A program to screen the health of rescue workers who were involved in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, will soon start accepting new patients again, in the hopes of reaching thousands of people who could not be accommodated previously.
The organizers of the program, called the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening program, have examined nearly 12,000 workers so far, and according to Dr. Robin Herbert the program director, as many as 40,000 rescue workers inhaled soot, dust and smoke after Sept. 11, 2001.
The program which ended in April 2004 was set up at Mount Sinai Medical Center and other hospitals in 2002, and was revived through a federal grant, which will also provide follow-up exams for the next five years because of the continued demand for checks by those exposed, clearly demonstrating the need for the program, said Dr. Herbert.
The new screenings were announced at a conference for rescue workers held several blocks from ground zero, where health officials used computer slides to illustrate the scope of the ailments affecting the workers they have screened so far, including asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and what doctors call World Trade Center cough.
Psychiatrist Dr. Rebecca Smith says many of her patients' have experienced depression and anxiety and have also suffered psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder. She said one patient had found a pair of hands, bound by rope, in the debris of the towers.
Anthony Pisciotta, 33, a maintenance worker who volunteered at the trade center site a few days after 9/11, said he and many others suffered from depression and anxiety and the program helps people deal with issues and makes them realize they are not alone.
Dr. Jacqueline Moline during workshops with the workers, answered queries on diseases like cancer and other ailments that might show up later She says doctors often come face to face with the confusion patients are living with.
A city police officer, Steven Mayfield, who spent 30 days guarding the World Trade Center site, now suffers from pulmonary sarcoidosis, a rare disease with symptoms that include shortness of breath, chronic cough and weight loss, told Dr. Moline that he had lost 50 pounds because of the disease and finds it very hard to believe it 'couldn't have come from down there'.
Dr. Herbert said that, based on the program's initial findings, she expects that more than half of the workers who have been screened will have physical or mental health conditions that require treatment.