By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
At Fire Station 17, Caden Rose is just one of the guys. While the firefighters drink coffee all day, he drinks from his own mug filled with Kool-Aid — it’s his “firefighter coffee.” The firefighters sit down, talk to him and treat him like one of the crew.
Caden has a great fascination with firefighters; at age 5, he already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.
“I want to be a firefighter because they have a fun job,” the boy said, though he is already a firefighter in many ways.
He owns a real firefighter suit that was custom made to fit his small frame, fire truck toys, real firefighter helmets from three different fire stations, duffel bags full of medical supplies, and more. He also has an old, used smart phone with an app that is constantly tuned into Colorado Springs’ fire rescue radio.
“He is extremely active,” said his father, 2nd Lt. Derek Rose, 2nd Space Operations Squadron Combat Innovations chief. “He is very sharp, and for the most part, he is a sweet boy.”
But underneath Caden’s playful manner is a child who knows a thing or two about survival. In 2011, when he was roughly one and half years old, he was diagnosed with tyrosinemia type I. According to the National Institutes of Health, tyrosinemia type I, the most severe form of the disorder, is caused by a deficiency of one of the enzymes necessary to break down the amino acid tyrosine.
Due to the disorder, Caden developed liver cancer that prompted him to undergo liver transplant surgery. For the most part, the transplant cured his tyrosinemia. However, he developed several allergies and has to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life, as well as medication to protect his kidneys from further damage by the tyrosinemia. The medicine keeps him from rejecting the liver, a fear that the Rose family has to constantly keep in check. In the summer of 2014, Caden had a liver rejection episode, which resulted in several weeks in the hospital and is still currently being managed by medication adjustments.
“But you wouldn’t really know if he was sick because he has a lot of energy,” said Caden’s mother, Jenee’ Rose.
However, the boy’s circumstances have led him to numerous emergency calls and hospital trips. It was during those times when Caden developed interest with the firefighters, specifically, during Christmas 2011 when the Roses were stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
“We gave him some pumpkin pie, not knowing that it has eggs in it,” Derek said. “He started having allergic reactions so we gave him (epinephrine auto injector) and called 9-1-1 because we have never given it before and we didn’t know how he would react.”
The paramedics and fire trucks responded. Since it was a slow night, they stayed for an hour to monitor the boy so the family wouldn’t have to spend another holiday in the hospital. Hearing about Caden’s story, the firefighters went to their fire chief for permission to give Caden a personal tour of the fire stations on base.
“He really latched on to firefighters after the time he spent with them and seeing how they help other people,” Derek said.
When they moved to Colorado Springs, Caden still had the same fascination with firefighters and what they do, and made it a point to meet a few of them here.
“We biked to Fire Station 17, and I asked them if we could visit,” said Jenee’. “If they were busy, we were not going to bother them. They said yes, he can visit the station. Ever since then, we would bike there regularly.”
Together with his mom, Caden would visit them at least once a week. He would also visit Fire Station 21, another station near his home.
“They embraced him and let him participate,” Derek said. “They call him for training. We thought they would just do something fun for him, but they were doing actual training. They would let him watch. He would help with the cleanup; he would roll the hoses and they let him into the fire truck.”
Though he is fairly close to most firefighters in both stations, Caden is closest to one particular firefighter. When asked who his best friend is, Caden would answer, “Bradlee.”
Bradlee White is a Fire Station 17 firefighter and the youngest at the station. Caden has grown attached to him. He likes to follow the firefighter around and do the things that White does.
“When he first came in, we all thought, ‘this is a pretty cool kid,’” White said. “He knew a lot more about what we do than any other kid who comes in.”
As time went on, Caden became more attached to the firefighters. They would conduct emergency drills, where the firefighters and Caden would receive a call over the station public address system and respond to “incidents.”
Because of his relationship with the firefighter community, the fire station and the city of Colorado Springs decided to honor Caden. During a ceremony for a new Fire Station 17 heavy rescue truck on Jan. 16, city officials surprised Caden when they made him an honorary firefighter, the first in the city’s history.
“I think it was pretty cool,” was all Caden could say about the event.
The mayor presented him with a pin of the city flag, while the fire department gave him his own uniform, which has Engine 17 on it and his name embroidered on the bottom.
“For a kid like Caden to look up to you, it is pretty neat,” White said. “It’s an honor to have Caden looking up to us because he is fighting with his own stuff right now. Anything that we can do here at the station to make that kid’s day that much better is absolutely worth it.”
Since his induction into the firefighter community, Caden can still be seen at Fire Station 17, drinking his “firefighter’s coffee” as one of the guys. Though now, Caden has to live up to his firefighter oath — be a firefighter of character; always do his best; be ready to help; be kind, respectful and responsible; always love his mom and dad; and be a good and honest firefighter.