South Florida man who volunteered at World Trade Center now faces health crisis

MIAMI, FL – After the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11, first responders spent months at Ground Zero and were joined by volunteers, people whose jobs shouldn’t be in jeopardy but who chose to go and helping however they could anyway.

Now one of those volunteers is fighting for his life in South Florida.

“I thought I was still a tough guy, but 9/11 humbled my whole life,” says William Cantres, who volunteered at Ground Zero. “You could see people’s attitudes when they just came to work and they took off their jackets and went to get coffee.”

On September 11, 2001, Cantres was working as an electrician in New York City.

He heard about the first plane that hit the twin towers and then says that he watched with his own eyes when the second plane hit.

“It’s something I’ll never forget as long as I live,” says Cantres.

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Willie, as his loved ones call him, says he immediately felt a pull to help and rushed to Ground Zero, where he would spend the next 6 months on the mound.

“I went there to help more hands on deck. Better chance of finding survivors. After a few hours on the pile, you’re soaking wet and you . . . we smelled fire and smoke.”

But Cantres, like many others who inhaled the dust, eventually developed major health problems and could not continue to work or live his life as he used to.

“He required oxygen. He had a condition called ‘sarcoidosis.’ He ended up developing a more advanced type of sarcoidosis and that’s why he needed a lung transplant,” said Dr. Tiago Machuca of Jackson Health.

Machuca is the director of the Lung Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He started working with Cantres a few years ago.

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Finally, in July 2022, Cantres received a double lung transplant and a glimmer of hope to return to his normal life.

But then, another bad break. During his post-op treatment, doctors found that Cantres had developed throat cancer and is now going through difficult radiation treatments.

“I was in and out of hospitals; I have lived more in a hospital than I have at home,” he says.

Dr. Neeraj Sinha, a transplant pulmonologist at Jackson Health, says the radiation treatments are five times a week for seven consecutive weeks. “The radiation treatment causes irritation in the throat and he gets bad sore throats from it. I remain very optimistic that the treatment regimen that he carefully and bravely went through will take care of the cancer,” says Sinha, adding that the incidence of sarcoidosis about “5 or 6 times” in New York City’s population has increased compared to before. Year.

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The doctors said that his situation is delicate, but that Cantres is a fighter and they believe that he will also pass this test.

“I have to. I have a grandson. I want to be able to throw a ball with him and try to make him a man, a good man,” says Cantres.

Machuca says helping Cantres is something that is also humbling. “For us it is very touching, for us it is an honor to help a person who so selflessly put himself in that situation and never hesitated, the country needed him, so he was there.”

Cantres could not work because of the sarcoidosis and of course even more so now because of the cancer diagnosis.

If you want to help Cantres, there is a Gofundme set up.

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