SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. — It's been a hard year for the Zoneton Fire Protection District firefighters as Chief Robert Orkies battles both cancer and COVID-19 simultaneously.
Chief Orkies was diagnosed with cancer in September before he came down with COVID-19 in early November. For the past 11 days, Chief Orkies has been on a ventilator.
Maj. Kevin Moulton said it's been hard on everyone, especially since they can't visit him.
"Our saying we give is that in this family, nobody fights alone. Unfortunately, he’s fighting alone,” Moulton said.
Before he was on a ventilator, Orkies was able to get on FaceTime calls with his family. It was during that time that both his biological and work families came together to find a creative way to deliver Orkies a special visit.
After getting permission from the hospital, they brought the fire truck right up close to his second-story hospital room. Then, Orkies' family and firefighters stood on top of the truck holding signs to wave at him. With help from his nurses, Orkies was able to go to the window to wave back.
"That was good for the family and good for our people here,” Moulton said.
His coworkers say Orkies has a heart of gold, always emphasizing efforts to help the community. The Santa Runs, which start Thursday, were always a favorite of Chief Orkies'. While the chief cannot physically be on the truck this year spreading holiday cheer, he will be there in spirit.
Instead of colorful lights, the department is decorating the fire truck with red and white lights this year to pay tribute to Orkies' cancer fight. The truck is also sporting a glowing red ribbon. They hope when others see that, they think of Chief Orkies.
The department is also selling bracelets that read "#810Strong" on one side and "ZFD" on the other. The bracelets are $1, and you can buy one at the Zoneton Fire Protection District.
Other fire departments around Kentucky have posted well-wishes for Chief Orkies on social media. Others in the community have made videos saying they are praying for him. That is what Orkies' friends and family ask people to continue doing.
“Just keep praying for him. That’s all we can ask for right now. We will get through this and he will be back one day, but just keep praying for him,” Moulton said.
Orkies' family runs the Facebook page 8101 Strong to keep people updated on how Chief Orkies is doing. At last update, they said Orkies was still on a ventilator but had been showing small signs of improvement since Thanksgiving.