God bless you.
Sorry for me long delay. But I'm really just blessed to be alive. Period.
Until further notice, Lacy J. Banks is a battery-operated man.
So, next time you see me, I'll be packing. A two-pound battery will be holstered on
each hip. They will then provide 10 to 12 hours of electrical energy that channels through
a big buckle-like System Controller that transfers the power through a drive line through
my skin into a heart pump that will keep me alive.
On Jan. 29, after years of progressive pain and weakness from wear and tear, on an
operating table at the University of Chicago Medical Center, Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam
retired the main part of my heart and surgically replaced it with a D-battery-size, $80,000
machine called the Heartmate II LVAD. The whole operation lasted eight hours, engaged
a team of six and totaled some $150,000 in cost.
Now, I am a member of a most exclusive segmet of America. I am one of only 300
patients in the Chicago area wearing an LVAD and one of roughly 3,000 in the entire U.S.
LVADS are growing more and more popular. UCMC performed 40 last year. Dr.
Jeevanandam has implanted some 1,000 himself. He is preimminent in this field.
For more than 66 years, my life and body were powered by an eight-ounce heart that
my mother, Sarah Lorrane Sanders, gave me at birth.
It has served me well despite a few aches, breaks and surgeries along the way. I
have sung and enjoyed music and other arts with my heart, loved, hated, marveled at the
beauties of nature. Then it started giving out.
"You've had a cadiomyopathy for many years probably due to (high blood pressure),'
Dr. Jeevavnandam said. "as in a common scenario, your heart continued to slowly
deteriorate......But your incredible will/drive/faith kept you going. You are a blessed man."
My faith in God, prayer, treatment from doctors at the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern
hospital, and an alteration in medication sustained me until the morning of Jan. 11 I got a
most disturbing telephone call from an individual representing my union's group health
"We have a document here that says you were fired by the Sun-Times Dec. 31,
2009, and thus you are no longer covered by us," the caller said.
The news drove me to hyperventilate while phoning Sun-Times and union managers
and collegues for confirmation. I felt dizzy, short of breath and chest pains. I called 911.
Paramedics rushed me to nearby South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, where, within
minutes my heart went into cardiogenic shock. It was beating at a deadly rate of 155 a
minute until doctors put me under and than used those high-powerer defibrillator padals to
shock my heart back into norma rhythm.
"You had only about three hours to live in that condition," Jeevanandam said.
"Clearly at that time (putting aside the issue of prostate CA), you were a poor transplant
candidate because you were so debilitated and would not have done well. Your only
choice was a LVAD.
" You were a particularly difficult LVAD implant because 1) previous (2001 triple-
bypass) surgery 2) physical debilitation 3) heart failure that now involved the right
ventricle as well 4) worsening kidney function. The risks of a LVAD had probably
increased four-fold from the first time it was suggested to you.
"The implant surgery was a challenge (8 out of 10). However, with God's Grace your
LVAD implant went flawlessly and more important your body has recovered faster than
expected. I fully expected you to require in-patient rehab. Due to your incredible
resilience, you may go directly home! It is now time for you to get stronger, put on muscle
and enjoy not being in heart failure. Within a month, you probably do not have to be on
strict water or salt restriction.
"Yes you can have hot dogs and pizza (not that I am suggesting such an unhealthy
cuisine). You should be able to do anything except swim or go on amusement park rides.
We would expect you to go back to work. Your main potential complications are bleeding,
stroke or infection."
Because I am not yet totally free of my prostate cancer or 2008, and a donor heart is
not readily available, the Heartmate heart pump will tide me over until then.
My family and I are just happy I'll still alive and will be able to enjoy a reasonable
quality of life.
I never wanted to live a tethered life. I feel sorry for cats and dogs restricted by short
leash. But that's my lot for now.
When I'm home, my drive line connects to a power module the size of a combo
VHS-DVD player that plugs into a ground wall outlet. Outside the house, a pair of
batteries will sustain me for 10-12 hours. My home is also now place on the top-priority list
with Commenwealth Edison in case of power outage.
God bless you.