Two years after the attacks her eldest daughter
Armani, now 15, started experiencing chronic sinuses infections, ear
infections, throat infections, and a persistent cough. Soon after that all
three of her children, including her newborn daughter, had a host of health
conditions including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and acid reflux. They were seeing
a pediatric pulmonologist once a month without fail and were missing school
more than any child probably should. At one point, each child was on at least
seven different medications.
"I initially came to the conclusion that my kids
were sick from 9/11 on my own, but my pediatrician just didn't buy it at all,"
says James, adding that both of her older children were more of less healthy
prior to the attacks. "I still love my pediatrician, but I only go to him for
regular annual visits."
All of James' children are now being treated in the
pediatric program at the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center, which
operates out of Bellevue Hospital in New York City. A study based on the Dept of Health
and Mental Hygeine's WTC Health Registry cites that 25,000 children were either
living or attending school in Lower Manhattan the day of the attacks, and
projects that tens of thousands more "were in the path of the plume of building
debris and smoke, close enough to inhale particulates and toxic substances."
Dr. Elizabeth Fiorino, a pediatric pulmonologist who
joined the WTCEHC's pediatric program in 2009, says that most common ailments
she encounters in patients are upper and lower respiratory conditions, mostly
asthma and allergic rhinitis. "We also see acid reflux disease and a variety of
behavioral, learning and mental health issues," she says. Fiorino contends that
the pediatric program at the Health Center is best equipped to deal with
9/11-related issues because it is "a multidisciplinary program."
During the initial four-hour visit, she says, "we do
a full evaluation, with a full history including exposure history. We do
pulmonary function tests that same day, which is definitely different from what
would occur in a general pediatrician's office, and we also do a full mental
health screening." She is quick to note, however, that the pediatric program is
"more of a consultative service working with the child's own pediatrician."
Similarly, Terry Miles, the World Trade
Environmental Health Center's executive director, classifies the program at
large as a specialized expertise service that is not intended to act as a
replacement for a child or adult's medical home: "We're not trying to take
people away from their community physicians. Rather, there is a certain level
of expertise that we've developed because we do what we do. We have learned to
understand the cause and effect, the nuances of the difference between
9/11-related asthma and regular asthma, and the more detailed diagnostic
procedures that might be called for to address these issues."