On the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, we remember those we lost, those who came to the rescue, and all of us who came together as a national and global community. Today, people all over are commemorating not the terror, but the strength and courage of humanity. Yet, it cannot go unnoticed that many people are still suffering from the aftermath of such a tragedy.
Health issues abound, with more than 1,100 people who worked or lived near the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York diagnosed with cancer, and many others in New York, D.C., and elsewhere with various types of respiratory diseases and mental health trauma.
For the people of New York, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, a member of America’s Essential Hospitals, offers medical and mental health services through its WTC Environmental Health Center.
This center is one of seven WTC Centers of Excellence in the metropolitan area, and the only one dedicated to caring for children and community residents, rather than only first responders. Since the center opened in 2005, more than 6,660 patients have been treated for physical and mental health conditions related to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
As the years pass, the need remains. For Oma Deonarine, it took nine years to make the connection between her persistent respiratory illness and the terrorist attacks. She sought treatment for what turned out to be thyroid cancer that developed after exposure to dust and debris on 9/11. But it wasn’t until last October, when the government added more than 20 categories of cancer to the list of 9/11-related conditions covered under the federal WTC health program, that she could get treatment. Now, Deonarine is getting coordinated care for cancer and asthma at the WTC Environmental Health Center.
The dedication of hospitals like New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation to see patients and communities from the point of disaster through years of treatment is significant. Essential hospitals like these maintain a commitment not just to patients who walk through the door, but also entire communities – ensuring we can retain the strength that got us all through Sept. 11, 2001.