Saturday, May 15, 2010

I Might Be Sick...

And not just mentally...I already knew that. I mean physically ill. I'm showing all the symptoms of something that in these parts scares the bejesus out of people, and I've been doing all I can to find out before it becomes my worst nightmare. It's why I wasn't blogging all week, actually.

The illness (as yet unconfirmed) might be sarcoidosis. It's typically recognized by very small, fibrous tumors that appear on the body (usually the skin) which might persist for a short time, but then disappear. Occasionally, these little tumors find their way into the eyes, lungs and other vital organs, in which case, you're in real trouble. You're talking blindness, compromised lung function, kidney, liver and stomach problems, and in some cases, even cancers.

It's an auto-immune disease, for which (frighteningly enough) doctors can't readily identify the source, although it's believed the most common trigger is prolonged exposure to certain environmental contaminants. For many people, the disease just typically runs it's course, and then disappears as mysteriously as it arrived. In some more persistent cases, a few treatments with steroids clears the problem up with a minimum of fuss. Sometimes, however, it persists for a very long time, indeed, and only gets progressively worse.

Now, why is sarcoidosis a word which sends people into such a tizzy around here?

Because the New York State Health Department is tracking upwards of 14,000 (some say there's as many as 100,000) potential cases of the disease. Where did 14,000 people get sarcoidosis? Why, they got it by working on and around the toxic pile of the World Trade Center after September 11th, that's where. The EPA has identified up to 2,500 contaminants in the area, including dioxin, PCB's, PAH's, mercury, asbestos, lead -- and that's before you get to the more mundane contaminants like plastics, wood ash, paints, pulverized glass and concrete and human remains.

Within six days of 9/11 I was back at work -- three blocks upwind of the pile, taking subways that were full of smoke and who-knows-what. A few weeks after the fires were"under control", the subway line beneath The Pit was reopened (although the Courtlandt Street Station itself was closed), and trains that moved through that section of tunnel did so at very slow you time to see the hastily-erected ceiling supports. For a few weeks after the attack, I was regularly getting up at night to cough up bitter-tasting, black or grey phlegm. For months, just walking through the neighborhood left a greasy film on your skin, and a grit that would find it's way into your hair and even into the folds of your skin beneath your clothing. Despite the weekly "spray downs" of dust in the Lower Manhattan area, there was gritty dust everywhere. I was downtown recently, and I can still smell the burning wreckage -- although I'm not certain if it's an actual odor, or simply a memory. I can tell you that I've never smelled anything worse in my life. For many years now, I've had often severe and persistent chest pains -- and always in the same exact spot -- that no one could find an answer to, except to say that it was probably psychosomatic.

Unless, of course, it's sarcoidosis. Which I'm told is usually misdiagnosed, if not missed altogther. It's one of those things that if you're not specifically looking for it, you're not very likely to spot it, and because of it's comes-and-goes nature, it is often difficult for doctors to diagnose the first time around. How was I diagnosed? The doc took one look at the tiny red scars forming on the inside of my right forearm and left shin and asked "Where were you on September 11th?"

And yes, there are still people showing up in local hospitals with 9/11-related illnesses, nearly a decade after the fact.

By the way, according to the best information I could find for 9/11-related cases of sarcoidosis, there have only been two (2) recorded deaths directly attributable to the disease itself. One was a cop who spent several weeks on the pile, and the other an attorney who worked in the area. There are, however, several hundred cases of cancers linked to sarcoidosis where the common factors have been fireman/cop/rescue/clean-up/office worker with long exposure to the pile, people exposed to World Trade Center debris and particulates within a certain radius, people who are definitely known to have been exposed to airborne World Trade Center toxins.

Just one more reason to hate fucking Muslims, right?

Of course, I don't have a confirmation yet, but I think it's fair bet to say I have it. If I'm not around as often as I used to be, don't be surprised.

Oh, and I'm sure ObamaCare won't cover it, even if it is a pre-existing condition.

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