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tour bus fire

When tour bus driver Brother CJ Solt, 32°, was traveling on the road, he never expected the overwhelming support from his Brothers. The financial support from The Grand Almoner's Fund allowed him to focus on his recovery after his emergency surgery.

By Bridget Steele, Assistant Director of Charities

Scottish Rite Brother CJ Solt, 32°, loves being on the road. The tour bus driver spends months on end driving across the country, touring with old-time rock and roll bands and some new up-and-coming artists.

Brother CJ said his line of work is exhausting, but he loves it. He’s even been able to put his experience to use in the Masonic community, helping organize buses for Masonic trips.

When the pandemic hit, he was on tour with a metal band that had just wrapped their first show. Like the rest of the world, he thought the tour would shut down for just a few weeks. “I waited a whole year trying to get back to work, and it never came,” he said.

Brother CJ Stolt in front of his tour bus

While out of work, Brother CJ developed some eye issues and began seeing a series of specialists. He learned he had developed a virus and needed to start a regular regimen of penicillin to help fight the infection. At the time, the news didn’t seem too concerning. “I remember thinking, ‘Great. I can get through this and then just go back to trying to find work,’” he said.

When he was admitted to the hospital to begin the regimen, he offhandedly mentioned that he had a heart murmur. This led to another round of tests. What doctors uncovered was something Brother CJ could never have imagined.

“I wasn’t in my room five minutes when the heart surgeon came in to tell me that we needed to talk,” he recalled. He learned that the virus attacking his body had been growing for several years, causing extensive damage to his aortic valve and aorta stem. “They described it as sometimes you see fish tanks that have black algae growing in them, and that’s what was happening in my heart. It was really bad.”

The damage was so severe that doctors had expected to find someone gasping for air when they entered his room. With no time to process, Brother CJ learned that he would be going in for emergency open heart surgery the next morning. Even talking about the experience months later gets him emotional. “I never imagined something like this could happen,” he said.

When he went in for surgery, Brother CJ’s body went into trauma. He suffered a collapsed lung and kidney failure. He credits the work of his talented doctors for helping him pull through.

After a 20-day stay in the hospital, Brother CJ was finally able to return home. But the rehab was long, and he was still out of work, unable to return until he had completely recovered. When Scottish Rite Brothers learned of his situation, they immediately secured assistance from the Grand Almoner’s Fund to help cover the debt he was facing while unemployed.

Brother CJ said the support he received from the Almoner’s Fund allowed him to focus on his recovery without the stress of hospital bills and living expenses. Even more meaningful to him were the regular visits he received from Illustrious Brother Tom Labagh during his recovery.

Ill. Bro. Tom Labagh and Brother CJ Solt

“Going through a traumatic health experience, the first guest at my home was a Fraternal Brother,” he recalled. “With a smile, a handshake, and the help from the Grand Almoner’s Fund, I knew I could do my difficult rehab and not worry about anything else. I sincerely thank all of you involved!”

After some grueling months, Brother CJ was finally able to return to work. And he hadn’t been back for too long when he was forced to test the limits of his recovery. He was on a long drive across the country this summer, getting a band’s gear back after they wrapped their tour, when his bus’s engine caught on fire.

Thinking quickly, Brother CJ pulled over and decided to take matters into his own hands. He unhooked the trailer, returned to the bus, pulled it up to put more space between the fire and the trailer, and then carried the band’s gear and personal possessions off the bus – all before worrying about himself.

A representative for the band shared, “This selfless act will allow us to enjoy the summer festivals with our own gear, our own production, our own coats, boots, etc. CJ’s passion for the people on board, their life’s possessions, and the bus he’s been driving for years is absolutely second to none.”

Brother CJ said the experience left him shaken, but he’s glad that no one was hurt. Today, he is grateful to be healthy again and credits his fellow Masons with helping to get him back on the road. “Thanks to the Scottish Rite for all their support and compassion. I truly couldn’t be where I am today if not for my Fraternal Brothers.”

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