Home Sept. 11, 2001 Sick Ground Zero Worker Grateful for Movie Director’s Help

Sick Ground Zero Worker Grateful for Movie Director’s Help


As Michael Moore trades barbs with the Bush administration over his unauthorized jaunt to Cuba to make his new movie, there’s at least one person who’s grateful for the controversial director a sick Ground Zero worker who got free health care on the trip.

Disabled carpenter-EMT John Graham objects to critics who say Moore made false promises to three desperate 9-11 responders featured in “Sicko,” which premieres Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival.

Cuban doctors gave him medicines that work better than ones he tried in New York, he said.

“See the movie, because everyone else is wrong,” Graham, 45, told the New York Daily News. “There were no promises of a cure; there were promises of doctors that are willing to do tests that would cost thousands of dollars in the United States.”

Overwhelmed by the prospect of paying $5,000 himself for a test here, Graham traveled with Moore in March to communist Cuba, where medical care is free.

Over five days at a Havana hospital, Graham said he underwent “intensive tests” that confirmed the breathing problems his doctors in New York found _ and was told that no better treatment exists.

But the Cuban doctors also discovered digestive problems that Graham, a former health and safety instructor for the city carpenters’ union, didn’t know about before, he said. Drugs they gave him for reflux “seemed to be a lot better,” said Graham, of Paramus, N.J.

While foreigners sometimes get better care than Cubans in “shiny clean facilities” in Havana, there isn’t much difference between the drugs available there and the U.S., said Dr. Peter Muennig, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

Graham said he worked at the World Trade Center site on the day of the terrorist attacks and for several days each week until it was cleared, and multiple news accounts describe him as being present there on 9-11 and for months afterward.

Retired since 2004 on $400 a week in workers’ compensation, Graham said the health care he needs is expensive, and the red tape too thick to navigate.

Medical monitoring and treatment are available for responders, workers and others at the Fire Department, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital.

Graham, who will become one of the faces of that battle when the film opens June 29 in the U.S., isn’t sure what to make of his upcoming notoriety.

“I’ve never been a movie star before,” he said. “I’d give up all the fame for Sept. 10.”

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