Do Blue Lives Really Matter?
The attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Florida was the worse terror attack since 9/11. 49 people were killed and 50 others were injured. One of the first responders and several others have since been diagnosed with PTSD.
For four hours, the Orlando PD hazmat team had to remove bodies from the nightclub.
“There was just that smell that saturated my whole body,” he said while holding his wife Jessica’s hand. “My hair, my skin, my whole respiratory system.”
Typically when a hazmat team is called to the scene it’s to pick up a meth lab, not to bag dead bodies, although on this occasion the FBI called Realins team in. When Realin first arrived to the scene he and his team were wondering if they were going to help with the task of picking up the bodies. He said he and his team began doing it anyways to save people the grief.
Jessica Realin, his wife said “When he got home, 2:30 the next morning, he came in very quiet … looked at both of our kids, then went in the shower and just lost it. And he didn’t stop crying. The next day, it was on and off. And it’s just been really hard”
Two months after the the shooting, Realin said all he see is “all the red” while passing the nightclub.
Realin said he returned to work right after but for two weeks he often called out sick. He then began using sick time or vacation days before he was put on paid leave by Orlando Police department.
Realin has been trying to get psychiatric help, but due to the costs he is unable to. He tried receiving workers comp, but under Florida state law you can only receive compensation for physical related injuries and not mental health.
Spokeswomen Michelle Guido for the Orlando police department said Realin can apply to have sick time reinstated by the disability committee. If the injury is determined to be caused by a work related incident his funds will be reimbursed. Guido stresses that the emotional well being of officers is Chief John Mina’s number one concern.
She goes on to say that “Chief Mina has reached out to all employees — sworn and professional staff — and assured them that the city has numerous resources that any employee can take advantage of at any time,”
After the incident, only two employee’s have not returned to work.
Realin went through the Employee Assistant Program that referred him to a psychologist, who put him on a no work status. The psychologist will decide when Realin is ready to return to work.
Sue Brown, who oversees the hazmat team, said that other members of the team are receiving help too.
Realins attorney Geoffrey Bichler wants to use this case to challenge the constitutionality of the workers compensation law in Florida.
“It is a travesty that there’s no legal protection for a guy like Gerry,” Bichler said. “The law needs to protect them. As a society, we owe it to them.”
Currently only five states pay workers compensation for a physiological work injury according to the Connecticut-based group Badge of Life. Ron Clark a retired state trooper the head of the organization said “Usually if you break your leg in law enforcement and have psychological issues, you go out on workman’s comp, not with psych-only issues.”
Even without events like the pulse shooting, officers across the nation are being diagnosed with PTSD and are going untreated. Clark estimates about 100,000 officers nationwide have been diagnosed with PTSD and nothing is being done about it. Not only that, but police officers have one of the highest suicide ratings in the nation.
“Cops are human, cops have feelings” he said.
Realin can’t raise the funds himself, as he is the sole provider of his wife and two children, who require therapy because of their Bronchial Pulmonary Dysplasia. Due to Realin not being able to afford the treatment a GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for his treatment. So far $7,610 out of $50,000 has been raised.