2004-02-06 / Front Page

Captain Maloney Fire-Fighting Back To Health

By Brian Magoolaghan
Captain Maloney Fire-Fighting Back To Health By Brian Magoolaghan

Captain Maloney photographed last year with Ladder 138.Captain Maloney photographed last year with Ladder 138.

FDNY Captain John Maloney is no stranger to battles and bravery.

His life changed in an instant three weeks ago when he was seriously injured in a fire, but the 30-year veteran got all of his men out of the burning house before the ceiling collapsed.

In the aftermath of the incident that may force his retirement, Maloney is recovering at home in Rockaway, and he’s learning just how much his family, fellow firefighters and neighbors care about him.

Maloney, 56, who already has a truckload of citations for bravery, suffered a spinal fracture and other injuries to his neck, pelvis, and bladder. He fractured his jaw and nearly bit through his tongue, which had to be stitched back together.

He will wear a brace that immobilizes his back, probably until summer.

So, how does his wife Monica, a nurse, describe him – a man who was restricted to a liquid diet, may need hip-replacement surgery and who can barely move?

"Believe it or not, he’s a little bored," Monica told The Wave this week. "He doesn’t complain85.He’s extremely happy that those other firefighters got out," she said.

The January 22 incident occurred at a time when Maloney’s children Mary, 10, and John Jr., 7, voiced concern for their father’s safety.

"Mom, I don’t want anything to happen to daddy in a fire," Mary said one day before her dad was hurt. Monica does her best to reassure them, she said.

"When somebody is on for 30 years you never think something is going to happen85.You don’t realize what kids think about85they worry," Monica said.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks made the children more aware of how dangerous their father’s work can be. Maloney and his men from Ladder 138 in Corona were at the World Trade Center and saw the second tower slide from the sky.

When the children see a fire reported on the news it can bring back their worries, Monica said.

Maloney, who was already in and out of two different hospitals, saw doctors at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan this week.

John Jr. was a little afraid to go near his dad when he first came home from the hospital on January 28, because of the big brace he was wearing and the pain he was in. But his second-grade class made a "get well soon" card that had to be delivered.

In it John Jr. wrote, "Dad, I’m really worried about you." Since then, John Jr. has become used to his father and the strange rigid plastic that covers his upper body.

"That’s his little buddy," Monica said, adding that Mary is his "little nurse."

The family is in good spirits. Maloney chuckled this week while speaking with The Wave from home, and Monica laughed while recalling the kindness that they have seen since he was hurt.

A firefighter friend of Maloney’s offered to drive Monica home from the hospital one day and then asked to use the bathroom, but he was in there a long time.

"I thought he was getting sick in there," Monica said. The firefighter was busy putting a grab-bar up on the wall for Maloney. She said the support the family has seen from the fire department brass on down, and from their neighbors has been a blessing.

Now Maloney’s focus is on healing. Monica said that his young children and his love of his work are his motivation.

In the late 1980s he returned to work after a bout with cancer. So, will he be return again?

"I would never stop him85 He loves that job," Monica says.

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