A week later, she returned to her job in Lower Manhattan. Within a few weeks she had developed a persistent cough, even though she rarely had been sick before the attacks. Her health deteriorated so badly that she was forced to move in with her mother. Her primary care doctor diagnosed bronchitis and asthma but she didn’t respond well to the medications.
Finally at her family's urging she called the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital in September 2006. Her condition was severe. “They diagnosed me with both chronic asthma and sarcoidosis, a kind of scarring that can affect many different organs in the human body.” Sarcoidosis is common among firefighters who responded to 9/11 and is usually found in the lungs. But in Garcia’s case the scarring was in her heart.
She had surgery to have a pacemaker installed and then two more surgeries to make adjustments. She also had sinus surgery, not uncommon for many 9-11 patients because of the irritants they breathed in. She now returns about every three months for a checkup. Her visits to the ER have dropped off considerably.
Garcia testified at congressional hearings and met privately with members of Congress and their staff in Washington to urge that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act include people like her, people who lived, worked or went to school in Lower Manhattan.
Now married, she and her husband plan to have a baby, even though hers will be a high-risk pregnancy. “I have to keep going, otherwise I’ll drive myself crazy. I just keep moving on,” she said.
The Financial Services Worker
Most people associate whiplash with car accidents. But Florence Jones got hers when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. She worked on the 77th floor, and the impact threw her against the wall where she hit her head, hard. Jones and her colleagues at the financial services firm where she worked decided to evacuate, breathing in smoke and fumes and hearing screams as they went down the stairs. Forty minutes later, Jones emerged from the south tower onto the plaza. Debris fell into her eyes.
She headed east to Downtown Hospital where she was given oxygen because she couldn’t breathe. She walked uptown to a friend’s apartment and called her family. With her eyes burning, she went to Saint Vincent’s Hospital to get them washed out. To this day, she has to wear shaded lenses because bright lights seem to pierce her skull. Eventually diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) she’s been in therapy ever since.
Although she hadn’t been sick very often before the 2001 terrorist attacks, Jones began to suffer from frequent colds and a persistent cough. Just climbing the stairs could wind her.
In 2008, Jones’ primary care doctor recommended she seek care at the HHC 9/11 health center. After a complete work-up, she was diagnosed with asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Although steroids have helped control her asthma, she still endures coughing fits. She has worked up to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise a couple of times a week ,but she’s had to curtail the yard work she used to enjoy so much at her home on Long Island.
She’s determined to help other 9/11 survivors. “A lot of them don’t recognize that their wheezing and coughing might have something to do with being down there. That’s why it’s so important that the WTC Environmental Health Center exists. The doctors there know what’s going on because they’ve seen it so many times.”
The Suburban Commuter
Jack Lim evacuated from his office at the New York State Insurance Fund in lower Manhattan shortly after the north tower fell. He walked to Grand Central Station along with thousands of other suburban commuters fleeing the area.
After arriving at his home in Cortlandt Manor, New York, he took a shower to wash off the dust that still clung to his skin, then made a few phone calls. He was worried about his firefighter friend Billy Casey. Sadly, Lim learned Casey was among those who had perished.
Lim, a New York State Public Employees Federation AFL-CIO shop steward, briefly returned to work as part of a skeleton crew the following week. Within a few days, he was temporarily transferred to the Fund’s office in White Plains for two weeks, then returned downtown for good. In 2007 he developed a dry cough that wouldn’t go away. Jack’s primary care physician prescribed antibiotics. When that didn’t help, he referred Jack to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. That physician suspected gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD, but the results of an endoscopy were inconclusive. Finally, a lung specialist diagnosed Jack with pulmonary fibrosis, telling him that it appeared he had the condition, which deprives a person’s lungs of sufficient oxygen, for some time. The news shocked Jack because he never smoked and had always been active in sports.
He signed up for a clinical research program at Bellevue Hospital Center run by doctors from New York University Hospital. While at Bellevue one day, he picked up a brochure about the WTC Environmental Health Center, which has a clinic on the second floor. He enrolled in the program immediately. He appreciates the coordinated care he receives at the clinic, where doctors understand his illness’ link to 9/11.
In 2008, Lim completed the New York City Marathon accompanied by his son to raise donations for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation and to give hope to others living with pulmonary fibrosis.