Retired Springdale AR firefighter Capt. Harold “Bud” Planchon and his wife, Jane Watson Sexton Planchon, are back at home in Fayetteville AR after a medical disability benefits hearing in Little Rock — but all is not necessarily well.
Planchon is suffering from stage four liver cancer that he maintains was caused by exposure to exhaust fumes in an unventilated fire station and on-the-job exposure to other toxins at fire scenes and hazardous material spills over the course of his 24-year career. Bud Planchon was forced into medical retirement during the summer of 2011 by the spreading cancer and the ill effects of chemo-therapy.
On December 7, Planchon’s appeal to the state board that handles retirement and disabilitiy claims for Arkansas police and firefighters to have his medical disability recognized as job-related was denied. Planchon had earlier been approved for standard retirement benefits, however, the recognition of his medical condition as job-related would have guranteed additional death and educational benefits to Capt. Planchon’s surviving wife and children upon the event of his death.
Some 42 states in the U.S. automatically recognize the type of cancer that Bud Planchon is suffering as job-related for firefighters and is caused by prolonged exposure to toxins. The Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System (LOPFI) does not do so. The city of Springdale has, in recent years, taken steps to ventilate its fire stations so as to exhaust accumulations of diesel fumes and soot from the buildings. All but one of the states that border Arkansas recognize this form of cancer as a job-related illness / disability for firefighters who contract the cancer. The bordering exception is the state of Mississippi.
Even the approval of his basic retirement benefits was not easy to come by, Planchon reported. While he had filed for his disability and retirement in the summer of 2011, LOPFI took no steps to approve any benefits until afer a hearing on September 6, 2012 — despite a voluminous supply of documents and medical records that had been requested by and supplied to LOPFI from Planchon and his doctors. That fact left Planchon without any income and an ever-growing stack of medical bills for more than a year after his reirement due to illness.
After the Thursday hearing with LOPFI officials in Little Rock and the denial of his appeal, Bud Planchon became extremely ill. In a digital update, his wife Jane reported “Bud collapsed, from unknown abdominal pain after the hearing. We landed in the UAMS emergency room” (University of Arkansas Medical School – LIttle Rock). She also noted that Capt. Planchon had been in pain during the morning prior to the hearing but attended and collapsed after the hearing. The hearing began at 12:30 p.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m.
UAMS Little Rock stabilized Capt. Planchon and administered sufficient pain medications that he was ale to return to Fayetteville. Jane Planchon reported that the return to Fayetteville was a matter of “praying my way home from hospital to hospital” as her husband slept, hoping they did not have to make an emergency stop on the 190 mile journey back to Fayetteville.
Jane Planchon also reports that she and her husband arrived back in Fayetteville during the wee hours of morning on Dec. 7. However, Bud remains very ill and in extreme pain at this time. Jane Planchon reported that her husband was “feeling better” as of Friday afternoon but still in a great deal of pain. She also reports that they are pursuing further appeals and legal recourse.
Report by: Kirby Sanders – ©2012
Friday, December 8, 2012 – 7:00 p.m. CST