CLINTON -- "As soon as possible; that's how I was thinking about getting back to work."
Those words have seemed to encapsulate the miraculous recovery of Clinton firefighter Adam Cain, just months after lying in critical condition at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Cain was involved in the Jan. 5 fire and explosion at Clinton's Archer Daniels Midland facility which took the life of department Lt. Eric Hosette.
In the hours and days following the accident, Cain's chances of surviving were uncertain, let alone a possibility of returning to work. The original timeline for a potential return to Central Fire Station was much longer than the four-month turnaround Cain was able to accomplish, he said.
Cain returned to the department in a minimal capacity May 8.
"My doctors originally thought I was going to be in the hospital for a lot longer," Cain said. "They were also projecting me to not be at work for a year or even longer. Being able to come back this early was a lot quicker than my doctors, or even I expected."
In the early weeks of his return, Cain has helped around the station in any small way that he can. He admits he's not at 100% physically, particularly with a limited range of motion in his left elbow after suffering a dislocation.
Right now Cain is focused on regaining full strength to be able to return to the field in his former role. Currently working Monday through Friday, Cain is able to go on some ambulance calls, he said, but he isn't yet back to performing patient care.
Regardless of the minor role, Cain is happy to be back with his buddies.
"It's little things that I'm doing right now, but it takes the little things to make the whole thing work," Cain said.
The firefighter admitted that he was nervous when he returned to work in early May, but the nerves were quickly worked out.
"It was like my first day of work all over again," Cain said with a laugh. "But when I got here, it was all smiles and jokes just like it was another day, like I had never missed these few months of work,
"It boosted morale for me and the guys at the station," Cain said. "Things were starting to normalize again."
Cain recalled the day he returned to Clinton from Iowa City -- Jan. 25. As the vehicle he was riding in traversed the eastern Iowa highways, overpasses and bridges were lined with local fire department equipment and personnel as a sign of respect for not only Cain, but the fallen Hosette and the entire Clinton Fire Department.
On his arrival to Central Fire, Cain was greeted by a packed engine bay; the Clinton-area community had turned out in droves to welcome him home.
"That's the most packed I've seen Central Fire," Cain said. "It was heartwarming. It felt good.... Obviously you're going to have doubt when something life-changing like this happens, but when I saw the support of the community, of the fire department, of my family, friends and girlfriend, it was crazy.
"There was no doubt in my mind after that that I needed to come back, or at least make an attempt for them," Cain said.
One of those department members in particular has helped Cain throughout the intense recovery process, Cain said. A member who also happens to be his brother. Matt Cain is a firefighter and paramedic with the department. He proudly stood at Adam's side when he returned home in late January.
The brotherly bond has been a driving force in Cain's comeback -- now sufficiently more than just "an attempt" that Cain was aiming for.
"(Matt) has been my rock," Cain said. "Every step of the way, he's been there. He knows the calls we go on, he knows what we see and what we go through.
"Most of the time, people have a family inside of work and then your actual family outside. It's very rare that I'm able to have someone like Matt who can overlap that.... He's been there for the little things, and the big things."