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Firefighters rally behind retired captain diagnosed with rare disease

Johnnie Martin has become wheelchair-bound since being diagnosed with Devic's disease.
Johnnie Martin has become wheelchair-bound since being diagnosed with Devic's disease.

Credit: Courtesy of Patrick Lindstrom

Credit: Courtesy of Patrick Lindstrom

Firefighters across metro Atlanta are coming together to support a retired fire captain who has been partly paralyzed after being diagnosed with a rare condition.

Johnnie Martin worked at DeKalb County Fire Rescue for three decades before retiring and working part-time at the Roswell Fire Department. In recent weeks, he was diagnosed with Devic's disease, according to his friend, fellow Roswell firefighter Patrick Lindstrom.

The condition, often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, is a nervous system disorder that involves immune system attacks on the optic nerves and spinal cord. There is no cure for the disease, but there are several treatments that can control some of the symptoms.

“Three to four weeks ago, he was on a fire trip,” Lindstrom told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He went from riding the firetruck basically to being 60% to 70% paralyzed from the waist down.”

Martin (wearing light blue) with a crew at a DeKalb fire station
Martin (wearing light blue) with a crew at a DeKalb fire station

Credit: Courtesy of Patrick Lindstrom

Credit: Courtesy of Patrick Lindstrom

Lindstrom set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Martin, who is now wheelchair-bound. The fundraiser had amassed almost $5,000 as of Monday morning.

The money will primarily go toward helping Martin adjust to life in a wheelchair. Firefighters from DeKalb and Roswell are planning to go to Martin’s home in Ocoee, Tennessee next month for a work day to make his home wheelchair-friendly.

“The least we could do is try to build him a ramp, try to get him a wheelchair,” Lindstrom said. “What I wanted to do is just have a day to go and really ... show him how much we care and how much he means to us.”

Lindstrom and Martin were in EMT school together in 1989, before working for DeKalb at different stations. Martin worked his way up to captain and retired last year. He commuted to Roswell from Tennessee to work part-time, Lindstrom said.

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