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God bless you.

A week of being examined, undergoing tests and consulting with a dozen doctors

and a dozen nurses at the fame Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., propelled me to

postpone undergoing open-heart surgery on Oct. 26 at the University of Chicago Medical

Center, where I was to have a heart pump implanted in me.

I still may undergo the implantation of the Heartmate II, either at UCMC or the Mayo

or even Northwestern within the next couple of weeks. But new information I received

from the Mayo suggest that I may already qualify for a heart transplant at their

institution. The pump would then be a short-term bridge procedure.

The UCMC said the discovery of my brain tumor and prostate canter in March of 2008

disqualified me from being placed on their heart transplant list. Although the brain tumor

was declared benign early on, Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam and Dr. Allen Anderson say I'd

have to have a very low PSA reading from my prostate cancer to get on the heart

transplant list. Unfortunately, nobody tells me what that figure must be. This UCMC has

told me that their best treatment would be the implantation of the heart pump until my

PSA drops to ???. Then I would be eligible to undergo another open-heart surgery for

a heart transplantaton.

But Mayo doctors tell me they feel that, based on the progress I've already made in

recovering from the prostate cancer, I would qualify for a heart transplant now. After being

personally examined by a dozen doctors and a dozen nurses in the areas of cardiology,

urology, neurology and general internal medicine, two breakthroughs led to my request

for postponement of the surgery to implant me with a pump.

First, Dr. Lance Mynderse, Mayo urologist, concluded that my prostate cancer

diagnosis should not prevent me from being an immediate candidate for heart

transplantation because of my rather rapid rate of progress.

UCMC doctors have said that my prostate cancer disqualified me from immediate

heart transplant candidacy and that I should have the LVAD and pacemaker-defibrilator

implanted as a bridge during a wait of two or three years while my PSA dropped to a

certain level, which you refuse to specify, acceptable for heart transplant candidacy.

But Dr. Mynderse says that since my PSA has dropped from 5.5, before my May 21,

2008, brachetherapy, to .85, as of last week, I rank in the 99th percentile of brachetherapy

patients who are expected to still be alive at least 15 years after the procedure. Yes,

that's 15 years, not five years, after brachetherapy.

"At that rate, you are a lot more likely to die from heart failure than from prostate

cancer," Dr. Mynderse said.

Second, when I shared this information of Dr. Alfredo Clavell, the Mayo cardiologist and

the overlord of my Mayo examinations, he refused to disagree with Dr. Mynderse because

Mayo has no set PSA requirement for heart transplant candidacy. What he thus

recommends is that I meet with and be examined by his full team of Mayo cardiologists

and cardiac surgeons and transplant specialists so that they can determine whether they

would put me on the heart transplant list right away than on the heart pump transplant list.

I realize that continued deterioration of my heart may still require me to have a pump

implanted. But at the Mayo, it would definitely be more of a bridge procedure rather than

a more extended destination procedure. Obviously, different hospitals have different

standards of operation. If I find a system that would require one open-heart surgery

instead of two, I would prefer that after already having had my chest sawed open twice in


I am being scheduled to return to the Mayo for three or four days of additional testing,

examination and consultation Oct. 26-Oct. 29. I will keep you posted on the results of

those tests and the conclusion of clinic's cardiac team. I am presently on vacation. But my

weakened heart is such that I can not presently perform my job as a 37-year veteran

Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reporter on a full-time basis until my health improves and

I have thus requested medical leave in my diligent efforts to save my life and restore my


Within a week, I expect to have a firm picture of my next move. Obviously, I'd

rather undergo one open-heart surgery than two. And that one would be the heart

transplant, uness the Lord heals me soon and spares me the need for either.

God bless you.

God bless you.

As I ponder a Oct. 26 surgical date with a heart pump, I do so with added hope after

a wonderful weekend of good news from two families, whose loved ones were helped by

the God-blessed modern medical technology of organ transplantation.

First, there is Jessie Ramirez' family on Chicago's southwestside. For months,

Tomas and his sister Patty have been begging me to come to their home to break bread

and to hear` how the transplantation of a heart pump gave them and their father, Jessie,

a retired butcher, a lifetime of joy by adding four extra years to his life.

Second, there is the family of my dear friend, Rev. Gregory Macon. His wife of 40

years, Vaughn, shouted to high heavens when his six-year wait was rewarded with a new

kidney. When I led her in prayer over the phone, after she had made me one of the first

to receive the good news, she shouted the way my dear mother, Sarah Loraine Banks,

used to shout over this kind of good news and the joy of the Lord.

I felt good for both families and led both in prayer thanking God for blessing

mankind with the medical breakthroughs that are enabling us to live longer. After all,

all our help comes from the Lord. Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down

from above, down from the Lord of lights, in whom there is no variableness, neither

shadow of turning.

After years of high blood pressure and diabetes that mutated into end-stage

congestive heart failure, Jessie, at age 60, was so weak he could hardly get out of

his easy chair in front of the giant-screen living-room TV and walk to the front door 17

feet away.

Doctors told him, he was a dying man who could only be saved by a heart pump

because he had gotten too weak from his multiple health issues to receive a heart

transplant. Faced with the gruesome alternative, it was a no-brainer for Jessie to choose

the pump because he just had too much to live for.

First, there was his lovely wife of some 40 years, Maria, who has the face of an

angel and a demeanor to match. Quiet, charming and graced with the smooth olive-hued

skin of a baby, she had been his primary caregiver, his best friend, the mother of his

children, the apply of his eye and the spice of his life.

Second, there were his children: sons Tomas, Marco and Jessie Jr., and daughters

Patty, Sandra and Kristina.

Third, there was his other relatives headed by his sister-in-law Chila, who has been

Maria's support system whenever she was wearied by the weight of her husband's


Fourth, there was the promise of seeing a grandchild or two, every father's dream.

"His will to live was greater than his fear of death," Tomas said. "He loved his

family dearly and he longed to bounce a grandchild on his knees before leaving this

world. He fought like heck. He was a warrior. We all love him so and will forever miss


The pump added four more years to Jessie's life.

"But they were precious years we enjoyed with our father," Patty said. "The pump

restored a lot of his strength and his vitality, He'd get up and go out for walks. He could

not keep still. And we were happy to see him enjoy life again."

Those four years were even more precious for Jessie, too, because it was during

that time that his children gave him two grandsons, three-year-old Stefano (Tomas' boy)

and two-year-old Christopher (Patty's boy), who are both thrust a couple of months apart.

When I walked into Jessie's home to enjoy dinner, I felt the warmth of his loving

spirit for his family still thick in the air. I felt also the afterglow of his family's love for him.

This mutual passion was so perfect and palpable.

First, the family answered a variety of questions I had about the pump, how Jessy

adjusted to it, how his care became a whole family affair and not just Maria's job, how

he reveled in holding his grandkids and other things.

After an hour, we retired to the dinning room where Maria served up a delicious

dish of pozole, a rich soup of hominy grits with vegetables and chucks of beef. Hmmmm.

La comida estaba muy deliciosa! Afterward, I wolfed down a slice of pie.

Then Patty closed the show and brought down the house with a 15-minute DVD

of family photos that invited me to journey down the family's memory lane and enjoy

photos of Jessie and Maria from the time there were teenage lovers in Ocoplan, Jalisco

in Mexico, through their beautiful church wedding, through a slew of joyful family

reunions and picnics. It touched my heart so deeply, the profound sense of family of the

Ramirez household, that I had to see the DVD twice. Patty obliged.

It was a chilly, rainy night outside. But a lot of warm sunshine pulsated inside that

house. I felt honored to be in the midst of such a lavish family love nest.

The very next morning, Saturday, Oct. 3, Mrs. Macon phoned me with the good

news. Rev. Macon has been through a lot of health challenges. But he never let them

get the best of him. A couple of times, he collapsed into a coma while out of town

running a revival. You, see, Rev. Macon is one of those old-school Baptist preacher,

steeped in the whooping tradition forged by the promethean likes of Rev. C. L.

Franklin, Rev. Caesar W. Clark, Rev. Clay Evans, Rev. Donald Parson, Rec. Leo

Daniels, Rev. L. L. Laws, Rev. Jasper Williams, Rev. Johnny Miller and Rev. Gordon H.


He preaches with power an aerobic athleticism until he is lathered with sweat and

saints are shouting like crazy and demons are screaming for mercy and the devil is

screaming, "Ouch! That hurts! Ouch!" Rev. Macon's kind of preaching with grow hair on

a bald-headed man, make a bulldog hug a hound and make a sinner repent and become

a saint.

Six years, he waited diligently and often painfully. Six years, he underwent dialysis

three times a week. Six years, he had his blood washed almost 1,000 times. Six years

he endured needles and pills and bills for his ills. But six years, he and his prayer

partners never gave up hope. The switchboard in heaven stayed busy 24-7 with prayers

of the righteous being offered up on Macon's behalf.

In my mind, I can hear angelic operators saying, "My, my, my. That Rev. Macon

and Jessy Ramirez' family sure have a lot of prayer partners."

Before I let you know, I want you all to know that God is still answering prayers.

God is still saving to the utmost. God is still delivering. God is still feeding and leading.

God is still fighting the battle for the underdogs and the downtrodden all around the

world. God is still in the healing and blessing business. Just ask the Ramirez and

Macon families. Their souls are a witness for my Lord.

And right now, wherever you are and regardless of what you're going through, if

you drop down on your knees and prayer the prayer of faith asking in Jesus' name, God

will hear and answer prayer. I love Him. I trust Him. any way He wants to heal me is

alright with me.

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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This page is an archive of entries from October 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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