Updated 11/27/2012 11:57 PM
Some Sandy Victims Show Signs Of PTSD, Hospital Says
Medical professionals at Saint John's Episcopal Hospital in Belle Harbor say many people affected by the storm are beginning to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
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Adam Funtleyder lost his first floor and his basement to flood water from Hurricane Sandy, but he also almost lost his life.
"When the door closed me in, I got a little nervous for a second," he said. "I took a deep breath. I said 'I'm not gonna die today in the basement. I have a family.'"
He was in the basement trying to save pictures of his family. His wife and kids had already evacuated.
In swirling water above his head, he managed to swim to his neighbor's home. The next morning, the public school teacher checked on another neighbor.
"'Tell me it's a pillow.' And then, when I felt it, I touched it, I knew it wasn't. I knew it was him," he said. "It was Rich, face down in the water."
Adam has been going nonstop, heating, drying and stripping his house so he can move his family back. But he realized he needed help too.
"I'm not sleeping well," he said.
Doctors at St. John's Episcopal Hospital diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"There's a lot of people in this situation," said Dr. Yashodhara Kirtane of St. John's Episcopal Hospital. "They're not alone."
Dr. Kirtane said the storm displaced almost all of her patients, and they're just starting to cope with the emotional impact.
"Patients have come into my office and actually felt like they were going to die," she said.
The hospital is organizing "Project Hope," a program that will use federal money to pay mental health workers to go into storm-torn communities, looking for people who need to talk.
"As we get through the holidays and get into January, February, when things are more forgotten and the winter's really cold and the entire novelty of Hurricane Sandy is kind of gone, that's when the struggle really begins for PTSD," said Jim Clifford, a psychiatric social worker.
While Adam continues to repair his home, he's also trying to repair himself. He's confident he'll succeed at both.
"I'm gonna get through it," he said. "I made it out of the basement. I'm gonna get through it."
Some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include insomnia, dizziness, loss of memory, survivor's guilt and a feeling of impending doom. Doctors say the first step to recovery is to talk to someone who will listen, and then seek counseling.