‘It was a total devastation’: Dr. Donna Geffner re-establishes office after fire

‘It was a total devastation’: Dr. Donna Geffner re-establishes office after fire
A fire blazed in a Flower Hill office building on Feb. 4, destroying the building which housed dozens of medical offices. (Photo courtesy of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena)

On the evening of Feb. 4, Dr. Donna Geffner was relaxing in her Florida home when she received a text from a friend: “Are you OK?”

Not knowing what her friend meant, she responded affirmatively and asked why.

That’s when the news was broken to her: There was a fire in her office building located at 1025 Northern Blvd. in Flower Hill.

“It just went up like a Cracker Jack box,” she said.

Geffner then watched an online stream that showed the fire blazing through her office building. In shock at what was going on, she was up the whole night helplessly watching the fire, with nothing she could do thousands of miles away.

“And I’m pacing the floor and I’m saying ‘Oh my god, I’m losing my office,’” Geffner said. “And I’m seeing the flames and the flames are raging out of the third floor, which is where my office was, and they’re raging out the window. And I’m realizing, I don’t have an office anymore.”

Geffner said she watched as the flames were bursting through the windows and the roof of the building while firefighters from 37 fire departments dragged their hoses to extinguish them.

“I just saw this tremendous blaze and realized everything is gone,” Geffner said. “Everything.”

Geffner is a well-established speech-language pathologist and audiologist who works with children and adults. Her services include treating children with central auditory processing disorders and fitting hearing aids on patients.

She said she has a long history of working in the area with patients who traveled from throughout the country to visit her at her Roslyn office for over 15 years.

During those 15 years, Geffner had grown and expanded her practice to encompass a second office space in the building, establishing an audiometric sound booth and decorating it with art, furniture and appliances to make her patients and employees comfortable.

To provide her services, Geffner said she had a diverse variety of audiological equipment within her office. Much of this equipment is large and expensive, but it’s what she needed to treat her patients.

Working alongside her in her office was another audiologist, who did not practice under Geffner but provided similar services and was a Medicare provider who helped treat senior citizens.

“We were able to provide services for children and families and adults,” Geffner said.

The office was in a predominantly medical office building, Geffner said, with a wide range of practices, including many dentists, orthodontists, plastic surgeons, psychotherapists, psychologists, pediatricians and physical therapists in about 30 offices on three floors.

Geffner lost everything in the fire, including all of her specialized equipment. She estimated her losses were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But she said this doesn’t reflect  the true amount that she lost that night.

“I had nothing left,” Geffner said. “It was a total devastation.”

Also lost were irreplaceable materials like her data and research, records, a taping of an Emmy-nominated program that featured her work, awards and collected artwork.

“Gone, gone, irreplaceable,” Geffner said. “Everything was gone. I had nothing left.”

To this day, Geffner said she does not know what caused the fire. A proposal has been approved to demolish the building and replace it with a bank.

In the aftermath of the fire, Geffner had to work to re-establish her office which included finding a new location and replacing all of her equipment.

But Geffner did not have to face this alone. She said the hearing aid companies she works with replaced all the hearing aids she had lost in the fire.

Finding an office space, however, was a challenge and she was unable to provide service for 4 1/2 months.

Geffner said she couldn’t see patients during the hiatus while looking for a new office, which was exacerbated by difficulties finding a space that was appropriate for her practice.

She said she had 85 students on her waiting list, all of whom were enrolled in Long Island schools and were authorized to be tested by her. These tests she provides go into the student’s individualized educational program to inform schools how to meet the student’s educational needs.

With the next school year coming up, she said this motivated her to find new office space as quickly as possible.

She finally found a spot at One Channel Drive in Port Washington, where she reopened her practice in June.

“As the Phoenix rises from ashes, so did I and my colleagues,” Geffner said.

Geffner said that while she has downsized in her new shared office space, she was able to get back up and running with all the necessary equipment to provide for her patients.

She said even though she lost so much in the fire, the vast majority of things are replaceable and she is grateful for what she does have.

“There were people to support me to help me rebuild and loyal clients that came to the new office, but I guess if we weigh ourselves, it’s life that’s the most critical and important,” Geffner said. “And so I’m glad no one was hurt and that we’re alive to be able to rebuild.”

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