Queens gets upgraded medical facility for 9/11 responders

By Irving Dejohn New York Daily News

North Shore-LIJ unveils new Queens World Trade Center Health Program in Rego Park, funded by James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

Money from the long-stalled Zadroga Bill has trickled down to Queens.

North Shore-LIJ officials unveiled a new treatment center in Rego Park on Monday that will cater specifically to those who volunteered or worked at Ground Zero following 9/11.

The expanded facility, which was relocated from a more modest office in Flushing, was funded with a $3.85 million grant from the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

“These folks did such a tremendous service,” said Jacqueline Moline, the director of the center, who has worked extensively with first responders. “Many of them have long-lasting health effects.”

Sifting through the rubble and remains at Ground Zero wreaked havoc on many responders’ respiratory systems and the symptoms began manifesting almost immediately, Moline said.

“We knew the air was not safe to breathe,” she said. “We’ve seen health effects from the very onset with people having trouble breathing, people having the ‘World Trade Center cough.’”

The 3,650-square-foot Queens WTC Health Program — 50% larger than the Flushing location — will allow the health provider to add more staff to diagnose diseases and monitor ailments, said North Shore-LIJ President Michael Dowling.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall lauded allocating more space to treat some of the city’s heroic responders.

“Their physical, emotional and mental well-being depends greatly on our ability to link them with the service they so richly deserve,” Marshall said.Retired NYPD officer Lorelei Sander has been receiving treatment for what she referred to as a persistent “barking cough” for the better part of two years.

Sander, 59, of Flushing, was hospitalized in 2001 with respiratory issues after volunteering at the site for almost two weeks.

“I could not shake it,” she said. “It hurts when you have a cough that deep.”

The quality of the facility can be almost as important as the practitioners delivering the care, she noted.

“If you come into a nice building, you feel important,” she said.

The proud 20-year police veteran was initially “in denial” about her ailments and didn’t pursue treatment aggressively, she said. Since she began receiving specialized treatment, her symptoms have come under control.

Sander said she hopes her fellow first responders can benefit from the new Zadroga-funded facility in Queens.

“They don’t have to continue feeling the way they do,” she said.

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