Chicago Sun-Times
...with Jesus, doctors and common sense


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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

insurance policy.

"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.

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Dear Rev. Lacy,
I am overjoyed beyond description to read your latest post. You stayed on my mind and in my heart every single day and I prayed for you without ceasing. The Spirit would not let me rest until I checked for your blog every day online. I'm somewhat stubborn about certain things.(-: I give thanks and praises to God that you have come through the heart pump surgery and are on your way to resuming a "normal" life. I must say the same thing about you that I said about my husband after he received an implanted defibrilator just before Christmas. God is not ready to call either of you home to Him because if He was, no effort on man's part would change His decision. I'm praying that it isn't true that you were let go by the SunTimes. In fact, it must not be true because I found this post in the online paper, Glory to God!

BANKS' RESPONSE: Hi, Marie. It's so great to be back to pester you some more. Thanks for paying attention to me and for praying for me, too.

Good morning Rev. Banks,oh what a glorious day it is.Cold weather and snow outside but I thank God for every bit of it and I thank God for you and his saving grace.I have been keeping up with you and your recovery thru my father,Rev. De Ville and of course been so anxiously waiting for your next blog to appear.You are such an inspiration to me.I have always prayed and asked God to give me strength to endure what ever comes to me in this life and to give me strength not to complain,moan and cry.To put my faith in him,let his will be done and to pray and believe he will deliver and answer all my prayers.I get scared sometimes but I never stop praying,believing and trusting in him and his Holy Word.I know you will be out teaching,preaching and singing I just want you to be careful and take care of yourself.So glad you are back.My prayers to you and your entire family.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Boy! I sure missed me some Marcia Starks while I was away licking my wounds. Did your father, the Rev. Leonard DeVille, tell you about the great we had on Good Friday at Cosmopolitan? Wish you could have been there to enjoy everything with us.

Other than that, what have you been up to???

Lacy J., another miracle for you! I trust that pump has made you feel much better. And, by your entry here, I trust you're still employed by the Sun-Times. How wonderful!

I - undoubtedly, like everyone else - have been wondering what was going on with you. But, I have come to expect a good story. And so it is.

Interesting, isn't it, that you agonized about whether or not to get the pump, then it came down to a matter of the choice being made for you?

So, now we envision you feeling much better, getting stronger, getting back on the beat, and ultimately, being healed.

Because being abundantly blessed is our natural state, isn't it?

Welcome back.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Yeah, John, the Powers that be, I was hoping that my next major surgery would be that for a heart transplant. Instead, I had to get this heart pump. But it's keeping me alive. So I'll have to be in your hair a little bit longer, John. Glad to be back, buddy.

So happy to hear that you are doing well! I am trying my best to not relay my anger at how all of this came about, but I'd certainly like to know the coward who would dismiss you and not tell you. I know you will take care of this so I'm going to keep my subscription for the time being. Our Father makes a way for us and just keeps showering us with that amazing grace. The one thing we know for sure, you can get to church, preach a good message, and get back home before those batteries run low! I continue to pray for you and family.

BANKS' RESPONSE: I sure missed you, Qwen. I missed you badly. Sorry I was silent for so long. But that was not my choosing. Thank God I'm back. Unfortunately, it's going to be difficult for me to do enough to make up for lost time. So please bear with me.

I am so glad to hear the good outcome from your surgery! But your column left an unanswered question -- do you still have a job and health insurance?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Take care and God bless,

Sharon Bond
Park Ridge

BANKS' RESPONSE: Thank God that I do still have a job and health insurance despite the fact a woman at Blue Cross Blue Shield told me on Jan. 11 that I no longer had either. That was either sheer evil, deception, incompetence, miscommunication or all of these. In any case, it triggered a rush to the hospital for a 30-day stay that almost cost me my life.

Good Evening Mr. Banks. I am overjoyed of hearing about your new updates and good news. I thought they had discontinued your blog, because I did not hear from you in awhile. I am so thankful that you and I can appeal to a Higher Authority. The old saying goes " Who God Bless No Man Curse. God Bless and I will continue to keep you and your family in prayer.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Hi, Jackie. To be honest, they did discontinue my blog and suggested that I, since I was on disability leave and not supposed to be working, devote all my time and energy to getting well enough to return to work. So, I'm back.

Rev. Banks,

God Bless You! I am delighted that you are on the mend and feeling stronger as a result of your heart pump. God is wonderful in so many wonderful ways! You are continually blessed. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers for your complete healing. There is nothing God can't do. Peace and Love to you and your family.

BANKS' RESPONSE: I'm so glad, D. Drew, that you had me on your mind and then took the time to pray for me. Thanks to God's grace, my wife's care, your prayers and the doctor's skills, I'm back in action.

Mr. Banks,

I haven't seen any updates in a while. I hope you are still recovering fully.

Please advise of any updates.



BANKS' RESPONSE: I'm back, Sam. Sorry I was away for so long.

Hello Lacy, for your info, you can have a natural gas generator installed at your home, which runs on natural gas, the same as the ones at the police and fire stations. Approximate cost is around 3K.
God Bless you in your life here on earth.
Jay 23:4

BANKS' RESPONSE: Thanks, Jay, for that wonderful suggestion. A generator would me alleviate my fears of being stranded in a blackout without charged batteries.

To: Lacy Banks
Dear Lacy,
I feel your pain as well as your gratitude. What a wonderful gift the L-VAD is. I had one implanted at Advocate Christ Medical Center after unsuccessful heart bypass surgery in September of 2000. I was the first patient in the country to go home with the portable L-VAD. If you can look back in your archives, I was on the front page of your paper Saturday, February 24th, 2001. My stay was 6 months in the hospital waiting for the FDA to approve the portable machine. I was as healthy as can be on the VAD. Not wanting to be beholding to Commonwealth Edison and tethered to a machine the rest of my life, I had a heart transplant at the University of Chicago done by none other than Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam March 9th, 2001. It amazes me that we go to work with our briefcases and these amazing Doctors go to work with their life saving talents and call it just a job. I was asked by my Doctor at Advocate Christ Medical Center to speak at a function at the American College of Surgeons in June of 2007 for Dr. William Pierce whose years of research and determination afforded him the Jacobson award for inventing the L-VAD. You can read about his accomplishments if you look up the American College of Surgeons Dr. William Pierce on the internet. It was an amazing experience to meet him, speak on his behalf and attend this function. I help patients who are on the L-VAD and patients who are pre and post transplant at Christ Hospital when asked. I just attended a function at Christ Hospital honoring a patient who has been on an L-VAD for 5 years and is doing very well. I also helped patients at University of Chicago who were pre transplant when I was a patient there. I wish you well on your VAD/Transplant journey. Please feel free to contact me if you would like.

Paula F. Ulatoski

BANKS' RESPONSE: Thank you, Paula, for your encouraging and enlightening comment. It's an honor to hear from a true medical pioneer in LVAD implantation. I also have experience an improvement in my health and general quality of life with the exception of being tethered. I am especially impressed by your doing well after nine years as a heart transplant recipient. Medical science, by the grace of God, continues to evolve to our advantage. People are living longer because of assorted medical breakthroughs in medicine and surgery. My best to you and your family. Long life to you, Paula. Long life to you.

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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.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on February 9, 2010 11:36 AM.

THE MIRACLE OF THE CHRISTMAS CROSS. was the previous entry in this blog.

After Winning A Smackdown With Death, With God's Help, I'm Back. is the next entry in this blog.

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