Over the past two and a half years, the outlook for Judy Wolff
has sometimes seemed as dark as the sky above Ground Zero that horrible September morning when a small band of terrorists gave the world a rude awakening.
...Wolff served as a Red Cross volunteer near Ground Zero for several weeks after the Sept. 11 tragedy.
Not long after she
returned to Holmen
from New York City, she
began to have health problems, mainly a chronic cough and breathing problems, along with an immune system that couldn't seem to fight off even the weakest of infections.The inability to repel biological invaders is a big handicap for someone who worked in the medical field, as Wolff
did, and she
soon found herself unable to work.She
was not alone.Thousands of firefighters, rescue workers, people involved in salvage operations and others who toiled near Ground Zero reported having respiratory problems, not surprising considering the toxic stew they sucked into their lungs.After a while, they gave the syndrome a name - Trade Center Cough - and it has also become known as RADS.
Seven people from this area worked near Ground Zero in the weeks and months after the attacks, but so far Wolff is the only who has had major health problems from it.Symptoms might take years to surface, though, Wolff
prediction for the other six, colored by her
own experience and what she
has learned about others who served near Ground Zero, is grim: "If you're not ill now, you will be later."
It's hard to blame Wolff
for being pessimistic.Her
family - husband Dirk and three children, Stephane, Heather and Neal - struggled financially because of the income she
could no longer bring in after she
got sick.Last fall, two years after she
had gone to help in NYC, they had finally gotten some financial help through the Sept. 11 Recovery Program and other sources.With that help, they were only a month behind in their bills, although they still had loans they had to repay that had helped them get through the lean times.Wolff
family has gone $40,000 in the hole because of her
disabling health problems.
About the time things were starting to look up, a series of misfortunes began, starting with the her
sister's cancer diagnosis and subsequent death in October.Shortly after her
sister's passing, Wolff
mother had advanced pancreatic cancer.The day her
mother died in February, Wolff's husband was rushed to the emergency room with chest pains and two days later had quadruple bypass surgery.He
had no benefits through his
employer, Venture Machine and Tool in Onalaska, but BadgerCare took care of the medical bills, and he
recently returned to his
job there, which Wolff
said was generously held open for him during his
months of recovery.
Three years ago, Wolff
would have been out toiling in the garden, but now gardening work even in the best of conditions causes her
respiratory distress.This summer will be worse still because McHugh Road in front of her
home is being rebuilt.She
expects the dust to be so bad she'll have to put plastic over all the windows to try to keep it out of the house.
Despite all the bleak news, there have been some bright spots.
was referred to Moseng by Carol Franzen, an Onalaska woman who had read about Wolff's problems and wanted to help.
also has gotten financial help recently from the Holmen Lioness Club
, and she
said Holmen Lutheran Church
has been generous, bringing the family gifts at Christmas time even though they are members at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church.
I sometimes wonder why more hasn't been done to help the Wolff family.Not only did Wolff go to help out in NYC after the terrorist attacks, for 10 years she served as a Red Cross volunteer at other disasters closer to home, from floods to fires, including the burning of the home where she grew up.She
has exercised her
instinct to help in other ways, too.Even with the health problems she struggles with, she has volunteered to be a Citizen Emergency Response Team trainer, helping to get these CERTs started locally so that if major calamities happen here, the community will be better prepared.
Maybe there hasn't been more of an outpouring of help because Wolff's
health problems weren't brought on by a major trauma like a car accident and aren't life threatening, although they are expected to be lifelong.Or maybe it's because Wolff still teaches classes for the Holmen Recreation Department related to aviation, a longtime passion for her.Wolff
doesn't spend much time worrying about it."I take one day at a time" she