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It’s safe to say becoming to be a firefighter is rather difficult; it takes months of training and hard work. Every day is a risk, crawling into flames that can swallow them whole, never knowing if they'll get out alive. When they dig deep in that fire, they are fighting to save a life. But Shark River Hills volunteer firefighter Scott Nokes is fighting for his own life.  

On November 13, Scott's friends and family hope to pack The Headliner in Neptune Township, to raise the funds that will help Scott return from seemingly-insurmoutable odds.

Scott's day of reckoning arrived this past September 17...a change in metabolism that eventually cost him his legs and eyes. How big was the downturn? Scott couldn't tell me directly. I sat down with his mother, Janice Nokes.

"It started as ulcerative colitis, that became toxic. From there, it spread to his lungs, because he's susceptible to pneumonia, and then his heart." In a matter of hours, he slid from a treatable condition to Condition Red.

Scott, Janice and Al Nokes. (Photo Credit Nokes Family)

As parents, you will do anything for your kids, especially if it pertains to their health. Janice and Al Nokes took her son to the emergency room. Scott was experiencing serious pain and within six hours he was admitted to the ICU.

“They had to put him on a very strong medication called “suppressor.” People usually take three, he was on five.”

Suppressors help someone who have low blood pressure, Scott's blood pressure was so low that the doctors kept escalating the doses.

Unfortunately, the episode caused him to lose both of his legs and his vision, Scott later needed a tube inserted to his trachea, to help him breathe.

“When I got there they had me sign some form,s just in case they needed to do something with the liver, or with the kidneys. The time I saw him, he was unconscious and hooked up to medical devices.”

Scott’s kidneys were on dialysis. The doctors didn’t know if they would even get his kidneys back. What's more, his blood pressure was in the gutter.

“The doctors weren’t expecting him to survive," Janice recalled. "They told us to pray for the best but to prepare more for the worst.”

What parent is ever ready to hear those words? How can anyone process such a terrible idea?

“My heart dropped and my husband and I were in complete shock," Janice said. "To take your son to the hospital in one piece, and all of sudden he’s unconscious and the doctors are telling you he’s not going to make it.” That week, for Scott’s parents, was overwhelming.

I asked Janice if she believed in miracles, she closed her eyes and shook her head yes. Her eyes began to glaze over with tears.

“Absolutely. I believe in prayer and this boy has prayers coming from India, Grenada probably almost everywhere in the world.” Scott developed friendships around the globe during his military service. His family finds that unique and pretty special.

"The medicine isn’t only keeping Scott alive," Janice said, "but those prayers around the world are keeping him alive as well. He’s definitely a tough kid, he will definitely fight through this.”

Scott is making little victories every day, On November 8, he was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in East Orange. Janice considers it to be one of the best hospitals in New Jersey. Scott began minor physical therapy.

“That’s a good step because its one step getting him out of the bed for the first time. His arms are very weak from laying in bed for seven weeks.”

Physicians documenting Scott’s condition say it will take some time to for his motor skills to return. When he gets his prosthetic legs, that will also add some recovery time as well.

The Nokes family is hoping their son is finished with his physical therapy in late March. If everything goes well with physical therapy, there's a chance that Scott can transfer to the Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia. Scott needs an eye donor.Janice and her husband will be heading down there in the upcoming weeks to learn about their son’s options.

“One doctor said that he’s suffering optic nerve damage, and he will never see again. Another doctor told me that he has a strong possibility getting his eyes back. So I am just praying for a miracle,.and praying down the road we’ll be able to get his eyes back.”

Baby steps, that’s all the Nokes family can hope for and they are getting them every day. In the beginning they were told their son wasn’t going to make it but they knew their son is a fighter and he’s going to win the battle.

Janice admonished the doctors that Scott is strong, and he is tough."They called him a miracle, they actually did, because the actually thought he wasn’t going to make it.”

Scott told his mother that he’s going to be back in action at the Shark River Hills Fire House. That includes taking a call and jumping in that fire truck to save lives.

Scott Nokes being inducted at the Shark River Hills Fire Dept. (Photo Credit Nokes Family)

“He’s going to come back here and he’s going to be a firefighter," Janice said hopefully. "That’s what I believe.”

When I stepped into The Shark River Hills River Hills Fire Department the first thing I noticed was an empty locker. I walked over to it; I instantly got the chills when I found out whom it belonged to. It read “Scott Nokes Neptune Fire Department.”

“I hope one day to have him back there” said Captain Albert Fritz, Jr, a childhood friend. Fritz says he would do anything to get him back in that firehouse. I asked him if he would skydive out of plane to get Scott back.

“Do you know a pilot? I will do it right now. Honestly, seriously I would do it, and I hate heights. I hate flying. I would do it in a heart beat.”

Albert confides that he wouldn’t know what he would do if he lost a lifelong friend, a scenario that no one wants to live.

“It’s a thought that’s gone through our heads, you know, It would be a big void to fill. I am not just saying on the fire truck, I am talking about a life. You know what I mean? He’s a big part of his place.”

Scott Nokes with his friend Albert and fellow firefighter. (Photo Credit Nokes Family)

When Albert told me that, he got a little choked up. Fritz made an analogy that illustrated the big picture, Scott has a heart of gold, and he will do anything for his friend’s family.

“If you woke up one day and the dog you had for ten years that you are so close to is not there anymore, or your brother...You know, it’s like losing a brother” A piece of the station would be lost, as Albert put it, he doesn’t want to experience that. He wants Scott back and ready to go.

The Shark River Hills firefighters don’t talk about losing Scott, they talk about getting him back. They all want to see him dressed up tackling those deadly fires.

So to get their beloved friend back in action The Nokes Family and Shark River Firefighters are stepping up. Fritz said it was kind of weird that firefighters are, metaphorically, dialing 911 for once.

“It’s like reversed, its kind of ironic but they say everything happens for a reason. Maybe it’s a good reason for the community to help us.”

I might add the community is stepping up from what I’ve seen. Hundreds of gift baskets lined the firehouse stairs I climbed. They were all for Scott.

“The community has really come together we sold a lot of tickets. There are thousand tickets printed and I’d say three quarters of them are in circulation being sold right now.”

Having the support of the Jersey shore means so much to the Nokes family. Fritz absolutely loves the comraderie of these past couple of weeks.

Janice says, “The Jersey Shore is family, and Scott plans to stick around for a very long time.”

On Sunday November 13th There will be a fundraiser for Scott Nokes at The Headliner in Neptune Township. The full $20 of each admission goes to Scott's medical expenses.

The Nokes family are planning making their home wheelchair accessible to help Scott get around. For information on donations call Nancy and Joe Tompey. (732)-642-2296.

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