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Pfeifer's Legacy Helping 9/11 Rescuers Deal With Ground Zero's Lingering Damage

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Paul Greco is reminded of September 11th every time he opens his eyes and every time he takes a labored breath.

"Right eye, nothing, I just see the light," the FDNY 9/11 first responder said. "I spend most of my time right here, resting."

At just 53 years old, Greco is strapped to an oxygen pump, his eyesight gone from respiratory complications, reports CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

On September 11th he was a strapping FDNY firefighter who didn't think twice about digging for remains at Ground Zero while breathing poisonous air.

"For 12 hours at a time just living there," he said. "The first few days were very bad, a lot of debris. I thought the damage was pretty much done the first couple of days."

That damage is now made more bearable by a little box that offers Paul and wife Mary Jane freedom from a 25 pound clunky oxygen tank that was the only type covered by insurance. This lightweight oxygen concentrator is portable

"It a big difference from being attached to the wall in the house," he said.

"It made it a lot easier for us to do things, go out for dinner and act like so called normal people," said
Mary Jane.

The $3,000 device was paid for by the Ray Pfeifer Foundation, named for a fellow firefighter who recently lost his own 9/11-related health fight but won a battle with Washington to extend health benefits for all those sickened at Ground Zero.

Ray Pfeifer's mission until the end: To turn the horror of 9/11 into acts of goodness.

"I like to say do the right thing, even when no one is looking," said Pfeifer back in April 2017.

The right thing to do now is giving thousands of stricken first responders whose medical equipment, home health care and ultimately hospice are not covered by insurance.

"Once we started up this foundation and really dug into and saw what was not covered, the list was tremendous," said Robert Ostrofsky of the Ray Pfeifer Foundation. "Sometimes I have to convince them to take our help and yell at them the foundation is here for you. Don't be stubborn, you've helped everybody else. And now it's time for us to help you."

Pfeifer's legacy living on helping humble heroes like himself who never questioned their service.

"I'm sure each and every one of them would do the exact same thing today even knowing that this is the way they'd end up, that's the way firefighters are," said Mary Jane.

"Probably worst day I ever had but the overall experience, the gathering and community, it made best thing that came out of it and I hope no one forgets," said Paul.

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