Brant Gammon was in his late 40's when he decided to make a career change.
And not just any career change. Gammon, who had been an IT specialist, decided to become a firefighter and EMT. He officially joined the Palm Coast Fire Department in 2020.
Then he decided to take his new career on another path. About five weeks ago, he graduated from the paramedic program at Daytona State College.
As he was completing the program, he started having headaches. Gammon, now 51, thought it was the stress of the program combined with working full-time as a firefighter. But his symptoms got worse, and about three weeks ago he was diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer.
“He'd finished paramedic school about two weeks before he went into the hospital, said Gammon’s wife, Josie. “He started slowing down, and then everything just kind of started showing up with the symptoms, and it came really fast.”
The Palm Coast Firefighter Benevolent Fund, supported by the Palm Coast Professional Firefighters Local 4807, is helping the family. The benevolent fund supports charitable activities and assists active and retired firefighters and their families who are in need.
The benevolent fund has established a Gofundme page for Brant and his family. As of Sept. 6, the fund, had 150 donations totaling nearly $19,000.
A family friend also organized a benefit for the family on Labor Day at Giovanni’s Pizza & Pasta in Flagler Beach.
Firefighters have been spreading the word on social media, using the hash tag, GammonStrong.
“There's been a lot of people that care for us, from our firefighter family, from my work family, from our friends and family. Just everyone's been so kind. We have a big army. And we appreciate everybody that’s trying to help us.”
— JOSIE GAMMON
“We feel the love,” Josie said. “There's been a lot of people that care for us, from our firefighter family, from my work family, from our friends and family. Just everyone's been so kind. We have a big army. And we appreciate everybody that’s trying to help us.”
Josie, a dispatcher with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, has sat by Brant’s side at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital in Jacksonville for the past three weeks.
The couple has three grown children: Noah and twins Grant and Grace. Grant serves in the Army.
In a phone conversation with Josie and Brant, he said he wanted to become a firefighter because he was “looking for a career that would give back to the community 100%. And that was being a firefighter.”
He joined the department’s intern program in 2018. Lt. Patrick Juliano, the president of the local firefighters’ union, said the department never discourages people who are interested in becoming firefighters, whatever their age.
“That’s one of the cool things about the department and the intern program,” Juliano said. “When somebody has the passion, the heart, the dedication, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Age is just a number. It's not an obstacle that you look at and go, ‘Oh, well. You're too old or too young to do this.’ You got to have the heart and soul to want to do this, and he definitely does.”
Josie said she was surprised when Brant told her four years he wanted to change careers, but she never wavered in her support for him.
“It kind of shocked me, because he went from IT to firefighter to wanting to be a paramedic, but I was really excited for him. It was a whole new journey for him, and he was just ecstatic about it. He’s had fun with it, learning it and working really hard.”
“It kind of shocked me, because he went from IT to firefighter to wanting to be a paramedic, but I was really excited for him,” she said. “It was a whole new journey for him, and he was just ecstatic about it. He’s had fun with it, learning it and working really hard.”
Juliano joked that one of the reasons Brant's fellow firefighters want him to get better and return to the job is because he is a champion barbecue chef.
“We love his brisket, and his burnt ends are outstanding,” Juliano said.
He’s won a lot of trophies in barbecue competitions, Josie said.
Brant has an appointment with his neuro team next week, said Josie.
“He's working to get stronger, so he can start treatment,” she said. “He can't start radiation and chemo until he gets a little bit stronger. It's just a really nasty, ugly cancer, brain cancer. We're just waiting on the whole big picture to be put together.”
“This is why we established that benevolent fund,” Juliano said. “So we can do stuff like we're going to do for the Gammon family to help them (with their bills).”