Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Coughing Up Gravel: Another Victim Of 9/11

Tim Keller, a New York Emergency Medical Technician was one of the first rescue workers to arrive at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and he didn’t leave until after midnight. He was present for the collapse of both Twin Towers and worked to salvage survivors from the wreckage.

Tim Keller, age 41, was also the first EMS worker to die from prolonged health problems related to 9/11.
For several days after his work at Ground Zero, Mr. Keller coughed up chunks of material he breathed in on the site, said Marianne Pizzitola, pension coordinator for Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics Local 2507.

"You wouldn’t believe how much sooty, dark stuff would come out of him," she said. "He’d cough up actual gravel. It was awful. His lungs were completely destroyed by the toxins he inhaled."

The nonsmoking EMT quickly developed a persistent, nagging throat irritation. Soon it progressed into full-blown coughing fits that colleagues described as completely debilitating. He didn’t retire from the Fire Department until November 2004, but had deteriorated rapidly after 9/11, said Ms. Pizzitola.

"He’d show up for work because he couldn’t afford not to," she said. "He’d be hacking up a lung, all day. He couldn’t walk 100 feet without turning blue. They had him on oxygen, steroids, four or five different pulmonary meds. At night he had to be hooked up to a machine because he’d stop breathing otherwise. But he stayed on the job as long as he could to feed his family."
By the time of his death Mr. Keller's disability benefits of $2,000 a month hadn’t kicked in, he was unable to get Social Security and was also denied benefits from the Sept. 11 victims’ fund. Meanwhile, President Bush is taking back $125 million that was provided to New York to help 9/11 survivors. The day Mr. Keller died a group of his colleagues traveled to Washington to ask members of Congress to restore $125 million in Federal aid to the city.