A Night For Joe

Benefit set for 9/11 rescue worker

Source: ocobserver.com

Posted by the Ocean County Observer on 02/11/07

TOMS RIVER — It still feels like the Twin Towers are falling for Joe Picurro.

Picurro, a 9/11 responder who spent 28 days at Ground Zero, has lost 26 pounds in the last three weeks, due to the leukemia he was diagnosed with in August that is directly related to his 28-day volunteer work.

His doctor told him Friday afternoon it is likely the leukemia has reached stage four. "He is really, really bad," said Joe's wife Laura. "He hasn't been able to get out of bed for almost three weeks."

Under his doctor's advice, Joe Picurro has not received chemotherapy for his cancer because of the severe vomiting that is caused from the radiation treatment. Doctors said the chemotherapy could cause further cancer in Picurro's throat and a bone marrow transplant would be a safer form of treatment.

"They agreed to tell me when it was late in the game and now it's late in the game," he said.

Picurro will be admitted into a hospital in two weeks so doctors can find a bone marrow match. While Picurro is hopeful one of this two twin sisters will be a match, friend John Feal said he would be the back up plan.

"I offered my bone marrow to him," said Feal. "I would sacrifice myself for any 9/11 responder."

Aside from offering his own marrow, Feal's nonprofit organization — the FealGood Foundation — was created to assist responders like Picurro. The foundation will be sponsoring an upcoming benefit for Picurro and responder Father Stephen Petrovich along with the Artists4Hope organization.

The benefit costs $50 a ticket and is free for 9/11 responders. It will be held from 2-7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Captain Hooks in Seaside Heights with The Hitmen performing while guests enjoy food, giveaways, raffle drawing and the auctioning of a Paul Reed Smith guitar that was sent to the recent James Brown Tribute in Los Angeles for performing artists' signatures.

The cherry wood electric guitar has signatures from band members in 3 Doors Down, the David Sanborn band, the Ted Nugent band, the Dixie Chicks, the Jethro Tull band, Quiet Riot and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

Paul Reed also placed his signature on the guitar he donated for the benefit and paid for it to be transported to Los Angeles and back to the Picurro's home for the benefit.

The guitar will be posted on eBay Feb. 14 so it can receive the most exposure before the event and the auctioning will end at the benefit with the highest bidder. Feal said he started the foundation to help responders financially and to advocate for them before the U.S. Congress. A 9/11 responder himself for 5 days, Feal lost half of his left foot at Ground Zero when an 8,000 pound beam fell on his foot, causing gangrene to set in, requiring a partial amputation.

Feal said after he felt sorry for himself for about a year; then, after he realized other responders were worse off, he decided to create the FealGood Foundation. "People are suffering and dying and there is nothing I can do to save Joe Picurro and Father Stephen, but I can help ease the pain," he said.

Feal believes the recent $25 million pledge by President Bush to help rescue workers who have been sickened from the site is "political bread crumbs."

"They shouldn't have to suffer because the federal government remains idle," he said, adding, "And the lack of compassion that has trickled down from our leaders has become a snowball in society where 9/11 responders are being forgotten."

Petrovich came to New York from Cleveland to bless the Ground Zero soil, and to help where he could. He said yesterday from his home in Ohio he was blessed himself to meet Joe and Laura Picurro.

The 17 days Petrovich spent keeping the faith among responders, he developed a chronic lung disease and had to have a precancerous part of tongue removed.

"They (government officials) knew who were there because of our identification and never contacted to us tell us something could have been wrong with us," he said, adding Laura Picurro was the one who "knew New York proper" and gave him the numbers he needed to be treated for the illness he contacted from Ground Zero. "It was our duty to go."

While Laura is fighting to keep her husband alive, she is still helping provide the needed assistance for Petrovich, arranging a free round trip flight donated by the Salvation Army of Union and seeing that the Hershey Motel in Seaside Heights would donate a room for his stay along with three other rooms for first responders who will coming to the benefit.

"He is coming up for the benefit but the main thing is to get him to Mount Sinai on the Monday after the benefit," Laura said, adding she will be taking him to New York.

Though the Joe Picurro has been denied funds and treatment promised him by the New York Worker's Compensation Board and the federal government, leaving the family with $63,000 in unpaid medical bills, Laura Picurro said the benefit is not about money that will be raised but more importantly it is "to raise awareness about what we are going through." t

She said a hundred percent of the benefit proceeds will be split between her husband Joe and Petrovich.

"New York (Workers Compensation Board) made it clear they will not cover any type of cancer treatment," she said, adding she can longer be anxious over insurance coverage because she is to concerned with her husband's health.

To purchase a ticket to the benefit or make a donation to Picurro or Petrovich, visit www.fealgoodfoundation.com.


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