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.