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.