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November 2009 Archives


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God bless you.

This week, two days before Thanksgiving, cardiologist with Northwestern

Memorial Hospital's Faculty Foundation (NMFF) concluded from four days of testing

that at this present time my heart has recovered so well so quickly that they no

longer feel I need a heart transplant or a heart pump at this particular time.

"Don't get us wrong, you are still a very sick man and you certainly need to get

a defibrillator implanted and you may eventually need a heart pump or a heart

transplant," Dr. James Flaherty said. "But not at this time. Based on your good

performance in our stress test and other numbers, we feel that a change in medications,

a continuation of your weight decrease, consistent exercise and heart-healthy

dieting will help you and we want to see how you respond to that in the next few weeks."


Thank you Jesus!!!

I was released from the hospital Tuesday and on Wednesday night when I went

to the Osco Pharmacy in Homewood, Ill., to pick up replacements for five of my

previous 13 medications, I just couldn't help restrain myself any longer. So on a rainy

Thanksgiving-eve night, I cried and shouted in the drugstore as I waited my

pharmacist to fill the prescriptions. Rich (?) and his assistant Marge (?) had to think I

was crazy and couldn't decide whether to call the police or paramedics.

As for my brain tumor? It remains benign and NMFF has taken me off that

medication because it has not affected its size.

As for my prostate cancer? My PSA was determined to have decreased to .49

earlier this week.

"Are you OK, Mr. Banks," Marge said. "Yes, I'm more than OK. I'm just thankful to

God to be alive and to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving at home with my family. I have

so much to be thankful for."

I was originally scheduled to by a patient in the Mayo Clinic's St. Mary's Hospital

awaiting a heart transplant 371 miles from Chicago. But again my treatment schedule

has been changed in a manner that more reflects a miracle in progress than a mistake.

So will somebody hold my mule while I shout my shout, pray my prayer or

thanksgiving and dance my dance of praise?

Meantime, happy Thanksgiving everybody. I'm sure having one. In fact, this may be

my happiest to date because, although I am still seriously ill, I'm getting better overall and

I'm home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my three daughters and five grandchildren all

jammed into my home for praise, prayer, turkey dinner prepared by my wife, Joyce,

and sweet fellowship.

Let's retrace our journey so far.

In the spring of 2008, I was at my lowest point in life, physically, emotionally and

mentally, when I was diagnosed with end-stage congestive heart failure. Thus, doctors

at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) and the Northwestern Memorial

Faculty Foundation (NMFF) concluded that I desperately needed a heart transplant.

But they discovered that I had a brain tumor and prostate cancer, which instantly

disqualified as a heart transplant candidate.

After the brain tumor was ruled benign, the prostate cancer was ruled localized

and early-staged with a PSA of 5.5 and started responding positively to radiation seeds

implantation administered on May 21, 2008. Earlier this year, my heart had gotten

worse and UCMC doctors said I needed to have a heart pump implanted or I probably

would not live out this year.

When my PSA had dropped to .83 three weeks ago, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,

Minn., ruled me eligible for a new heart and placed me on the heart transplant list as a

Stage 2 candidate. But when Northwestern Hospital agreed to the same conclusion, I

switched my care to the NMFF to cut costs and make it easier for my family to care

for me and visit me. My wife and I could have been in Rochester, Minn., for months

living in hotels and waiting for a transplant.

If that had happened, my wife would have gone months without pay and when my

medical leave expired, we'd have no money coming in and still be charged with paying

bills to maintain a house in Hazel Crest and a temporary residence in Rochester.

Oh, yes. My weight? Well, last weekend while I was a patient in Northwestern

Hospital, it dropped below to 200 pounds to 198.5 for the first time in more than 30

years. Five months ago, I had weighed 255 pounds.

Yeah, will somebody hold my mule while I shout again?

If the superb care provided by NMFF doctors like Dr. Flaherty, Dr. Williams Cotts,

Dr. Jasper Lee, Dr. Robert Gordon, Dr. Smriti Banthia, Dr. Gaurav Chaturvedi, Dr. Amy

Gordon, Dr. Wenyu Huang, Dr. Justin Fox, Dr. Eric Hart, Dr. Timothy Scanlon, Dr. Esther

Shao and Dr. Lisa F. Wolfe was not enough to make to happy, my nurse, Sanyu

Sempebwa brought down the house with a soul-stirring testimony just before I left

the hospital.

The 35-year-old registered nurse escaped the poverty and violent political unrest

in her native Uganda in 2000 with just prayer and a dream. The oldest of six kids born

to a computer programmer and an airline attendant, she earned scholarships and

worked and prayed her way to a degree from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee to

become a nurse. Now, she, her husband Raymond Luganda, a cab driver, and their

daughter, Claire, are happy, hopeful residents of Chicago as she and Raymond look

forward to becoming U.S. citizens.

Now you tell me: ain't God good or ain't God good?

Sunday morning at 11 a.m., I will preach for Rev. Leonard Deville at Alpha Temple

Baptist Church, 6701 Emerald Street on Chicago's South Side. Once he heard of my

latest progress, he offered me a chance to preach about it and that invitation is just

another blessing. This miracle in progress is something I can preach about again and

again and again.

God bless you.


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God bless you.

It's simply eerie the way God keeps on blessing me in my efforts to get the best

treatments in the best ways for my end-stage congestive heart failure, prostate cancer

and brain tumor.

Thanks to God's grace, I now can have the rest of my heart care done by

the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation in Chicago, just 30 miles from my home

in Hazel Crest, instead of in Rochester, Minn., 371 miles away.

Last week, I was finally, officially placed on the heart transplant list by the

outstanding and world-renown Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. It ended some 19 months

of futility after the University of Chicago Medical Center cardiologists had determined that

I needed a heart transplant. Unfortunately, discovery of prostate cancer in the spring of

2008 quickly disqualified me from being a transplant candidate until the cancer was in

sufficient remission.

Additional medicines prescribed by UCMC's Dr. Allen Anderson and Dr. Valluvan

Jeevanandam have succeeded in retarding my heart's deterioration in the interim. They

also spared me the urgent need to have a heart pump (a Heartmate II, Left Ventricular

Assist Device) implanted in me.

But although brachetherapy, or the implantation of radiation seeds, have lowered

my prostate's PSA reading from 5.5 to .83, the UCMC, where I was hoping to have the

transplant done, still didn't feel that was enough progress. They admittedly are much

more conservative than most other hospitals in their approach to treating prostate cancer.

And while still refusing to tell me what PSA number represented sufficient progress, they

told me that I should have a heart implanted and use it "for several years" before they

would be willing to implant a new heart in me.

That's when Mayo came in. This non-profit hospital is revered by many as the best

all-round hospital in the world because of its consistency in premium medical efficiency

across the board. For example, U.S. News and World Report, ranks Mayo first in the

care of diabetes and endocrine disorders, first in digestive disorders, first in neurology

and neurosurgery and first in orthopedics and second in heart and heart surgery.

Thanks to some interventions by Lee B. Stern, former Sting owner and

the 60-year, dynamic dean of the Chicago Board of Trade, plus some help from Mayo

insider James Hodge, I was able to secure two weeks of examinations by and interviews

with an academy of some of the world's finest doctors from all over the world.

Heading my Mayo team is Puerto Rico's Dr. Alfredo Clavell, an most charming

fellow and highly distinguished cardiologist, whose wife is also on the Mayo staff. Dr.

Clavell, assisted by nurse Jody Hanson, streamlined a regimen where at least a dozen

doctors meticulously examined my past and current medical history, and each gave me

a detailed write-up of their finding to bring home with me.

The biggest breakthrough came when Dr. Lance Myderse, Mayo urologist,

determined that the degree of remission already experienced with my prostate cancer

was sufficient progress for Mayo to classify my heart as transplant-worthy. The rate of

remission already exhibited by my prostate cancer, Mynderse concluded, ranked me in

the 99th percentile of patients surviving at least 19 years after undergoing brachetheray.

Let me say that I have never been examined as thoroughly and treated as

courteously as I am being treated at Mayo. And the fact they ranked second in the world

in the successful treatment of congestive heart failure, right behind the Cleveland Clinic,

assured me that I had picked the right institution in terms of treatment.

But because my wife, Joyce, and I aren't scheduled to retire until next year,

retaining Mayo as my primary treatment provider posed some financial problems

because it would require Joyce and me to stop work and relocate.

Joyce, who works for Cushman-Wakefield, would have to take off time without pay

to be my primary caregiver. By the grace of God, I work for the Sun-Times, whose union

contract allows me six month of sick leave or disability with pay for serious medical issues

such as what I am faced with.

Mayo requires that if they implant me with a heart pump as a bridge procedure to

heart transplant, I'd have to stay there at least a month afterward for monitoring and for

any other necessary treatment. Plus, when they perform a heart transplant, they require

the patient to stay in Rochester for at least three months,

What this means is that once we relocated to Rochester, we could be there for

anywhere from two or three weeks to four, five or six months or maybe more, depending

upon how well I responded to treatment and how quickly a compatible heart can be made

available to me.

Since Cushman and Wakefield are obligated to hold me wife's job for just three or

fourth months, she would not only have to care for me without pay but also lose her job.

Moreover, if my wait for a heart or recovery from a transplant extends beyond six

months, I'd be still sick and there would be no paycheck coming in but we'd still have

bills, including a mortgage, to pay. There is also our commitment to help care for our

grandson, Caleb, whose single mother often has to work late and can't pick him up

after school.

I was all prepared to go to the Mayo Monday and be checked into their hospital

today until Northwestern Hospital responded to my query, telling me they agreed with

Mayo's findings and are willing to take up my treatment along the same lines that Mayo

was operation. That is: Heart transplant is top priority and anything else would be as a

bridge procedure with minimum lag time, if any, in between.

Dr. James Flaherty, Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation cardiologist, and Dr.

Williams Cotts, NMFF cardiac surgeon, will be heading that team through

Northwestern's famed Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. Dr. Edwin C. McGee, Jr., is

NMFF's cardiac transplant surgeon.

What this means is that I will be able to stay home (in Chicago, that is) for

the upcoming holidays and that my wife and I can save thousands of dollars and still be

able to work and maintain our wonderful home. It also means we can stay close to our

daughters, Noelle and Nicole, and their families and that I might be able to preach a

couple of times more while awaiting a new heart.

Now, ain't God good, or ain't God good?

Joyce and I are former high school sweethearts since meeting each other at

Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kan., her hometown. We have been married for 41

years and have been in love and going together 48 years. All our five kids, including

twin sons who died at birth, and five grandchildren were born in Chicago. I was born in

Lyon, Miss. But Chicago is our HOME. And as that favorite songs goes,

"Oh there's no place like home for the holidays,

'cause no matter how far away you roam

When you pine for the sunshine or a friendly face

For the holidays, you can't beat home sweet home."

With these latest developments, I asked the Mayo Clinic for time to make sure

Northwestern will agree to take over where they left off and Miss Hanson was very,

very considerate and compassionate in granting my request. So within the next few

days, I will check into Northwestern to resume treatment in preparation for a heart

transplant. If Mayo gets me one first, I can go there. If Northwestern gets one first, I

can stay here.

But since there is just a four-hour period for me to get on the operation

table as soon as a heart becomes available for me, it obviously would be easier for me

to drive 30 miles from my house to Northwestern, than it would be for me to travel 371

miles from my house to the Mayo.

God bless you.


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God bless you.

For the last 19 months, I have been asking God to either heal my sick heart or to

replace it with a healthier one through a heart transplant. He had already healed a brain

tumor, which was almost instantly declared benign. And He is applying the finishing

touches to healing me of prostate cancer.

Then on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009, after undergoing two weeks of extensive tests,

interviews and reviews of my medical records, I was approved to be a "status 2"

candidate for a heart transplant at the world-renown, highly-acclaimed non-profit Mayo

Clinic's main facility in Rochester, Minn.

Dr. Alfredo L. Clavell, veteran Mayo cardiologist, called me with the good news after

he and a dozen other doctors, including cardiac surgeons, a urologist, endocrinologist and

psychiatrist, had convened to consider the latest patch of patients applying for organ


Originally, I had wanted my procedure to be done in my Chicago hometown because

of its many conveniences with my family having lived here for 41 years and with the

presence of friends and relatives who could help my wife, Joyce, my primary caregiver,

during the critical stage of my recovery. The Chicago operation also would have been

cheaper in terms of post-operative expenses.

Unfortunately, Chicago doctors, I talked to, felt my prostate cancer diagnosis of

2008 kept me at least two more years away from heart transplant candidacy, despite the

fact that my radiation brachytherapy treatment on May 21, 2008, has since dropped my

PSA from 5.5 to .83.

Doctors at the University of Chicago Medical Center, for example, require me to have

a heart pump implanted until my PSA drops to a level they consider acceptable for heart

transplant candidacy. But nobody there would tell me what that PSA level must be when I

asked for it.

At the Mayo Clinic, however, Dr. Lance Mynderse, a urologist, determined that my

rate of progress from the brachytherapy places me in the 99th percentile of patients

expected to live at least 15 years after the that treatment for prostate cancer.

"You are a lot more likely to die from congestive heart failure or a heart attack than

from prostate cancer," Dr. Mynderse said.

In short order, the cardiologists and cardiologists at Mayo agreed with Mynderse.

Dr. Clavell added that different hospitals and doctors have different opinions on how

aggressively to treat prostate cancer, even when it is early-stage and localized as mine

was said to be after a biopsy by Dr Glenn Gerber at the UCMC.

"Prostate cancers are among the slower-growing cancers," Dr. Clavell said. "And

our knowledge and treatment of the disease have greatly improved."

Thus, since my chances of getting a heart transplant are much quicker at Mayo,

where I could maybe even have to undergo only one serious surgery, the heart transplant,

instead of two, I have chosen to go with Mayo. Moreover, Mayo is one of the top hospitals

in the world in terms of across-the-board medical efficiency.

I was extremely impressed with the thorough and speedy care I got from Mayo from

the very start. They approached and explored me as a vast, integrated team

concentrating collectively on every area of my health to make sure that their investment

of somebody else's heart in me would not be a vain one. I had to be sick enough to need

it, healthy enough to receive it and committed and disciplined enough to make the best

use of it with a heathful and healthy lifestyle.

At the Mayo, I was examined and tested by a dozen doctors specializing in

cardiology, cardiac surgery, endocrinology, urology, neurology, infectious disease,

psychiatry and general surgery.

I am especially thankful to the invaluable assistance and intervention from former

Sting owner Lee B. Stern, a 60-year member of the Chicago Board of Trade, and of

James Hodge, a Mayo executive insider and longtime friend of Stern's. Yes, it pays to

have friends in high places.

I am also thankful to the University of Chicago Medical Center and Northwestern

Memorial Hospital for providing medical records of their treatments of me to help bring

the Mayo team up to date on my overall state of health. UCMC's Dr. Valluvan

Jeevanandam performed a triple bypass on me on Feb. 14, 2001, and those grafts

remain open. Northwestern's Dr. Mark Ricciardi finally brought my runaway high blood

pressure under control and performed two stentings when there were clogging problems

in my main arteries in 2003 and 2005. UCMC's Dr. Allen Anderson also prescribed

additional medicines to help my heart successfully endure the wait for a heart transplant.

The Mayo has given me and my wife a week or two to prepare for my admission into

the hospital there for transplant preparations that will include the administrations of

medications and the possible implantation of a defibrillator (ICD) or even a heart pump if

my heart worsens while I await a healthier heart. Doctors feel that my blood type, B

positive, may affect a shorter wait.

I am presently on medical leave from the Sun-Times to undergo this treatment, which,

doctors say, is a best option for long-term survival. But I will keep you informed of my

progress as long as the Sun-Times permits me. This is a story that needs to be told to

it very end. It is a source of tremendous encouragement to countless people in need as

they struggle with their health issues and life problems.

I am in no pain or ongoing discomfort whatsoever. I simply have a weaken, diseased

heart that prevents me from doing much before fatigue and shortness of breath stops me

and has me vulnerable to a potentially fatal heart attack. I am still on medications, taking

some 25 pills a day to help keep my functioning at minimum efficiency and productivity.

But these medicines appear to have reached their limit.

God is still large and in charge. He could still move in the twinkling of an eye and

heal me to where I won't need a transplant. But receiving a heart transplant does not

discount God's healing powers. Any help we get from doctors and other scientists comes

through them but from God, in whom we all live and move and have our being.

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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