Struggling To Stay Healthy Without Heat In The Merrimack Valley

Susan Letourneau has had a cough for nearly two week, which she said she cannot seem to get rid of.

She has also had a persistent headache.

“They seem like tension headaches, they start in the front of my head,” she said.

Despite taking medication and keeping warm with a wall heating unit, she is still sick.

“I mean I get a cold like once a year,” Letourneau said. “And it’s never this early.”

In Andover, Bernadette Lionetta said she has also been getting headaches recently.

“It's just an overall feeling of not feeling physically good,” she said.

In North Andover, Linda Battalagine is recovering from bronchitis and pneumonia.

“They gave me antibiotics, an inhaler and some steroids,” Battalagine said.

The women all live in the Merrimack Valley and have been without gas since the gas explosions rocked the community over a month ago.

They have also been living without heat since then and say the cold and stress are contributing to their symptoms.

“I kind of felt myself that it was due to the stress, Battalagine said.

“It’s like constant worry. It’s a constant worry of the unknown,” Lionetta said.

Dr. Hilarie Cramer of Massachusetts General Hospital says the symptoms they women complain of are uncommon for survivors of disasters.

“I’m not surprised,” she said. “Number one, people are stressed. Number two, it’s cold weather happening.”

She said people in similar situations must remain vigilant.

“Try to diminish smoking and drinking and stressful situations because those can exacerbate what can be underlying,” she advised.

Letourneau said Columbia Gas has reimburses her for some of her medical copayment.

All of the women are worried their symptoms could get worse if their gas is not restored by the November 19th deadline Columbia Gas must meet.

“I’d like to be able to take a shower in my own home," Letourneau said.

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