Pa. responder who died of cancer honored with final ride
Brookfield Fire Department Lt. Brian Kachaylo, who was also a STAT MedEvac flight paramedic, died of colon cancer
David L. Dye
HERMITAGE, Pa. — Four ambulances and a firetruck took Brian Kachaylo to his final resting place Tuesday.
It wasn’t a parade or an emergency call. It was about family, and service.
A STAT MedEvac helicopter hovered overhead as mourners traveled to St. Rose Cemetery in Hermitage — a tribute to a man who dedicated his life to making sure others got medical care to save theirs.
Brian’s wife Christina said her husband, who was 46, was involved in fire and EMS every day of their 24-year marriage.
She lost him after a seven-year battle with cancer.
But up until then, he did what he loved and loved what he did, Christina said.
He started his career at McGonigle Ambulance Service in the mid-1990s, she said.
Even as a rookie, Brian was meticulous about everything. Assigned to prepare ambulances for a parade, she said he took the job seriously.
“He thought that he could actually bring the white out on the ambulances by using a brush, and when Brian saw their faces after he was done... ,” she said. “He didn’t think the brush would scratch things up like it did.”
Brian also served as an EMT with Gold Cross Ambulance Service Inc., a lieutenant firefighter in the Brookfield Fire Department and as a flight paramedic at STAT MedEvac. He was an EMS instructor at Butler County Community College and an EMS coordinator in Mercer and Trumbull counties.
That’s why he had the escort he did Tuesday, Christina said. He was among colleagues and friends.
“All the people here either knew or were trained by him,” she said. “He even trained those guys up in the helicopter.”
Brad McGonigle, vice president of McGonigle Ambulance Service, was one of those who were there.
He remembered Brian as someone who, like many in the EMS field, really loved the job.
“He was a live wire, and he also wore his heart on his sleeve,” McGonigle said.
Brian was first diagnosed with colon cancer in late 2011.
For some time before that, Christina said her husband told the doctors he was experiencing severe fatigue. But instead of an examination, the doctors told Brian that he was simply tired from work.
“They would tell him ‘you’re flying too much’ or ‘you’ve got too many hours under your belt,’ and he would tell them, ‘No, this isn’t just being tired, this is something different,’” she said.
By the time Brian was examined, the doctors discovered that he was suffering from Stage IV colon cancer.
Doctors told Brian he had only six months to live, a prediction Christina said her husband was able to beat due to both treatments he was aware of from his background in the medical field and determination.
“Our daughter Riley was 5 at the time, and he told me that his goal was to make it long enough that she could understand why he wouldn’t be there anymore,” she said.
As an EMT, Brian was always trying to pass on his knowledge or to act as a mentor to students or newcomers to the field. This desire to instruct others carried over to his cancer treatments. Christina said he encouraged others to get tested or to report potential medical problems.
“He used to say, ‘No matter what it is, tell me. If something about your body doesn’t feel right, tell somebody or get it checked,’” she said.
At home, Brian tried to keep things positive with his family, but the hardest part of dealing with cancer was having to step away from his career with fire and EMS. Although he tried to remain as active as possible, Christina said he decided that the cancer and treatments would have too much of an effect on his capabilities as an EMT and firefighter.
“He was crushed, because EMS was his life,” she said.
However, Brian had two other things to fall back on — attending his daughter Riley’s softball games, and coaching and umpiring for the Hubbard Little League boys baseball team, allowing him to pursue his passions of mentoring and working with children.
“There were times when he would be doubled over in pain, and I’d tell him ‘you can’t do this,’ and he would say ‘I have to, those kids are counting on me,’” she said. “Just a couple weeks ago he umpired a big game, so you would’ve never known something was going on,” she said.
Even though Brian ultimately lost his battle with cancer, Christina said the number of first responders who came to show their support at Brian’s funeral is an example of the passion her husband had for the community and his comrades in emergency services.
“I wasn’t too surprised they wanted to participate because they really are like a big family,” she said.
Copyright 2018 The Herald