Through the Fire

How Cyrus Rajabi’s firefighting and EMT training helped save his daughter’s life

Published in 2020 Colorado Super Lawyers Magazine

Cyrus Rajabi was a young teenager when he found his mom at home, struggling to breathe and turning blue from a severe allergic reaction to an antibiotic. When South Metro firefighters arrived on the scene, they handed him her jewelry—“a brief but horrifying moment,” says Rajabi. “I remember wishing so hard I could do something, anything, to help, and not wanting to ever again feel powerless to help people, especially my loved ones.”

The moment changed the course of his life. Inspired by the men and women who saved his mom, Rajabi, who has been practicing business law for more than 15 years and is now a shareholder at Jones & Keller in Denver, underwent extensive training starting in 2009 and began volunteering with the Arvada Fire Protection District in 2011. 

Since then, he’s tried to revive the unconscious and raced into burning buildings to try to rescue those inside. “I’ve been humbled on a lot of different levels, and I now know how fragile our lives really are,” he says. “I have a ton of respect for the people who have helped me and my family. They take a big risk, and they don’t take it lightly.”

During fire-attack training in the spring of 2017, Rajabi was hoisting 70 pounds of bunker gear and tools and deploying equipment from the fire engine when the portion of the hose that was supposed to unfold off his arm and shoulder snagged on his hand, dislocating three fingers, breaking a bone, and tearing ligaments and a tendon. The nerve damage required multiple surgeries and other procedures, and persists with flareups, he says, “akin to having your affected limbs doused in gasoline and set ablaze while driving a red-hot iron brand deep into your palm.”

He calls it a humbling experience. “I am a better person by having learned to adapt and overcome,” he says, “and to find the beauty in the simple things of my life.”

One day in early 2019, Rajabi was working from home because of a flareup when he heard his wife, Lauren, urgently call for help. Racing to the top of the stairs, he found her holding their 1-year-old daughter, Elliana Adele. Just like his mom years before, the baby wasn’t breathing and her body had turned blue, in this case from a vaccine complication. “It is a parent’s worst nightmare,” he says. “Even with all my training, I was terrified.”

Rajabi managed to tap into his EMT skills, administering rescue breathing on his daughter for 10 minutes until she let out a cry just as South Metro firefighters arrived. “The silver lining is that, while I wouldn’t wish my condition on anyone,” he says, “without it, likely I would not have been home that day to be there for our little girl. … I would fight this battle all over again just to be there in that moment.”

Rajabi hopes to return to active firefighting duties someday, but for now he’s working with Arvada Fire to find other ways to give back to the community. A year ago, he earned his certification in Responding to Responders, which provides counseling for emergency workers coping with injuries and other tough circumstances.

His injury has also prompted an interest in disability rights. “The experience following my injury has been eye-opening on many levels,” he says. “I’ve learned that people are vulnerable to being treated differently or written off by virtue of visible and invisible challenges. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have good people in their corner, and they may not be aware of resources that can help.”

Noting that the current workers’ compensation system “has some serious shortcomings,” Rajabi plans to advocate for injured first responders who are struggling to pay for ongoing medical care. 

Firefighting and lawyering both require tenacity and optimism, he says. “Firefighters look at a burning building and operate under the belief that no matter how bad the situation is, they can work to make it better. Lawyers often share this same resolve; certainly the great ones do. Both roles invigorate me.”

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