BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP - Charles Giles has endured failing health, mounting medical bills and limitations to life as he knew it before Sept. 11, 2001.
Soon, he might add homelessness to the list.
When Giles, then an EMT, responded to the disaster scene at the World Trade Center more than six years ago, he didn't think it would later cost him his home.
But days of inhaling fumes at the site continue to provoke health problems that have prevented Giles from working. The problems were compounded by unanswered medical claims.
Family hardships that began with cutting out cable TV have culminated in their home's foreclosure in March and impending sheriff's sale Oct. 30.Ocean County sheriff's records show Giles appealed the sale and that the sheriff's office twice delayed the sale originally set for Aug. 21. Judge Fred A. Buczynski pushed the date from Sept. 18 to Oct. 30.
Giles said he hopes to block the sale by filing suit against Wachovia Bank for alleged missteps in their dealings with him but acknowledged that it would likely take a "miracle" to prevent the auction.
Giles' attorney did not return calls for comment.
Wachovia Bank spokespeople declined to comment because their confidentiality policy prohibits talking about clients.
Giles said he missed his first mortgage payment in November 2006, four years and eight months after he closed on the house (the family moved from Bergen County to Barnegat Township in 2002). He has $216,320 left to pay for his home, plus $9,318.57 in legal costs related to foreclosure proceedings, according to Mary Batot, principal clerk for foreclosures in the Ocean County Sheriff's Office.
"If my 9-11 case was processed when should have been, none of this would have been happening," Giles said.
Giles has faced red tape with multiple agencies: Safe Horizon, New York's Crime Victims Board, New York's Workers' Compensation Board and others. As he waits, medical costs keep mounting.
Giles took oral steroids for five years to treat worsening asthma, which caused bone loss and eventually required replacement of his right hip. He anticipates at least two other surgeries: replacement of the other hip and his right knee are pending and a lung transplant is possible. In addition to incurring bills, complications -14 prescriptions, fractioned pulmonary function and hip replacement and another two or three pending surgeries - have prohibited the father of two from working. With doctors' visits and $400 worth of prescriptions, Giles said he faces more than $1,000 in medical bills each month. And his disability ran out this fall.
Giles, who started working as an emergency responder 16 years ago, is quick to emphasize he would choose to respond to the emergency again. The self-described workaholic still craves the challenges of the job and currently serves on the board of the Pinewood Estates Volunteer Fire Company.
"I want to work," Giles said. "I feel like I let my family down."
Giles said he, his wife and their 12 and 15-year-old daughters would likely seek a local apartment if their home is sold at the end of this month. The family wants to stay in Barnegat, Giles said, so the girls can finish school there and to stay in the warm embrace of the community that has extended services to them.
These recent developments in Giles' plight come on the heels of a decision by the New York City medical examiner to reject the Ocean County Medical Examiner's ruling that the death of New York Police Department Detective James Zadroga, 34, of Little Egg Harbor, was directly related to his work at Ground Zero. Zadroga retired to his parents' home in Little Egg Harbor after getting sick.
"Jimmy dedicated his life to protecting the residents of New York City," Giles said. "Refusing to rule his death due to 9-11 … is despicable. … How many people have to die before they start helping us?"
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