Friday, February 8, 2019

9/11 FIRST RESPONDER BECOMES PUBLIC ADVOCATE FOR CANCER PREVENTION AND SURVIVORSHIP

The model of the FIRST RESPONDERS CANCER RESOURCE (formerly 9/11CANCERSCAN) awareness program was founded in part with the technical technical collaboration and personal insight of (Ret) Firefighter SALVATORE "SAL" BANCHITTA from Engine 316 of the 49 Battalion.

Sal was one of many first responders in 9/11. His professional commitment to the FDNY and to the City of New York placed his life and well-being at extremely elevated risks in many rescue calls and even more so each day that he spent directly exposed to the deadly dust of Ground Zero. His experiences as a 9/11 rescue member help us identify the magnitude of issues that all workers underwent inside the highly toxic disaster zone, illustrating how so many have contracted the most traumatic illnesses and cancers.

Mr. Banchitta, now retired from “the job”, continues to support the entire community of first responders as a health and wellness advocate and a public speaker about maintaining continued health checkups and a proactive approach to health, safety and wellness.  He is a field ambassador of the “GET CHECKED NOW” program developed by the clinical leaders of AwarenessforaCure.org and is also one of the supporting editors of the 9/11 Survivor Stories Newsletter.

THE NEW MISSION & A LIFE-LONG CALL
As with most community-driven crusaders, Sal recalls the day that he says convinced him of this calling. "I was at a gas station one day in Woodside and I fell into conversation with someone on the other side of the pump," said Sal. "It happens all too often between any two strangers wearing FD New York jackets or shirts.  Without even exchanging names, we got into it about my retirement, where I operated, then - 9/11, both my tour and his.  He expressed immediate concerns about his own health in conjunction to a few firefighters that he knew personally that recently passed away. They were once in perfect health, and then all of a sudden they're gone... it was that quick. it was obvious that's what got him extremely worried.  Amazing timing from the heavens, I handed him my postcard about 911CancerScan.com and told him about cancer screening for anyone exposed to ground zero. There's things that you can do to be ahead of the curve and to be vigilant.  Since then, I'm finding these guys everywhere and hearing about more and more stories that you just can't ignore."

As an ardent reader and researcher of all 9/11 illnesses, Sal continually tracks the many ‘new’ cancer cases from news reports that continue to rise within the rescue community. More so, his dedicated readings also reinforce his expanding interest in learning about ALL cancer treatment modalities (from the conventional protocols to the many forms of integrative and alternative medicines) - arming himself with education and awareness against the many possible impending health effects of “the most dangerous job in the world.”

From Sal's official 2001 statement, he was quite detailed about the harsh environment of what he calls the burning dust where any safety equipment for any and all workers proved 'completely useless'. He added, "there was no way to avoid breathing in the extreme amount of particles all over the air. It constantly went in our eyes that stations were everywhere constantly flushing our eyes out. The job teaches you that burning materials and chemicals at extreme temperatures takes on a more lethal and more aggressive form to anyone exposed to it.  Basically, all we had was our immune system to fight what was inside us all!"

THE MOST PRECIOUS GIFT
"Life is the most precious gift of all... including the undying love and support from our families, our friends and the entire community at large --reminding us that ours was a job worth doing! Rescuers risk everything for the continuance of all this... for everyone and for ourselves!"  Sal Banchitta's contributions to the First Responders Cancer Resource shows his heart is still in the right place for the society of firefighters -both retired and active. He finds a major need for this advocacy "for the 'under-informed', those in denial or anyone negligent about the need for proactive health checkups".

Since day one, he (alongside his band of fellow  responders) took on every call -completely aware of the OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS that came with this line of work. Meanwhile, the true battle that any retired rescuer faces from any job-related toxic exposure is the looming concern for the many possible unknowns, including time-released cancers, prostate/lung and liver disorders, heart diseases and strokes (just to name a few).

TECHNOLOGY CATCHES UP TO MORTALITY RATES
It is this level of awakening that drew him to commit to sharing this vital information with his fellow rescuers, both retired and on active duty. His passion to learn about job related cancers also covered learning about ALL innovations, advancements in lab and genetic testing, diagnostic technologies and facilities available to track, monitor, treat and prevent cancers. “In the fight against cancer, education is job #1… we need to be smart about this disease and to make better decisions about all the options available. (Also see: (article) An Upgrade in Post-9/11 First Responders Cancer Screening and (article)"Patient-Friendly" Advancement in Early Cancer Detection)

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AN EXCERPT FROM (RET) FIREMAN SAL BANCHITTA'S 9/11 TESTIMONY
“45 minutes after the towers came down, there was a city recall meaning all firefighters had to come in. Many of us met at Shea Stadium and raced to West End Avenue in buses. After Tower 7 came down, we operated all night long inside “the pile” and we were looking to see what we were able to do. We helped create a human chain that pulled out the trapped Port Authority police officer. Having spent the entire day and night manning the zone, it was the most exhausting shift that felt like forever! The next day, went back to the firehouse, showered, changed from the (bunker gear) contaminated clothes at the firehouse. And then the next night tour, we ended up being back at the pile all night long again. This went on for an entire month for me going down there in and out at completely different times- inside the thick of those fumes and billowing smoke on that pile with no masks or anything on.”










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Additional References:
1) Occupational Health Concerns of Firefighting:
https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.pu.13.050192.001055

DISCLAIMER
THE FIRST RESPONDERS CANCER RESOURCE, its content, its interviews, images or content from this article/website is not endorsed, sponsored or associated in any way by the FDNY or any fire departments, rescue units or any emergency responders (of any city or county) or subsidiary organizations or institutions thereof. Any reference of any city, state or federal entities are strictly for information.      

THE FIRST RESPONDERS CANCER RESOURCE is an independent website supported and partially sponsored by The Biofoundation for Angiogenesis Research and Development (www.AngioFoundation.org) a 501c3, the executive board of Awareness for a Cure, the NY Cancer Resource Alliance (Linkedin group), The Male Breast Cancer Coalition (501c3) and its respective donors and is produced by donation by IntermediaWorx Educational Publishing (imworx.com). This website/blog/web publication is intended to provide users with free online access about the contents included in this site. The website represents the informational works of an alliance of volunteer awareness speakers, writers, educators, cancer survivors, retired rescue professionals and clinical professionals whose contribution to this website and its public advocacy programs are to provide available public information and resources about CANCERS in our community of first responders, civil service workers, rescue workers or any person(s) exposed to toxins during their work.  All person(s), participants, writers, speakers, video presentors and all those who are mentioned in this website offer their insights, research reports, editorial content, technical material and/or personal ideas have done so freely and independently of each other are are published under COLLECTIVE COMMONS as informational and free public awareness.The information contained in this website should not be construed as medical advice on any subject matter.




Tuesday, February 5, 2019

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO SPEAK TO A THERAPIST? (part 1)


Industry reports show emergency response professionals have the highest health risks including injuries to the body- and THE MIND [3].  In a study that examined the prevalence of resilience among New Yorkers during the 6 months after 9/11, 65% of participants showed resilience (ability to recover)... suggesting that more cases demonstrated resilience than previously believed. Even among those with the highest levels of exposure and highest probable PTSD, the proportion that were resilient never dropped below 33%. [1]

Mental Health is a concern in the first responder community especially since the 9/11 attacks where traumatic experiences could greatly affect our lives in complex and debilitating ways. Here are some troubling signs that may indicate a need for help.
  • FLASHBACKS that bring you back to the traumatic event and away from present reality regularly
  • INSOMNIA due to fear of vivid dreams of the event or fear of rumination about specifics of the traumatic event causing loss of sleep
  • FEELING DEPRESSED, heavy, loss of hope and joy or consistent fatigue that leads to inability to get out of bed
  • SELF MEDICATING with drugs or alcohol to numb flashback or reoccurring negative thoughts about the traumatic event
  • ANGER and irritability that leads to interpersonal problems with family, friends and colleagues
  • CONSISTENT ANXIETY, panic and worry in hope to gain control of ones environment and decrease threat of another similar traumatic event
  • AVOIDANCE of any reminders of the traumatic event, leading to isolation 
  • FEELINGS OF LONELINESS, emptiness or feelings like you cannot relate to anyone 
  • CONSISTENT SHAME and guilt that causes impairment in functioning, depression and/or anxiety 
  • SUPPRESSION, repression or burying emotional responses associated with the traumatic event, co-occurring with physical symptoms such as chronic pain, racing heart beat, tightness in chest and headache

We are fortunate to live in a time when ALL clinical resources, let it be physiological or mental support is just a click away. First responders are constantly exposed to many unforeseen challenges of (and from) the job- many of which can cause a lasting impression to the body or the mind. It may take one significant traumatic event or a sequence of events to trigger a cascade of lasting effects on our well-being. When we work to process physical emotions that arise from trauma, the hope is that one day we can be less affected by it and live more presently to enjoy life’s fulfilling moments. 

Remember, the first step to resolving any problem large or small is to step forward and say- "I need help!" 

JESSICA GLYNN, LMSW, CPC, CEC 
First Responders Mental Health Div.

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POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) IN FIRST RESPONDERS

A well balanced mental health is about self-care and recognizing what is in our control as far as things that we can change. It is also an acceptance of the things in our outside environment that are beyond our ability to manage. Where a traumatic or disturbing experience may (at one time or another) impact our lives, it is this control that maintains our perspective whether or not those experiences could haunt us with physical disruption and cause harm to our daily routine. Many associate Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with military personnel who experienced the horrors of war - but cases of PTSD are also found in the community of rescuers and emergency responders. A popular example of this is from the many victims of 9/11 as well as other local disasters.

No one is exempt from PTSD and it can easily arise from the simplest triggers that kick up that specific traumatic event. For even the most experienced and 'battle-hardened' professionals, the disorder can happen years and even decades later. Many find it very hard to get over this on your own- and most people don't understand how stop those memories from creeping up.

ANYTHING CAN TRIGGER PTSD AT ANY TIME
Some consider it a lock-and-key connection where it took an unsuspectingly simple trigger to transcend a person back to that fateful disturbing memory and replaying it in an uncontrolled and repetitive manner. You think it's behind you- then one day, an associative spark brings it all back; let it be a car backfiring or street sirens, a plane going over the city or even seeing a child crying in the street. Any sort of auditory or visual prompt could unlock that "box of buried emotions" to a first responder seeing someone in distress and going back to that day. Suddenly, your reality of the situation completely changes back to that traumatic event. Many suffer in silence, whereas PTSD could be more easily managed or reversed if addressed earlier. Unattended, this disorder may grow in frequency and strength, leading many to 'self-medicate' with drinking or drugs to fight the flashbacks.

(To be continued in our Rescuers Support Resource Newsletter coming Feb. 28, 2018)

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References
1) Psychological resilience after disaster: New York City in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attack. Bonanno GA1, Galea S, Bucciarelli A, Vlahov D.
2) NYC-9/11 Health
3) Health effects arising from the September 11 attacks
4)"The Impact of Mental Health Stigma in the Fire Service"- by Christopher L. McKenna/FireEngineering.com   https://www.fireengineering.com/articles/print/volume-170/issue-12/features/the-impact-of-mental-health-stigma-in-the-fire-service.html

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