GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A Glendale firefighter is now fighting for his life in more than one way.
Capt. Kevin Thompson was diagnosed with a cancer related to the job earlier this year. But he was denied a workers’ compensation claim by the City of Glendale. It left him unsure of how he will pay for treatment once he can no longer work.
“It’s the best job ever. I’ve loved every minute of it,” Thompson said.
Firefighting has been Thompson’s passion for 26 years.
But in April, he found himself fighting bronchitis and pneumonia.
“I didn’t get any better. I kept getting sicker. I became anemic, and then my kidneys started shutting down,” he said.
Thompson was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood.
“It’s a non-curable form of cancer. I will need chemotherapy for the rest of my life,” he said. “People die from this cancer on a regular basis.”
His doctors believe his exposure to diesel from the firetruck was one of the main causes.
Thompson gets chemotherapy treatment every week, sometimes costing up to $1,200 out of pocket even with his insurance.
But he was reassured when he found Arizona’s state law listed multiple myeloma as a “presumed occupational disease,” and filed a workers' compensation claim with the City of Glendale.
“Just the relief that came over me. Because I felt like I had help,” the fire captain said.
But then his world was flipped upside down again.
“My claim was denied,” he said. “And when she called to give me that news on the phone, I was upset, and I told her that she had just signed my death certificate.”
He said the City’s third-party doctor cited no scientific link between multiple myeloma and firefighting.
“This will bankrupt my retirement and my savings trying to pay for treatment, that according to state law, should be covered,” he said. “The reason I took this job was to support my family. My kids are young. I want to see them grow up.”
Now, he’s hoping the City he’s still serving will return the favor and help him with the biggest battle of his life.
“It’s been the most rewarding career that I could ever hope for, and I’ve helped a lot of people, and that’s been awesome,” he said. “Now, I need help. I need help.”
The City of Glendale said due to HPPPA, they can’t comment on Thompson’s specific case. But the City said the its third-party administrator is solely in charge of the acceptance or denial process.
They said the City is not involved in that decision.
State Sen. Paul Boyer was a sponsor of the bill that made this type of cancer a presumed occupational disease. He issued Arizona’s Family this statement:
“Without the treatment Capt. Kevin Thompson needs - treatment the City of Glendale is obligated to pay for under state law - cancer very well may kill this career firefighter. As the Arizona Industrial Commission has made clear, absolutely nothing is preventing the City of Glendale from accepting Kevin’s cancer claim. Let us hope the City and its leaders will step up and accept this responsibility immediately. Not only is it the law, it is the right and moral thing to do.”
Thompson said he plans to formally appeal the denial.
On Friday, Mayor Jerry Weiers tweeted out a statement saying the city manager met with Thompson on Thursday.
"I am excited that we are already working together toward identifying several options and remain optimistic that a solution will be quickly identified," Weiers said in the statement.