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Barbara Boursiqout
(from testimony before the New York City Council)

I am a Registered Nurse, and work at NYU Downtown Hospital. I have worked at this hospital for 33 years.

After the collapses on 9/11, I spent over three hours inhaling and ingesting toxic smoke and dust. I live less than three blocks from Ground Zero and I have been exposed to toxic air and the toxic environment since that day.

I developed chronic lung disease. I was on two steroidal inhalers for almost two years before I began detoxification treatment. I had heart palpitations. I hyperventilated. My condition was so bad that my friends at the Brooklyn Tabernacle were praying for my life.

My mental state wasnít any better. My memory problems were so bad that I thought I was getting Alzheimerís disease. I would arrive at work and go into a panic attack because I couldnít remember if I turned the stove off.

This is no condition to be in if you work in a recovery room. You have to be alert at all times. A patient can go into cardiac arrest in seconds, and you need to be able to respond.

But I felt that I had a cloud over my mind. I wasnít able to think clearly. This was hard to accept, because I had always been extremely alert and competent.

I became afraid that I might harm a patient because I couldnít remember things the way that I used to. My mind wasnít really registering what was going on around me. I was afraid that I was going to miss something.

As a solution, I stopped taking complicated patients. I would only accept patients with simple problems, and even then I would stand right by the stretcher just to make sure I didnít miss anything.

I was not happy about this. I know my job, and I was used to managing several patients at a time, keeping all the information I needed in my mind and being certain that I was on top of things.

I also began refusing to be on call on my off hours. I didnít want to get called in to work for an emergency case, because I wasnít sure I could trust my perception.

This was all very troubling, as I was only 53 years old.

All of this changed after I completed the detoxification program. I am OK now.
The scary part is that I feel more alert and alive than I did before September 11!

At work, I confidently handle the most critical patients, two or three at a time. I am no longer afraid I will miss something. My memory has returned. I am no longer afraid.
My physical problems are gone as well. My husband is no longer afraid that he is going to lose me. I can take deep breaths without lung spasms.

Before this program, I couldnít walk up the stairs without getting out of breath. Today, I could beat you running down the street.

I hope that you can understand the magnitude of the gift that has been given to me. I can again enjoy my work, my husband, my children, and my grandchild.

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