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...with Jesus, doctors and common sense

August 2009 Archives


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God bless you.

Since doctors told me 17 months ago that I have end-stage congestive heart failure,

prostate cancer and a brain tumor, not one day has passed without me thinking about

death and seeing myself dying from one of these serious illnesses.

Yes, I'm still praying to be healed of these sicknesses. I'll never give up and I thank

all of you prayer partners for continuing to touch and agree with me on the desires of my

heart for those healings.

At the same time, because I am a practical man, as well as a preaching man of

faith, I'm not sitting idly by, waiting for some cataclysmic healing to drop from the sky.

Rather, I take about 30 pills a day for these illnesses. And when pill-taking time

comes, I spread the proper pills out on a table or counter and I remember why I am

swallowing each one. I take them because I am a very sick man who wants to live and I'm

doing my best to take full advantage of every blessing available to keep me alive.

The deaths of celebrities this year remind us again and again that no earthling is

going to get out of life alive. While the death of Senator Edward Kennedy sadden all

men of good will, it's not too surprising because we knew that he was had been fighting

brain cancer for a year. Plus, he was 77 years old.

Neither was it that shocking when historian John Hope Franklin died at age 94,

network news anchorman Walter Cronkite died at 92, actor Karl Malden died at 97,

humantarian Eunice Kennedy Shriver died at 88, former defense secretary Robert

McNamara died at 93 or guitarist Les Paul died at 94. These dears souls were up in


Famed Michael Jackson, one of my all-time favorite entertainers, shocked us all

when he died young at age 50. But the circumstances of his death now help us to

better understand why he died so young.

Meantime, while I am no longer young at age 66, I am not really old, either, by

today's standards that include the best medical care so far ever available in human

history. Even better, I am blessed to be gainfully employed and have access to this care.

If this care had been enjoyed by my immediate family members, my oldest sister, Mrs.

Maude Lee Burrell, would not have died at age 66. Or my father Rev. A.D. Banks at age

64, my youngest brother Hansel at age 51, my mother at age 43, my premature

twin sons or my five other sisters and brothers at infancy.

Like all of you, I want to live a longer, meaningful and enjoyable life. But I'm no

longer afraid to die like I was when I was a boy. Death doesn't bother me because I've

already lived 66 sensational years. Death doesn't bother me because I've already seen

three daughters become distinguished ladies with college degrees, including one with

a Christian husband and four children and another a Christian single mother with one

marvelous son.

I'm not afraid to die because I have already enjoyed many other priceless


I have seen, hugged and kissed five grandchildren.

I have known the fiery love and sweet companionship of Joyce, my high school

sweetheart who has been a perfect wife for more than 41 years.

I have been blessed to work my way up from eating neckbones to eating T-bones.

I've been blessed to rise from a Mississippi cotton picker earning $3 a day to

being sports reporter for this newspaper and a preacher earning almost 100 times that


I casted one of the votes that elected America's first black President.

I marched in civil rights demonstrations with Dr. Martin Luther King.

I was the first person in my immediate family to get a college degree.

I've preached in more than 100 Chicago churches alone, plus churches in Kansas,

Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania,

Michigan, Arkansas and California during the last 57 years.

I've set foot in 35 American states and I have vacationed in England, Mexico,

France, Germany, Holland and Canada. I've been mightily blessed.

But the main reason I'm not afraid to die is because I have a savior in Jesus Christ.

And because He is my savior, I have a permanent home for my soul when this life is


If I had my choice, I'd rather die quick and easy, preaching God's gospel in some

pulpit or wherever. Because of poor medical care and racial prejudice, my mother, Sarah

Lorane Sanders Banks, died suffering excruciating pain over several days after being

poisoned by a dead infant she was too weak to deliver.

I was 11 years old at that time. They called me home from running a revival in Cape

Gerardeau, Mo. She was dying in a hospital bed in Mt. Bayou, Miss., an all-Black

town and an all-Black hospital. I got there just in time to see her smile through incredible

pain a day before she died. I was mad at the world. Especially the white world and the

Mississippi racism that conspired to deny her better medical care. I've grown beyond that

rage. But I still hate racism and I still hurt when I think of how my mother died so young.

Yes, I want to live. I have so much to live for. I have loved ones to live for. I have

causes to live for. I want to do what I can to make this world better for everybody and to

help suffering people everywhere.

I want to live badly. But because of my faith, I declare unto you all that death, for me,

is a win-win situation.

Doctors still tell me that I need a heart pump or a heart transplant or both if I am

to live out the year. Daily pains are making me agree with them, unless God heals me


I have become a reluctant daily companion of unwelcomed pain. All kinds of pain.

Stinging pains. Burning pains. Aching pains. Acute pains. Dull pains. My arms and legs

are growing weaker and my finger tips scream, through stinging sensations, for their fair

share of circulated blood.

Three weeks ago, I underwent a back surgery to relieve me from extreme pains in

my lower back. Pains persists in my left groin and left legs. But I am blessed to be able

to endure these pains and to enjoy far more positives than negatives. I am still able to

preach and work. I am still able to encourage others to fight for their lives. And I say

unto you, sisters and brothers, fight. Fight for your lives. Fight for your love. Fight to

love and be loved. Fight for the good of all mankind. Fight for every breath and for every

heartbeat until.........

God bless you.


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God bless you.

Since April of 2008, I have been fighting a brain tumor, prostate cancer, end-stage

congestive heart failure and a progressively bad back.

By the grace of God, I have been gainfully employed for 37 years as a newspaper

reporter and I also have been able to have great medical insurance coverage for my

family and myself.

But after undergoing back surgery (a lumbar laminectomy) on Monday, Aug. 10, I

found myself two days later having to verbally protest against efforts to release me before

I had experienced sufficient recovery where I could stand and at least stagger on my


Dr. Frederick Brown, a highly acclaimed neurosugeon with the University of Chicago

Medical Center, had performed the 90-minute operation on me. The operation was a

success in terms of me surviving it. But long before it could be determined whether it had

repaired my herniated disc to allow me to stand and walk without pain, a couple of lower

ranked doctors (Dt. I. T. and Dr. K. H.) were trying to get me to agree that the hospital had

done all it could do for me and to agree with their desire to release me.

For most patients undergoing a lumbar laminectomy, I am told that this operation

is done on an out-patient basis and that the patient is released either on the day of or the

day after his surgery. I was hoping for a response close to that. But because of my

high-risk status as an end-stage congestive, heart-failure patient, I was expected to be

held over for a day or two to make sure the operation had no serious, adverse effect upon

my heart.

For my birthday on Tuesday, and for Wednesday, my recovery was so slow that

pain, soreness and stiffness in the area of my surgery prevented me from standing or

walking on my own. I was disappointed by this slow recovery. But I was not hopeless. I

was realistic. At my age and with my weak-circulating heart, I did not expect a speedy

response to treatment.

But as early as Wednesday morning, Dr. I.T. was suggesting that the hospital was

ready to release me and that I could continue painful recovery at home. I told him that I

could not see myself leaving earlier than Thursday and was hoping that I would be able

to at least stand and walk on my own before leaving at all or that I'd just immediately

check into another hospital.

On Thursday morning, although I had been transferred from the ICU to a regular

room at 1:30 a.m., I still had not progressed well enough to leave the hospital. But Dr. I. T.

said that the hospital might have to release me Friday because the physical therapist

said she felt I was ready to go home.

"I find it hard to believe that a doctor would release a patient based solely on what

a physical therapist says," I told Dr. I. T. "Especially since that therapist has yet to see

me stand and walk on my own."

Allow me to say that in my 40 years of going to the University of Chicago

Hospital for medical care, on the whole, I have been treated well. It is not a perfect

hospital. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had three ribs broken during my 2001 triple bypass

or had to undergo another serious operation to stabilized my sternum when some

experimental titanium plates failed to do the job. But the fact I still seek care from them

is because I have confidence in the likes of Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, Dr. Allen

Anderson, Dr. Kenneth Brown, Dr. Loveland, Dr. Darby, Dr. Fedson, Dr. Al-Sadir, etc.

So when Friday morning came, I was still in the UCMC. I had progressed well

enough to stand and walk on my own. But I remained in dire pain. Still, I felt for sure that

I could be able to leave by Saturday morning. Dr. I. T. apologized for giving me the

impression that he was trying to rush me out of the hospital. He also defended the

therapist, who gave me the impression she was trying harder to get rid of me than to help

me recovery.

"Maybe she did a good job helping you to recover from whatever," I said. "Or maybe

she has done a great job on everybody else you have seen her work with. I can't argue

about those possibilities because I know nothing about them. I can only speak about my

relationship of working with her and the impression she gave me."

But when Saturday morning came, suddenly nobody was anxious to push me out

the door when my blood test suggested some kidney problems. For the first time, since

I was moved out of Intensive Care, my blood was drawn and tested. I was happy about

the efficient, painless job that Joseph Wells did in drawing my blood. Hospital personnel

say that I am a difficult stick when drawing blood because my veins are so small.

"But the truth is that a lot of personnel either don't know what they are doing, may

be in a bad mood and may be a little scared at the time they are drawing blood," Wells

said. "So they don't do a good job. They have to stick the patient several times. But I

start looking for the best veins as soon as I'm entering the room. I believe I'm good at

this because I believe it's gift to be able to take blood without hurting people. This job

also requires patience as much as skill."

Wells, a native of Pascagoula, Miss., says he got his training from Northwestern

Hospital in Evanston, and that he hopes to keep working and learning so that he can

go as far as he possibly can in the medical field.

"It's all in the touch," said Wells, who is built like an NFL fullback or linebacker. "You

have to have a tender touch and you have to have a passion for helping people get


Now, it's Sunday morning, and I still am in pain as I am being transferred into the

cardiac ward to continue my recovery from the back surgery and to start preparation for

the implantation on a heart pump as a bridge to heart transplantation.

But I don't think I'll ever get over my displeasure at a physical therapist and a doctor

trying to rush me out of the hospital before I was well enough to leave even though I

had first-class insurance coverage plus Medicare as a supplement.

God bless you.

God bless you.

Spending one's birthday in the hospital recovering from surgery is no happy thought

and no springboard toward a happy birthday.

But that's my lot since I undergo back surgery Monday morning (Aug. 10) at the

University of Chicago Hospital, where UCMC neuro-surgeon Dr. Frederick Brown will

perform a lumbar laminectomy on me.

Then the next day, Aug. 11, I'll hopefully celebrate my 66th birthday.

Not with a party, which I have never had. But I'll celebrate it recovering from that

back surgery. And the happiest part of that birthday will be simply surviving a successful

surgery with as little pain as possible.

After a hopefully short recovery, unless God gives my heart the miracle healing we

have been praying for, I will then undergo my most serious surgery yet. I will have a

Heartmate2, a left-ventricular-assist-device, implanted to desperately improve my blood


My weakened heart, afflicted with end-stage congestive heart failure, has been

doing a progressively poor job of pumping life-sustaining blood throughout my blood and

that has resulted in a slow-motion death for me. I am experiencing more and more

stiffness, pain and weakness in my fingers and hands, toes and feet and joints.

The bad back has simply made matters worse by preventing me from standing or

walking longer than a minute or two. And the increasing sedentary life is no friend to the

exercise and therapy crucial to improving or preserving the health of my heart.

I have done a lot of study on the heart pump. A very good source of knowledge

and encouragement has come from a new friend named Robert Winston, a 48-year-old

Cabrini Green native who wore a Heartmate2 for a year before receiving his new heart

a month ago at the University of Chicago.

Robert's story is very intriguing, exciting and encouraging. At trimming down some

100 pound from being what he calls a sick, 297-pounder, his congestive heart failure

worsened and resulting in him collapsing into a coma before being rushed to the

hospital and given an implanted Heartmate2 as a bridge to a much-needed, life-saving

heart transplant.

"That pumped saved my life and made me feel better than I had felt in years,"

Winston told me. "The next thing I noticed after getting the pump was that my toenails

and fingernails started growing again. I also started getting back strength in my legs, my

hands, my whole body. It was difficult to adjust to at first, having to depend upon

battery packs and a home console machine plugged into the wall to keep me alive. I

couldn't sleep on my stomach or takes baths or any long trips. But when you realize that

your very life will depend upon those changes, you learn to adapt to them sooner or

later because you have no other choice if you want to live.

"And my main drive was the fact that I wasn't ready to die and didn't want to die.

I loved living and I had a lot of my family, especially my three sons, depending upon me.

Also, the fact the pump made me feel so much better made it easier for me to put up

with the negatives and inconveniences because they were such a little price to pay to

stay alive."

After getting his new heart from a donor half his age, Winston says he so far has

noticed little improvement in the way he felt after having the pump implanted in him.

This really says volumes about the benefits provided by the pump. Obviously, the

heart transplant, if successful and compatible with the recipient, is the better option

because the patient once again is more mobile and self-sufficient. He no longer has

to live being powered by and tethered to a battery pack or an AC console through a

drive line connecting to the D-battery-sized motor that is attached to his heart and

that provides a constant flow blood that no longer includes a heartbeat.

With my health deteriorating, I desperately need the pump and am praying for

a successful and timely implantation.

God bless you.


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God bless you.

I've just finished the worst vacation of my life with my wife Joyce because I was in

almost constant back pain that kept me from standing or walking for more than a minute

at a time.

But thanks to Thursday's approval by my cardiologist, Dr. Allen Anderson of the

University of Chicago Medical Center, I have been cleared to go through with my

back surgery (a lumbar laminectomy) on Monday morning at the University of Chicago

Medical Center, where Dr. Frederick Brown with perform the operation.

Because of my high risk as an end-staged congestive heart failure patient, who is

also fighting prostate cancer, I had to get an OK from Dr. Allen. His examination of me

on Thursday yielded two pieces of good news:

1. Dr. Allen examined me and concluded that my heart is strong enough to undergo

the operation, which will be done under general anesthesia. But he suggests that I remain

a couple of days afterward so that the UCMC medical staff can make sure there are no

immediate cardiac complications, or any complications for that matter. Upon recovery,

the next move probably will be the implantation of a heart pump, most likely the

Heartmate 2.

2. My PSA, a barometer of prostate cancer, is now at a fantastic low of .83. We

discovered this from the blood test that Dr. Anderson ordered. All other vitals are

also good. But this is the first time I can ever remember having a PSA under 1.0. This

means my prostate cancer continues in remission and is progressively dissolving.

Thank you, Jesus!!!

Yes, with my brain tumor being healed and declared benign 15 months ago, my

prostate cancer is also being healed, but more slowly.

Now, to get my back straight so that I can stand, walk and exercise better

and strengthen my diseased heart. With so many things wrong with me medically, I just

wanted to get at least one more vacation out of the way before my next rounds of

surgeries because one never knows the exact outcome.

Anyway, who schedules a vacation to undergo surgery or to recover from sickness?

Thank God for a union and a labor contract that provides for workers to take sick leaves

and not be punished for being sick or for seeking and receiving treatment.

Still, the last place one wants to suffer pain is on a vacation with a loved one in a

beautiful setting. Joyce, my wife of 41 years, and I spent five days in resplendent

Vancouver, overlooking its panoramic harbor, and 11 days in sun-splashed Orlando. But I

was refined to either sitting or lying down most of the time.

When we went grocery shopping, I rode the electric wheel chair, which made me feel

ashamed as I rode while my darling wife walked. I didn't feel like a man even through

people flashed smiles of compassion at me, assuring me that they understood my


So now it's on to my back surgery. I thank you for your continued prayers in

advance. But thank God, I not only have you praying for me, which is great. I have my

own prayer telephone in my bosom. And I am using it to pray for myself, too.

God bless you.

Lacy J. Banks

Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist for 38 years and a Baptist preacher for 58 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls, Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.



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