with chiropractic care while also being a loving husband to my wife, Virginia, and father to my new baby boy, Whit,” said Dr. Graham. “I have such a short life here on Earth. Why be selfish with it? I have a dream, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to achieve it and help as many people along the way as I can.”