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Healthcare 9/11 Hero Hopes Others Will Remember

Armen Hareyan's picture

Bravely disregarding her own safety, Reggie Cervantes joined the legions of rescue workers who raced to the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 in order to save anyone they could. Politicians would later praise Reggie and her fellow heroes for their courage and selflessness. But she has struggled with 9/11-related health issues ever since.

Seven years later, the now Oklahoma City resident faces homelessness and battles to qualify her two young kids for medical care. She is terrified that her own 9/11-related illnesses–including early stage pulmonary fibrosis, acid reflux, and PTSD–may claim her ability to be there for her children.

"I'll be walking in a memory walk tonight, but I just don't know how many people will actually walk with me," Reggie said of the seventh anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Suffering from several 9/11-related health issues, she has to fight for what little healthcare she gets through workers' comp. But in her characteristic way of thinking about others first, Reggie asks that we remember other 9/11 victims still hurting for healthcare.

Like many of her fellow rescue workers, Reggie's ability to access mental health services is almost nil in the face of job loss and illness. The financial strain and inability to provide for her kids triggers depression and stress, and she has no access to counseling.

"I have to reapply every three months for the kids' healthcare through Medicaid," Reggie explains, struggling with the respiratory problems she has faced since 9/11.

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In our national hour of need, this rescuer represented a glimmer of hope to victims trapped in the rubble, and our nation told Reggie she was a hero. Yet today, she and her children are denied the care her and her children deserve.

So tonight she'll walk to remember, hoping that others don't walk away and forget.

Read stories like this every day through Election Day at: www.GuaranteedHealthcare.org

Sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee

Eighty-two percent of Americans think the U.S. healthcare system should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt (Commonwealth Fund, Aug. 7, 2008). America's nurses know that only single-payer, improved and expanded Medicare for all will fix our broken system and the tragedy of our devastated families. HR 676, by U.S. Rep John Conyers, is the most comprehensive, cost effective way to achieve guaranteed healthcare for all. Read prior stories in this series at www.GuranteedHealthcare.org.

For more information, or to contact this patient: Liz Jacobs 510/273-2232