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Polk County denies benefits to firefighter diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer

Christina Pierson
Posted at 6:26 PM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 05:30:36-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Helping people at their worst is why Christina Pierson signed up to be a firefighter.

“There's a certain satisfaction that you get knowing that you are there for people when they’re really at their worst moment, whether it’s a structure fire or a medical call,” said Christina Pierson.

On October 3, 2018 she would learn saving lives would cost her, her own. Doctors diagnosed her with stage 4 lung cancer.

“Stage 4 lung cancer is not curable. I have been in consistent chemotherapy, and I will always need chemotherapy. The moment I stop it, I will die soon after,” Pierson said.

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Senate Bill 426 signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019, provides a one-time payout of $25,000 along with medical expenses, to firefighters diagnosed with 21 different forms of cancers, including lung cancer.

After serving as a Polk County firefighter and paramedic for six years, Pierson never thought she would be denied financial benefits from the county.

“Reasons on the denial letter were two reasons. One, that my diagnosis was before July 1, 2019, and the second reason they provided was my disease was personal in nature,” Pierson said.

She filed for workers’ compensation and was denied twice. Her lawyer Geoff Bichler is now working to get her those benefits.

“Firefighters perform an essential function, an essential service to our community. We owe them a societal debt to make sure we’re taking care of them when they get sick, in the way that Christina has,” said Bichler.

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Pierson said Polk County Fire Rescue supports her fight to receive benefits. ABC Action News reached out to Polk County and commissioners declined to comment.

Pierson is hoping to see changes to the law, so others don’t have to go through what she is going through.

“I got sick doing a job for them and they feel it’s okay to just walk away accepting zero responsibility. It just, it disgusts me,” said Pierson.