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'Wake up and do something' about our health, 9/11 workers demand

Jan 19, 2007 | New York Daily News

As a retired cop struggled for breath in an intensive-care unit yesterday, other Ground Zero veterans rallied outside the hospital to show their support and demand more help for those who are suffering.

"The government needs to wake up and do something. More and more guys are getting sick every day," said Donna Nolan of Yonkers, whose husband Jimmy, 41, has developed breathing problems. "These guys need help."

The small group gathered at Mount Sinai Medical Center on the upper East Side, where former NYPD Officer Cesar Borja, 52, is in critical condition with pulmonary fibrosis. "It really means a lot to me and my family," said the officer's son Ceasar Borja, 21. "He's doing a little better. He's fighting."

Borja's family believes he contracted the disease working 16-hour shifts at Ground Zero. He needs a lung transplant to survive.

Cops, firefighters, construction workers and other volunteers who worked at Ground Zero after 9/11 say toxic air there scarred their lungs, put them at risk of cancer and robbed them of robust health.

At least four Ground Zero workers have died of pulmonary fibrosis, including NYPD Detective James Zadroga, whose father, Joseph Zadroga, attended the rally.

But doctors say they can't draw a direct link between the workers' service and their ailments - trapping many in a fruitless search for help and compensation, others said. The physicians urge anyone who worked at the World Trade Center site to get a full checkup.

Retired cop Allison Palmer, 38, who blames her cancer on World Trade Center dust, carried a sign with color pictures of her medical scans that said, "The air was not clean. Shame on you!"

"I never smoked a cigarette in my life. I don't drink alcohol. I don't use drugs. It's not a hereditary type of cancer," Palmer said. "There's no doubt in my mind it's from Ground Zero."

Vito Valenti, 43, stood on the cold sidewalk pulling an oxygen tank. A judge last month ordered that he get workers' compensation benefits for pulmonary fibrosis after volunteering at Ground Zero.

"I want to show my support, because that's what I have," Valenti said.


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