“The Air Is Just Fine…” Part I

I collapsed three times in one day a few months ago.

My right leg gave out on me after a searing white hot pain shot through it and my hip causing me to tear up because the pain was so bad.  And this was after I had taken pain medication for my back, which as you know (if you’ve been reading this blog regularly), has three or more degenerative discs in it.  The leg has been giving me problems on and off now for a few months but nothing major like this…I was taken completely aback by the pain and the fact that my leg no longer had any control and gave way.  A few weeks ago, I visited my orthopedist for my annual check up on nerve damage in my legs, which is where a lot of the pain is starting to make its way toward.  It showed some small issues, like the problem is getting worse (which I already knew because I could feel what was going on).  I told them what the problem was, and they said it could be from the nerve damage; but let’s wait a month to see if things were OK.  So, we waited two months because I wasn’t getting that pain any longer…until about a month ago.  This time, they ordered an MRI on my hip, and the results showed that I has bone spurs and some arthritis.  It also revealed anomalies in my bone marrow, which was something that was not new.

A few months ago, my white blood count was completely off the scale, so I had more tests done and for some reason, those blood tests came back OK with the white count within reason, but on the high end.  Still, it was normal and nothing to worry about.  Those tests were ordered because my annual MRI for my back showed that there was anomalies in my bone marrow as well.  This past one for my hip was the tipping point, and I’m scheduled for a full bone scan later this week to see if the problem is localized or widespread.  At best, there could have been something on the scan that the radiologist pointed out to cover all bases…but twice?  And worst case is leukemia.

I’ve lost some weight, and my appetite is not what it once was.  I do not really enjoy the taste of food anymore, at least until the past two days when I was pulling out all the stops for the holidays and making my specialties for the family.  I REALLY went to town eating over Christmas Eve and Day (hey, I’m Irish/Italian and we’re supposed to do that) and to be quite frank, it really felt good to be indulging in food again, because while most would be over-doing it, I was simply getting a normal appetite back where there was very little previously.  I am tired and run down a lot, but then again I’m a 48 year old stay at home dad dealing with an almost 13 year old daughter (who is allowing me to pay off karma at a vastly accelerated rate) and a precocious 8 year old girl.  I’m refereeing cat fights between our four felines (and to a degree my daughters).  Plus my sleep pattern is COMPLETELY out of sync with the rest of the world; I was always a “night owl”, but having 3 am as a regular bedtime and sometimes a 6:30 am wake-up call to get the kids off to school can be trying.  I’ll take an hour or two in the form of naps throughout the day to play “catch-up”.  And aside from the fact that I’m in constant pain because of my back (but it’s significantly alleviated by my pain medication), I feel OK.

What I have noticed (and so has my oldest daughter) is that my Bi-Polar Disorder is getting worse; that my moods are all over the scale and I’m very impossible to live with.  She said the one day her daddy “went out the door and never came back” (her exact words), and I couldn’t help but think if it was recently or on the morning of September 11th 2001 that this happened.  The body and the mind are interesting things: perhaps in some convoluted way my brain knew what was going on inside the very marrow of my bones and was in some form of revolt.  Perhaps my whole body chemestry is being thrown out of whack by the plethora of medications I’m taking…but I keep coming back to one inescapable thing, and that is the following statement by then-EPA Secretary Christie Todd-Whitman:

“We are very encouraged that the results from our monitoring of air quality and drinking water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances,” Whitman said. “Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breath and their water is safe to drink,” she added. [sic]

You know you’re in deep shit when a formal Government press release just days after the 9/11 attacks can’t even spell the word “breathe”; hence my “sic” reference.  If you’re going to initiate the biggest lie of the new century, then you think you’d use spell check.

You would think all the issues with my back are what I am on Disability for; it is not.  Acute PTSD (as the result of 9/11) and Bi-Polar Disorder are the reasons for that; the back and other things are happening to me only over the past 18 months, and it seems that every time I go back to the doctor, they notice something anomalous or new.  I cannot help but wonder if these ailments are happening to me as the result of being in the dust cloud on 9/11 or because I worked two blocks away from the wreckage of the South Tower and breathed that air every single day for another 3 years.  Or both.

After 9/11, our office was closed for about 3 weeks while they cleaned out the place and removed the dust.  We still found some when we returned to our cubicles at that time, and the smell of that horrible day lingered both inside and outside of the office for MONTHS.  You could still see the Pile burning every day for months after the attack; the twisted remains of a support of the glorious South Tower still standing for another few weeks as well.  People would develop coughs and then they would go away; allergies flared among my co-workers.  We all knew something was dreadfully wrong with the air, we could just feel it in our bones…and I have no doubt that some of us are feeling it quite literally now.

I’ve been doing research on the Net so see if anyone else is (or has) developed symptoms similar to mine.  What I am finding is that strangely enough, there is a connection between PTSD and muscular-skeletal disorders even prior to 9/11, but that those have become common in 9/11 Survivors.  In addition, every single time I look up these ailments, the word “cancer” is always used in the same article.  Almost all of these articles pertain to Rescue Workers, and in some of them there are mentions of office workers who survived having these symptoms, but they are usually buried or a footnote.  What I keep coming back to is the fact that Office Workers seems to either be one group that no one gives a damn about, or very few cases have been reported…until recently.

I have found a number of outstanding articles detailing the health issues of a lot of folks in Lower Manhattan, but as I said, almost exclusively all of the reported issues are with First Responders and the like.  The rest of us that worked, and ate, and spent prolonged exposure time down there are forgotten.  The ones who literally opened the Stock Exchange just days after the attack and while the remnants of the cloud were still there.  The ones who kept the engine of Capitalism moving…and now we are starting to drop; slowly, surely, and most definitely.  The Powers That Be (or as I like to call them the SOBICs- Sons of Bitches In Charge) have been good at keeping this quiet…but it’s almost 10 years later.  10 years of having the toxins build up and your body react.  10 years of trying to have a normal life again, only to find out that you may have gotten your life back together only to find out that you may be fatally ill.

I have no problem giving my life for my family and my country or even a total stranger; it’s almost expected of me based on my own moral compass.  I resent potentially having to do so for a lie and for perpetuating a system that enslaves the populace even more than it ever did in the form of economic and social chains of injustice.  Next time they start debating Public Health Care, ask yourself this question: why are they SO determined now to ensure that it is not single-payer, or a public option?  Why have the insurance companies gotten away with getting off the hook scott free?

Because sooner or later, there will be thousands of us who worked and lived in Lower Manhattan getting ill and dying.  Sooner or later they will not be able to keep things quiet.  Sooner or later, SOMEONE has to make a profit off all of us who die…

…and all because someone decided that the almighty dollar was more important than human life.  All because someone said, “The air is fine…”


“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” -John F. Kennedy


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