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
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
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.