IMPACT
11/16/2012 10:19 am ET

Frank Murtagh, New York Man With Cerebral Palsy, Lost Wheelchair, Income, Van To Sandy (How To Help)

When Frank Murtagh’s Long Beach, N.Y., home flooded in Superstorm Sandy, he lost his independence. Murtagh, 53, uses a specialized electric wheelchair for his cerebral palsy and it was irreparably damaged in the storm, Fox News reports.

Murtagh’s insurance needs a prescription in order for him to purchase a new wheelchair, but his doctor's office was damaged in the storm as well.

Until he can get a new prescription, Murtagh uses a manual wheelchair that needs someone else to operate, Fox News reports.

“The problem is, that normally something like this takes a long time to begin with -– but now and later of all these problems, it’s going to be that much longer before all this gets done,” Murtagh explained to Fox News about getting a new wheelchair. “And, luckily I have saved up a number of vacation days that I am now using, so that I don’t lose my job. But, if I don’t get back to work soon, that’s a possibility,” he told the news outlet.

His wife, Chris, can’t return to work either because she has to take care of him, Fox News reports. Now the family is left without income, a home and a handicap-accessible van which was also lost in the storm surge, according to the news outlet.

Murtagh rode out the storm in his attic’s crawl space where he lay on an airbed for six hours, according to Fox News.

“It’s only about maybe five feet of space that you can really sit in. So, I made a makeshift bed up there to lay him down because he was really uncomfortable -- his brace hurts his body,” Murtagh’s daughter Maureen told the news outlet.

Murtagh is one of many New Yorkers with disabilities who survived Superstorm Sandy.

Firefighters had to carry Schevon Williams, 32, to a relative’s third floor Brooklyn apartment during the storm. Like Murtagh, she has cerebral palsy and needs an electric wheelchair, DNAinfo.com reports. Her $5,000 electric wheelchair and $2,000 hospital bed were destroyed in the storm, according to the news outlet.

Besides a lawsuit filed last year that claimed the city wasn’t effectively prepared to help 900,000 disabled New Yorkers in case of disaster, there are organizations trying to help the disabled after Superstorm Sandy.

Edward Matthews, CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, says his organization has been helping clients apply for FEMA funds to replace vital equipment like motorized wheelchairs, he told DNAinfo.com. His organization is also trying to get state funding rules relaxed in light of Superstorm Sandy’s destruction, Matthews told DNAinfo.com.

The Murtagh family has set up a recovery fund. Learn more here.

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