Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sick 9/11 first responders on trip to Washington

On a bus on I-95 - Dozens of sick 9/11 first responders rumbled down to the nation's capital Monday to do what they shouldn't have to: beg lawmakers to fund crucial programs that help pay their growing medical bills.

"I feel like a charity case," said Charles Giles, 40, who worked as an emergency medical technician for 16 years - including five months at Ground Zero. He got sick in 2002 and, after 13 separate hospitalizations, has had to sell his house to pay medical bills.

"[Sept. 11] has destroyed us," said Giles, of Toms River, N.J. "We gave our heart and souls on 9/11. What this government is doing to us now is a shame."

The bus ride was organized by the FealGood Foundation, a group founded by John Feal, a 9/11 volunteer whose foot was crushed by an 8-ton steel beam.

"This is like show and tell," Feal told the Daily News Monday. "For 6 1/2 years we've been neglected, denied and lied to."

He said New York's congressional delegation hasbeen helpful, but "the national delegation needs to see these people."

The group will hold a protest on Capitol Hill today to ask Congress to restore millions of dollars to programs like Healthcare for Heroes. Only $25 million has been earmarked for 2009 - compared with $108 million in 2008.

"If that closes, all of us are going to have to find other doctors and start all over and for some people, that will be too late," said Keith LeBow, a 44-year-old ironworker from Manhattan.

LeBow, who would have to spend about $2,000 a month on his medications alone without help from the government, said he went to Washington even though he has a hard time getting out of bed.

"They don't want to hear it anymore," he complained.

Joe Picurro, 40, an ironworker who is also from Toms River, walks with a cane now and takes about 35 pills a day.

"I'm ashamed that I have to go down to Congress to beg for money," he said.

The News, in a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning editorials, has also fought for proper funding for the city's sick heroes.

Source: nydailynews.com

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