Who helps the helpers? PTSD leaves first responders struggling, jobless

- Former Eatonville police officer Omar Delgado saved a man’s life during the Pulse nightclub massacre. He was one of the first officers to arrive at the club on June 12, 2016. 

"People coming in and out of the 7-Eleven. Traffic was still flowing and I was like, ‘I'm obviously in the wrong place’. Then you could hear the assault rifle just literally just going to town," recalled Delgado, who entered the club through a patio door. “Then I grabbed my flashlight, and I’m scanning the room and that's when you see a couple of people moving. We just started pulling people out."

After that night, Delgado developed PTSD, which affected his ability to work and triggered recurring nightmares of the attack. 

“’Get down, get down, get down!’ That's all I yell out. ‘Get down, get down, get down.’ Then I wake up. I’m screaming, I'm sweating," he explained. 

The city responded to Delgado’s problems by ending his employment. In December, city leaders held a news conference to announce Delgado will receive his full pension.    

"Corporal Delgado will receive his full pension benefits regardless of his less-than-10-years-old employment," said Eatonville Mayor Eddie Cole. 

However, Delgado told us he is still not getting his pension, because he said a board still has to make that decision. Meanwhile, Delgado has been out of work for months and is now worried about paying his bills. 

He said his problem goes back to state law, which does not allow first responders to receive paid leave for PTSD. 

"When they need help they call us, but now that we need help who do we call?” he asked. "How can you put a price on someone's life?"

Delgado's not alone. Orlando Officer Jerry Realin also responded to the Pulse massacre. His job was to recover the dead. He also has not recovered from what he saw -- then burned through his sick time, got no paid leave, and lost his job. 

Beyond the Pulse massacre, we found other first responders across the state dealing with the same problem.

State lawmakers are considering a bill in the 2018 regular session to extend paid leave benefits for first responders injured on the job to include PTSD.  House sponsor representative Matt Willhite said his bill is getting resistance from local governments. 

"They're unsure of the costs and they're concerned if there are too many claims the costs would be too high," he said. 

Willhite’s bill is currently working through committee. Check its current status here: 

Up Next:

Up Next

  • Who helps the helpers? PTSD leaves first responders struggling, jobless
  • Blue-green slime and red tide: An in-depth look at Florida's water crisis
  • How lawmakers tweaked amendment meant to help disabled first responders
  • Crackdown interferes with kids' autism therapy
  • Legislature raids Florida's affordable-housing fund
  • Ted Bundy's prosecutor: Social media culture a factor in shootings
  • FOX 13 Investigates: Florida tax loopholes help big business
  • Government's shipping deal helps Chinese knockoffs undercut local companies
  • Legislature makes it tougher for disabled first responders to get tax breaks
  • Another field drug test mistake sends woman to jail -- for months