Pulse first responder wants law to cover mental distress

"Gerry Realin Bill" has attention of several lawmakers

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Tell a first responder his mental anguish doesn’t meet the threshold for paid leave and then talk to Orlando police Officer Gerry Realin.

“Maybe we weren’t the heroes who were there during the shooting," Realin told WKMG, "but we’re the ones who cared for the ones that couldn’t make it out.”

Realin was one of seven Orlando Police Department hazmat members assigned to remove the dead from the Pulse Nightclub June 12, 2016.

Realin said he is still struggling with PTSD haunted by nightmares and what he calls “triggers.”

He said Chinese lanterns are one of the worst.

In an email to WKMG he writes: "Why? Because every time I couldn’t take looking down at blood and bodies I would look up and there I’d see every time the large Chinese lanterns on the ceiling of the club.”

Under the current law there is no “payment of indemnity unless a physical injury arising out of injury as a first responder accompanies the mental or nervous injury.”

While the Orlando Police Department and the city continue to pay a large portion of his salary, current Florida law doesn’t cover mental distress alone which means in theory the payments could stop at any time. 

Realin’s wife Jessica has taken the lead for change to the public.

She has appeared on several radio stations and has been interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel and the New York Post.

“It’s hard to watch your loved one who’s suffering and is just trying to get better,” she said.

The Realins have met with several state lawmakers including state Rep. Mike Miller of Orlando.

Miller told WKMG the Pulse shooting changed everything and the law needs careful review.

“I’m sure that there’s lots of stories like this. We’ve got to make sure that we protect those folks and if we can do it responsibly and fiscally, I’m all in.”

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