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Joe Higgins
(from testimony before the New York City Council)

I served in the FDNY as a firefighter for 18 years. In my career, I fought more than 1,000 inner-city fires. I also served as the drill instructor for over six years and trained over 4,200 firefighters who are currently on the job.

Together, my father and three of my brothers and I, have given more than 100 years to FDNY. My brother Tim, who was the Lt. in Squad “252,” was lost when the North Tower collapsed. My fourth brother serves the NYPD. We are a civil service family.

I wasn’t on the chart on 9-11, but like all off duty guys I got to the site fairly fast. No one was really thinking about toxic exposure those first few days. We were thinking about finding people who were still alive.

For months, I worked on rescue and recovery operations, running on adrenaline. I watched others become ill and I kept wondering what was happening to all of these guys.

In April of 2002, after fighting a relatively small fire I began to have a very difficult time breathing. I noticed that I was coughing more and more which lead up to me having an asthma attack.

I was hospitalized for 7 days at the end of May where I suffered multiple asthma attacks. Not being able breathe frightened my children and I was fearful for my life. I recovered, but I was told my firefighting days were over and I ended up on 6 meds that I was told I would need for the rest of my life.

I began having nightmares and I couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours a night and even that was in intervals of 20-30 minutes. By July, being unable to sleep was driving me crazy. I would awake in a sweat, caught in nightmares of the event.

I had resigned myself to the fact that this was my destiny! I still felt I was better off than the guys who were buried. Everything that I held for seven months while I did my job at the hole was hitting me. The loss of my brother and the other five guys from my firehouse was taking a toll on my
mental health!

Just as I thought this is the way the rest of my is going be, I met Dr. McNeil and the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project.

Shortly after that meeting I began the Hubbard detoxification program. I was put on a regimen of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to help me get to sleep. By the third day I was sleeping 7-8 hours a night for the first time since 9/11. I was safely off all my inhalers.

While undergoing the Hubbard Method of detox I could feel the toxins being released and creating physical and mental effects with me. As the toxins were being removed I started to think more clearly and not feel as depressed or anxiety ridden. By the time I was done, I felt like I had been shot out of a cannon. I felt fantastic.

I was forced to retire from FDNY because I could be at risk if I got caught in another thick cloud of smoke. Aside from this, I am in better shape physically and mentally than I was before 9/11. The results were far beyond what I could have hoped.

It’s now been over two years since I completed. I continue to feel great. I have also had the opportunity to see many more members of FDNY complete detoxification, and their gains have been as dramatic as mine.

People that fight inner city fires are some of the most toxic people walking the earth. It’s not only the fires, but we’re talking about even the smaller jobs – the oil burners, the foods on the stoves, the 100-year-old insulation. When you’re in the inner city, that’s what you’re doing, that’s your battle. You versus toxins.

After we’ve taken care of the 9/11 rescuers, I would like to see this become a mandatory program for all firemen to do every five or ten years. I also believe the residents and workers of lower Manhattan should do the Hubbard Method.

I am fully committed to helping make this treatment available to every rescue worker who wants it.
There are still many of my brothers and sisters who need help. We’ve seen nearly 400 recover their quality of life in a way that no other program being offered to them can match.

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