INside Story

‘Firefighter Tim’ Griffin opens up about disease he’s battled over a decade

News 8 is getting personal, sharing the stories of our teammates facing medical issues that challenge families throughout Indiana.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Whether he’s killing it in the kitchen whipping up red chicken chili and apple salad, or taking you through a killer workout, it’s always a blast when Firefighter Tim pays News 8 a visit. 

On the outside, Tim Griffin is the picture of health but sometimes looks can be deceiving.

For over a decade, Griffin has been dealing with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and painful ulcers in the innermost lining of a person’s large intestine. 

The large intestine is responsible for absorbing salts and water from undigested food and getting rid of leftover waste. The disease puts people at a higher risk of colon cancer and causes symptoms like rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea and debilitating stomach cramps.    

Griffin invited News 8 to the Carmel Fire Department where he works as both a firefighter and a public information officer to share how he felt when he was first coming to terms that he was sick. 

“At first, you just kind of want to ignore it,” he said. “You think to yourself, ‘This is OK. It will go away.”

That’s what Griffin did 11 years ago for the first three months. He ignored it, but when it came to a point where he was doubled over in so much pain that it had him running to the restroom up to 20 times a day he knew he had to act.

First, he tried to go at it alone. 

“I wanted to fix it. I wanted to fix it with diet. I wanted to fix it with fitness and I couldn’t. Some people, depending on the severity of their ulcerative colitis, can control it with diet. I tried a lot of things, but, unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to control it and that was something I had to come to terms with,” Griffin said.

Now, every six weeks, Tim visits his doctor to get an infusion of medicine to control his symptoms. He feels healthier than ever. 

But just like everyone, he has his down days. When News 8 asked Griffin how he prevents himself from falling into victim mode he said he’s reminded of the terrible things he’s seen over the two decades he’s been a firefighter. Images of families holding each other the moment they realize they’ve just lost everything and devastating burn wounds that some victims may never recover from are all seared into his memory.

“I know how fortunate I am, especially with the support I get from the fire department, my family, my friends, my wife,” Griffin said.

Now Griffin wants to help you.

“For me, I want to express to people: Don’t wait until you get sick or very sick to get checked out. Get in. Get your regular check-ups. If you start to have issues, go see a specialist and see what’s going on. So, I’ve dealt with it by trying to help others. I look at the comical side of it. I’m an open book. Now, I can joke with the guys here at the fire station. Sometimes after dinner when I’m like, ‘Oh! I’ll be back,’ they know something is going on. My stomach isn’t cooperating right now,” he said.