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Double amputee escapes fire after training at Lynbrook rehab facility helps save her

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Double amputee Patricia Lewis acted quickly when a fire started in her basement on April 10. She put on her artificial legs and got out of her Rockville Centre home before the Lakeview Fire Department arrived to put out the fire.

Lewis, a registered nurse, thanked the Fire Department and Lynbrook Restorative Therapy & Nursing for their efforts at a news conference on June 17.

In 2019, Lewis, a Mercy Medical Center oncology nurse, suffered a stroke, and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She eventually had both legs amputated below the knee in two surgeries just months apart, and rehabilitated at the Lynbrook facility.

While there, she learned how to quickly put her artificial legs on, which, she said, helped her on the night of the fire. “If I hadn’t been able to put on my legs quickly, or had instead had to use my wheelchair,” Lewis said, “who knows what would have happened?”

Nurse Lisa Penziner, special projects manager for Paragon Management, which oversees 10 rehabilitation facilities, including Lynbrook Restorative, described Lewis as a positive person who remained optimistic throughout her rehab. She added that Lewis was able to spring into action quickly because of her commitment to rehab.

“When we heard about the fire, we were of course saddened,” Penziner said. “But one of the things that really made me proud and made Lynbrook proud was the fact that she was able to get those legs on so fast and get out of the building.”

In addition to in-person rehab, the Lynbrook facility also offers outpatient therapy, and has an amputee support group to help patients deal with the mental rigors of adjusting to their lives after losing limbs. The group is open to anyone, and usually meets at the Lynbrook facility on the second Wednesday of each month at noon, but during the coronavirus pandemic it has been holding sessions on Zoom. To join, call Penziner at (516) 457-5585.

Lakeview Fire Department Chief James Galia said he appreciated Lewis recognizing the department during the news conference.

“It’s great that she recognized us, because we don’t often interact with the victims after the emergency,” he said.“We come, we mitigate the emergency and they go on to deal with the after-effects, and we’re on to the next emergency. I think it does a lot to boost morale.”

Galia said that when firefighters arrived at Lewis’s home, the fire had begun spreading to the first floor. His crew, led by Assistant Chief Michael Joyce and Fred Senti III, both ex-chiefs, deployed two hand lines, one to the basement and another to the first floor. Fire Commissioner Heather McNeill said that Lewis’s quick thinking — and the physical therapy she had received at Lynbrook Restorative Therapy — saved her life.

“It’s very humbling that Ms. Lewis sought us out in order to thank us,” McNeill said. “. . . It’s very heartfelt and heartwarming that she took the time out to acknowledge what we were able to do for her.”

Galia said that responding to emergencies under new safety protocols during the pandemic has been challenging. Over the past three months, the Fire Department has limited the number of personnel who respond to emergency calls to reduce their chances of catching the virus. Volunteers have also been equipped with personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, gloves, medical gowns, eye shields and surgical bonnets.

“I have to say that our guys have done it with the utmost professionalism, and they continue to do it even as things start to open up,” Galia said, “but we’re hoping to get back to normal sometime down the road.”