The chest pains started not long after firefighter Joe Dipple arrived at the scene. Laden with gear, fully exerted as he walked past the burning home, he suddenly couldn't carry a ladder through the 10 inches of snow on that afternoon in February 2014.
Sit down, another firefighter told him. You're going into an ambulance.
Even though Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital was closer to the south Edison home, the first-responders took him to JFK Medical Center.
When he got there, his union reps say, he received substandard medical care and an unwanted cashectomy. And now, with a $2,600 medical bill for an ambulance ride that the town still hasn't paid, he is worried about his credit, and wondering whether the town will ever take care of it.
"I get the bills every month. I send them to my union. The union sends them to the town," Dipple said in August. "I've never had any problems like this before."
Dipple's case is just one stark example of what the fire union sees as JFK Hospital's growing influence and worrisome impunity in Edison township. The union president, Robert Yackel, said that the problems are made worse by the fact that the mayor, Thomas Lankey, is also a top official at the hospital. Yackel recently filed ethics charges accusing the mayor of self-dealing, just a few years after the town outsourced EMS services to the private hospital.