LONG ISLAND, NY – An act from Congress, the Zadroga Act, which has been funding 9/11 first responder’s medical bills, including hospital stays and prescription coverage for health issues relating to September 11th, is set to expire tonight, September 30, 2015.
Taking into consideration the fact that 9/11 happened over a decade ago, people who were a part of the events that took place that tragic day have been struggling for years battling life threatening diseases from World Trade Center Pollution. Discover Magazine came out with a recent report which shows that almost 70 percent of World Trade Center first responders have became ill or are experiencing breathing complications, along with people who lived in the surrounding area. In addition, the New York Post details more than 2,500 Ground Zero rescuers and responders have been diagnosed with cancer. The number of cancer cases recorded is skyrocketing, according to this report. Just last year there were 1,140 cancer cases reported relating to 9/11 illnesses.
“In its latest tally, the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital counts 1,655 responders with cancer among the 37,000 cops, hard hats, sanitation workers, other city employees and volunteers it monitors”, officials told the New York Post in an investigation.
The growing number of first responders who are battling cancer and other respiratory diseases are nearly begging New York State to give them compensation for their medical expenses, which get very costly and nearly unmanageable to afford. To compensate, New York State issued the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which is named after James Zadroga, who passed away from a respiratory disease due to the twin towers toxic, dusty environment following the aftermath of September 11th.
The Zadroga Act provides funding for health care programs that establish care for 9/11 responders and survivors. It was passed on December 22, 2010, just five short years ago, and it provides health care and compensation for those who are affected by 9/11 and its aftermath.
The act was originally turned down by Congress due to its cost and timing; so close to an election season. According to alligator.org, “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart played a major role in highlighting the need for the act, and responded to congresses’ decision by dedicating an entire episode to the Zadroga act. Stewart helped raise awareness and sparked major controversy all over New York State. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited Stewart as “One of the biggest factors that lead to the final agreement.”
Comedian Jon Stewart headed to Capitol Hill this to fight for the healthcare benefits of 9/11 first responders.
With the Zadroga Act expiring tonight, September 30th, 2015, Jon Stewart has returned to the front line lobbying congress in these final hours. Stewart plans, along with many 9/11 hero’s and their families, to demand lawmakers extend funding. Many wonder why congress even decided to put an expiration date on legislation as deserved and needed as the Zadroga Act.
NewsLI.com had the opportunity to connect with 9/11 first responder Paul Johnson, a 57 year-old father and husband, who never would’ve thought that 14 years later he would be dealing with so many medical issues. Johnson, along with thousands of others, has his fingers crossed that congress will extend the Zadroga act before it is too late.
“I’m in the last stage of dying. My lungs are shot; my left lung only works 65% of the time. On the left side of my chest, my bronchial tube is completely closed. I have COPD and very rare diseases such as Bronchomalacia, which is a very rare disease.” said Mr. Paul Johnson, 57, first responder.
“I’ve died five times and I’m in the Hospital every other week. It’s my second home. I live in the hospital and I’ve been there over 140 times in the last year and a half. All the nurses and doctors know me,” said Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson received a letter from Doctor Snapper, of Duke University, about his condition. The letter states he needs a stent placement to secure his arteries and ensure that they can function again on their own. A stent placement is a surgery where a wire mesh stainless steel tube is placed inside an artery to keep it from closing.
The letter was written to him in response to the victim’s compensation act for illnesses related to 9/11. It said:
“His condition is vitally lead to 9/11 exposure. His trachea and bronchioles lost their structure support and his airways closed. His case of Bronchomalacia is so rare it’s not seen in any other individuals. His disease is so extent that he is not a candidate for a stent placement, he is far from standard care.”
In his own words, he summed up this as a “Death Letter.” His health is so far gone that doctors don’t feel it’s worth the time an effort for surgery because he doesn’t have much left to live. In the interview, Mr. Johnson told me in his current state, he only has three years left to live, maybe even less.
Mr. Paul Johnson along with his fellow First Responder pose while digging through the rubble searching for people lying in the debris after the events that occurred on September 11, 2001.
The cost of his 9/11 related illnesses are nearly unmanageable. He gets help from his children, his family and LHI, Logistics Health, Inc., which is a health company that takes care of men and woman who keep our country safe. 99% of his medications are covered by LHI. Johnson’s hospital bills along with various other surgeries are covered by, for the time being, the Zadroga Act. Since he is in and out of the hospital countless times, he relies on this act with his life.
“I would literally be destroyed if I lived in the hospital and they stopped this bill”, Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Johnson, along with the thousands of other 9/11 first responders who face severe medical issues will be shattered if this act isn’t extended.
John Feal, who runs the Feal Good Foundation, is working extremely hard, dedicating his life to educating elected officials along with the public about the serious concerns and consequences faced by first responders. This year alone, Feal has visited Washington D.C. 16 times to represent those suffering from ground zero related illnesses. The Feal Good Foundation is striving to advocate for first responder rights and illuminating to proper authorities the serious issues they encounter.
NewsLI.com also spoke with John Feal, who said the Zadroga act is critical for over 72,000 people who face health issues related to 9/11 across the country.
“I blame congress for helping cause the deaths of thousands of people who are deathly ill. They can’t afford 20-30,000 a month worth of medication,” Said Feal.
If this act isn’t passed, Feal said that Mr. Johnson, along with thousands of other Responders will die.
According to Feal, to date, at least 4,000 people are facing cancer related illnesses from 9/11 and over 1,700 have already passed away.
There are two other bills in congress similar to the Zadroda Act.; one for people exposed by radiation, and another for people exposed to black lung disease such as coal miners. These acts are permanently extended unlike the Zadroda act, with has an expiration date. Individuals who benefit from these two acts have health care and are taken care of financially. Feal says that 9/11 first responders deserve the same type of packages these people receive.
Feel blames Congress for the unstructured decisions that encompass this act. He strongly believes Congress is disorganized and disregarding human life in our country. “You’ve got a dysfunctional body of work in Washington D.C., they put their ideologies before human lives. It’s not even ideologies, its idiotologies.”
Tonight Sepember 30, 2015, the Zadroga Act will expire, leaving thousands of 9/11 first responders without health coverage. John Feal, his fellow first responders, and Jon Stewart, and 100k+ signers want Congress to make the Zadroga Act permanent.
Change.org is hosting a petition “Tell Congress We Will Never Forget 9/11 first responders and Survivors.” This petition is aimed towards raising awareness to notify Congress members about the vast support for the Zadroga Act. There are currently over 150,000 supporters who have signed the petition and they need just 50,000 more.