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May 2010 Archives

Blackhawk Success Is Part Of My Medicine

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God bless you.
And the Chicago Blackhawks, too.
He surely has so far bacause, in case you're just tuning in, the Hawks have returned to the Stanley Cup NHL finals for the first time in 18 years.
Last year this time, Len Zhiem and I were the main beat men covering the Hawks for the Chicago Sun-Times and they were already on the rise behind the tandem of wunderkinds Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, new coach Joel Quenneville and a slew of unstanding veteran attackers, defensemen and goalies swirling around them.
Though I struggled physically at times because of a weak heart and other health issues, the Blackhawks bent over backward to make my job as easy as possible. What I'm proudest about is that they did not have to bend any rules. I got handicapped parking, for example, because I have a handicap license plate and placard that entitle me to it. I also thus was entitled to use of the elevator to avoid carrying my equipment up and down long stairs. I also got press row seating because I was a beat reporter.
We news reporters, or sportswriters, are supposed to be objective when we cover sports teams. And those of us who are serious professionals try real, real hard.
But do you want to know the truth? We are still human. So few of us really are absolutely objective because we primarily love to cover winners. I will not lie about the facts that I enjoyed being close to and covering the championship likes of
* Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Chicago cruiserweight Alfonzo Ratliff, Thomas "Hit man" Hearns, Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier and Michael and Leon Spinks.
* Lee Stern's Sting, the two-time North American Soccer League champions (1981 and 1984) led by coach Willy Roy and ace goalscorer Karl-Heinz Granitza,
* Jerry Reinsdorf's Bulls, which won six NBA championships in eight years behind star players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson.
* Mike Ditka's Rush, which won the Arena Football League's championship in 2006
* Coach Steve McMichael's unbeaten 14-0 Slaughter, Continential Football League champion of 2009.
My health problems helped eliminate me from covering the Blackhawks this season. Len also is no longer covering the team. Adam Jahns and Mark Potash are doing an outstanding job for our paper. But Len and I still feel we've a strong part of this success since we covered them right up to the season that hopefully will end with a championship crescendo.
I've always loved covering winners. Especially Chicago winners. And I've covered plenty. During my 38-year Chicago Sun-Times sportswriting career, I was the beat man covering Ratliff, the Sting, the Bulls, the Rush and the Slaughter when they won their championships.
That's 11 Chicago championships I've covered. I don't believe any other Chicago sportswriter has covered that many champions on his beat watch. I'm no magic charm. Just blessed,
Moreover, I'm no different from most other sportswriters. There' s always more fun, popularity, pride and decent paying free lance writing assignments in covering a championship team than a losing team.
Covering winners is also better for one's health. Players are harder to deal with when they are losing and readers aren't that much interested in losers either. So you have to work harder to get good stories from bad teams and then there's little readership interest in them when you do.
Consequently, I'm finding some medicine in the current success of the Blackhawks. So are others who are sick. Anything that gives us a smile on top of a good feeling and improved self esteem is medicine for us sick folk.

God bless you.

God bless you.
It's been four months since I underwent open-heart surgery to have Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam implant a heart pump in me at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Well, I'm still adjusting and, quite frankly, it ain't easy. It ain't easy living a tethered life with a drive line coming out of your body to connect a micro pumping machine attached to your heart to an exterior power source.
By day, when I get out of bed and move around the house or go outside the house, I am powered by two four-pound batteries that are secured in an holstered vest I wear. The batteries will sustain me up to 12-14 hours before they have to be replaced by freshly charged batteries.
By night, when I go to bed, I hook my drive line up to a bedside power console that is plugged into the wall and runs off house current until there is an electrical blackout or we forget to pay our electricity bill and Commonwealth Edison cuts our electricity off.
The pump is keeping me alive until I get a heart transplant and it affords me reasonable mobility. But I have to keep reminding myself of, among other things, these following limitations:
* I can't take a bath or go swimming.
* I have to have access to either battery power or electrical power at all times and can survive only a few minutes without it.
* I can no longer enjoy going into a hot sauna and sweating out toxins and excess weight.
* I need special clearance to go through security checks at airports, must not take flights longer than seven or eight hours unless I pack extra batteries for longer flight or in case of flight delays.
* I must take care not to get my two-foot drive line snagged loose by things that stick out like handle bars on my exercise bike, door knobs, furniture edges, etc.
* I can't stay outside in 100-degree temperatures and above except for a few minutes.
When I hook up to the power console to go to bed, I have much more wiggle room with its roughly 12-foot cable. But I still have to be tethered up and the system module controller I wear on my right hip makes it difficult for me to sleep comfortably on my right side. The SMC is the control device that connects my drive line with the power sources.
I recently was cleared to take showers again instead of sponge-downs. But I have to place my batteries and system module controller in a rubber pouch that I wear over my left shoulder like a purse and it gives me only about 20 inches in wiggle room. But I'm able to lather up and suds down under the shower spout for a more thorough and refreshing washing.
Otherwise, I am able to drive, do a little yard work, write, cover games, preach, shop, walk and do other exercises. It's not real good. But it's also not that bad. At least, I'm still living.
Now that I have recovered sufficiently from the Jan. 29 heart pump implantation, Mayo Clinic has scheduled to re-examine me so that I can be reclassified on the national heart transplant list. Because I am now living with the aid of a heart pump, I am assured of getting the highest classification or the second highest classification on the heart transplant list.
Last year, I was hoping that my next major surgery would be the heart transplant operation. Instead, I had to undergo the emergency Jan. 29 heart pump implantation to save my life after some bad news ignited a life-threatening cardio-genic shock that required a 30-day hospital stay and came frightfully close to taking my life.
Thank Jesus, I'm still alive.
God bless you.

God bless you.

I made what could have been a fatal mistake Sunday. I went to cover a

Chicago Wolves hockey playoff game and forgot to carry a spare pair of

batteries that power the heart pump that is keeping me alive until I get a heart


Everything would have been alright if I had remembered or if my wife Joyce would

have reminded me to change into a fresh pair of batteries when I left home. Or if I had

packed a spare pair. Or if the game had ended in regulation. Or if the game had ended in

the first overtime.

But once the game was extended an extra 70-something minutes by going

into second overtime, something told me to check my batteries because I already

had been using them for 10 hours and they normally are supposed to last me

12 hours.

Understand, now, that once my pump stops being powered by batteries

or by AC current, I'm a dead man within minutes because my heart will cease to

pump blood. The implantation of the pump retired my heart from having a

heartbeat because my blood circulation became powered by the D-size-battery

pump attached to my heart.

Normally, I pack a spare pair when I got out of the house for a

newspaper or preaching assignment because I never know how long I would

be out. I could get in a car accident or a traffic jam resulting from somebody else

having an accident. That way, I'm in good shape for at least 24 hours.

But Sunday, stupid me just left home wearing a pair of batteries that already

had been on me for just over five hours. I should have changed into a fresh pair

or packed a spare pair. I did neither.

On the sides of my batteries is a five-dot meter that tells me how much

charge is left in the battery. Five is 80 to 100 percent. Four is 60-80 percent. Three

means 40 to 60 percent. I change batteries one he meter ready two dots. But what

put me in trouble Sunday was that I live an hour's drive from Allstate Arena,

where the game was being played. Plus, it takes from 30 to 40 minutes for me to do

my post-game interviews, write and file my story.

Once I saw my meter flashed three dots, I did not know how close that was

to two dots and the game wasn't even over yet. It ended just before I left the press

room to rush home to change batteries. Thank goodness, this was an afternoon

game because that gave me extra time to file. With the help of Wolves publicist

Elizabeth Casey and coach Don Lever and a couple of players, I was able to get

the necessary phone interviews once I arrived home at 7:30 p.m.

Tracy Valeroso, the right-hand nurse of Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam,

world-famous cardiac surgeon a the University of Chicago Medical Center, had

already given me an exrta pair of exactly for these potential emergencies.

What if there had been one of those 18-wheeler jack-knife accident that blocked

all lanes and tied of traffic for miles and hours? What if I had been stranded in

something that and my batteries ran out? Well, you would be reading this or

any other blog entry from me anymore.

This pump has changed my life immensely after its implantation saved

my life. It is now a part of my body. It is my lifeline. It is more than just my little

friend. It presently is imperative for my survival.

So keep praying for me. Pray that I not only get a new heart, but that I not

forget always have at least one backup pair of batteries whenever I leave for


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.



About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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