Health Fair Assists Sandy Victims in the Rockaways

Herbert Rivera gets his blood pressure checked.

Hurricane survivors received free flu shots, dental care, diabetes screenings and blood pressure measurements at a January 9 health fair sponsored by AmeriCares and 1199 SEIU. AmeriCares donated 1,000 doses of flu vaccine and medical equipment for the event at the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center in Arverne, N.Y., one of the few health care providers serving the hard-hit Rockaways in the aftermath of Sandy.

Clinic officials organized the event to raise awareness of the health services offered at the facility since many doctors’ offices are still shuttered and the flu season is on track to be one of the worst in years. With many families still living with friends and relatives while their homes are repaired, or living in homes without heat, there is a heightened concern that the flu could spread more rapidly through storm-damaged neighborhoods this winter.

“The collateral damage from Sandy is that people just weren’t coming back to take care of themselves,” said Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center Executive Director Peter Nelson. “They were concerned about other things or they didn’t know we were open.”

Herbert Rivera of Far Rockaway came seeking a flu shot, but his blood pressure was so dangerously high that clinic staff feared he could have a sudden heart attack or stroke. Like many patients who took advantage of the free services, Rivera has a known medical condition he cannot afford to treat. He stopped taking his blood pressure medicine more than a year ago after he lost his health insurance. Thanks to a grant from AmeriCares that’s funding free medical exams for the uninsured at the Addabbo clinic through January 15, Rivera was seen by a physician on the spot. Between looking for work and three weeks without electricity, he has been going through a rough time and was grateful to find a medical facility that could offer some assistance.

 
 A patient recieves a flu shot donated by AmeriCares

 “I just keep hanging in there,” Rivera said as he waited to see a physician. “I really appreciate the help from everybody.”

AmeriCares has been supporting the Addabbo clinic since Sandy hit, dispatching our mobile unit there and awarding $250,000 in grants. Nelson, the executive director, said AmeriCares support has allowed his staff to treat an influx of patients suffering from respiratory problems due to the heavy dust and other irritants in the air from storm reconstruction.

The Addabbo clinic is just one of dozens of nonprofit organizations AmeriCares is supporting through its Sandy relief program. In all, we have provided nearly $3 million in aid to 58 partner organizations assisting storm survivors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.