Firefighters climb Red Rocks to support colleague

ARVADA, Colo. -- A group of Arvada firefighters rallied around their colleague at Red Rocks Amphitheater Sunday morning, for his first workout since heart surgery.

"Chris is probably one of the most fit people on the fire department," Arvada firefighter and longtime friend Donny Barra said. "I've been with him since the beginning of this whole ordeal. When we found out he was back working out we were pretty excited."

Chris Schmidt, who has been with the fire dept. for more than 20 years, says he was diagnosed with a valve infection called Endocarditis in mid-March.

Because the infection is so rare, he says it took doctors several days to figure out what was wrong.

"They were more focused on the gall bladder and kidney stones. The thing that really took a big turn is when I started having chest pains," Schmidt said.
"[The doctor] told me he had no idea how I had recovered. He has seen some bad hearts, but nothing as bad as mine."

Schmidt says because he has a pacemaker, he is no longer able to work as a firefighter; however, the department is hoping to keep him working in another capacity.

Now, Schmidt is trying to encourage people to get early detection testing for Endocarditis, especially people in physical labor jobs. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms, chest pain and muscle aches, among others.

"Prior to this happening I had some high fevers, some memory loss. Those would be the two big ones," Schmidt said.

Early detection testing includes blood tests and cardiograms.

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