The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll across the country, particularly among those with chronic respiratory problems and compromised immune systems.
These include 9/11 first responders and veterans who were exposed to toxic plumes from burns. The two groups constitute a large part of a population living with a higher risk of serious complications linked to COVID-19.
“We take a lot of precautions,” said Will Thompson, a West Virginia veteran, who has had a double lung transplant in the past decade due to his exposure to burns in Mosul, Iraq.
“I had, from my transplant doctors to my VA doctor to my primary care doctor, all of them called me and said, ‘Don’t leave your house whatsoever,’ because, you know, to me, c is obvious. If I understand, I’m pretty much the loser, unless God intervenes. “
Thompson completed two tours of duty and was exposed to burned pits, which were used at most U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of garbage and garbage. The veteran said he started having problems on his second tour in 2009.
“While I was there, I started having coughing problems. My doctors there thought it was just allergies, ”he says. “I went back to Fort Stewart, Georgia and they thought I had pneumonia. They gave me antibiotics and sent me home. My doctor gave me an MRI and found a lot of serious lung damage. I was sent to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and spent the next six months there. “
During this stay, after a biopsy, Thompson discovered that his lungs were filled with titanium, magnesium and iron.
“For me, it’s obvious. If I understand, I’m pretty much the loser, unless God intervenes.”
Thompson was cautious and safer in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I haven’t left my house since last Friday,” he told Fox News. “My wife, who is a nurse, is also of concern to us. She is now trying to think of ways to work at home because she is afraid that if she goes to work, she could bring me something at home. “
He explained that she had delivered errands and picked them up at the curb to limit interaction with others. She also wipes the bags in the car, bringing a few items at a time and wiping them with rubbing alcohol.
“My wife is the barrier between me and the outside world,” said Thompson. “So when she comes home … she has to come to our walkway and automatically change her clothes or go in the shower, clean up and straighten up again just to make sure she doesn’t bring anything in the House.”
Fox News Investigation Unit made many reports on veterans made ill by their exposure to burns. Many soldiers, such as Thompson, said the pits were a crude method of incineration in which every piece of waste was burned, including plastics, batteries, devices, medicine, dead animals and even human waste. Items were often set on fire with kerosene as an accelerator, and the wells burned more than 1,000 different chemicals day and night. Most of the service members were breathing unprotected toxic fumes.
Many veterans have developed a myriad of breathing problems and other serious conditions that could result from exposure to a home. Many are immunocompromised and face increased vulnerability to COVID-19.
“If you have had lungs exposed to burns and have more respiratory inflammation on a normal day, you are more vulnerable to the virus once it hits your lungs. So this is a great time to avoid, avoid, avoid getting infected, ”said Dr. Nancy Klimas, director of the Institute of Neuroimmune Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She added that veterans who suffer from exposure to burners may not be more vulnerable but should take extra precautions to avoid becoming infected.
“Once infected, they have a greater risk of having a more serious form of the disease,” said Klimas, who has studied diseases associated with Gulf War syndrome.
A register has been created by the Veterans Administration in 2011 but his signature does not guarantee assistance.
Service members and their families concerned about the effects of exposure to burners say they find it difficult to keep up with the high cost of medical treatment. There are more than 180,000 names signed in the VA registry, but an estimated 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to burns.
In late 2019, advocacy groups, such as Burn Pits 360, has made real progress in Washington with new legislation to bring relief, but momentum has stalled, at least for now.
“It’s frustrating because over the past few months we have had several meetings in DC and now we have to wait and see how long it will take us to get back on track,” said John Feal, an advocate for September 11 including Feal Good Foundation recently worked with Burn Pits 360 with lobbying efforts. They were to travel to Washington with Jon Stewart to finalize the two pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill.
“But we’re all going to get back on track. And, you know, I’m not one to like to wait. I’m a little frustrated. My state of mind is to go forward, never backward. But we are useless if we get sick, we are not good if we are not in the match. “