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November 2010 Archives

God bless you.

Lean over and tell somebody near you, "Lacy Banks told me to tell you

that God is still in the blessing business."

Sisters and brothers, as of yesterday (Nov. 16, 2010), The Mayo Clinic's

main unit, in Rochester, Minn., has elevated me to the very top of their heart

transplant list.

I am now in the 1A classification, the clinic's highest, with nobody ahead of

me for B-positive blood types.

If I get my healthier heart within the next month, I want to retire within the

following six weeks. This is half the time normally accorded for heart

transplantation recovery. But it will give me time to have the operation covered by

a major insurance carriers as primary provider and Medicare as secondary, thus

sparing my wife and me exorbitant out-of-pockets expenses. It would also provide

valuable time to make the transition to Medicare as primary provider and find the

best Medicare supplement.

At age 67, I believe I am the oldest reporter at the paper. I have been

working for the Sun-Times for 38 years and two and a half months. I'm tired

children. Joyce, my wife of 42 years and girlfriend for 49, has already returned

at age 65. And she makes me sick being able to chill whenever she wants to.

I want to get me new heart, retire, preach God's word better than ever and enjoy

some retirement. My mama died at 42 and never got to retire. My father died at

64, after pastoring for 50 years. He never retired and we never had health

insurance and we had to pass the hat to help bury him. My father-in-law also died

at age 64 just months after he had retired. I pray to do better for my family.

When a heart becomes available in the Mayo Clinic's midwest region of

Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas, I will be its first recipient if the heart is for

my blood type and body size. If a heart, within my blood type and body size,

becomes available within 500 miles of Rochester, to include Chicago, St. Louis,

Kansas City, Etc., I would also qualify for it after the first regional option has been

exhausted and if I am the leading candidate within 500 miles..

According to Jody Hanson, my heart transplant coordinator of the clinic,

there is "a very strong possibility," some rank it as high at 70 percent, that I will

receive my new heart within a month.

Because I am being sustained by a heart pump, or Heartmate II LVAD (left-

ventricular assist device), and because I am 385 miles away from Rochester and

not an in-patient in Rochester, I am being accorded this privileged rank through

the month of December.

Joyce and I already have our bags pack and a choice or two air

ambulances and two private jets on standby alert to fly us to Rochester within

the four hours they want me to be on the operating table once they locate a

heart for me.

In the spring of this year, I had all along hoped to retire no later than the end

of next month because I was hoping to have had my new heart by now.

Unfortunately, I had suffered a critical setback. False information in a Jan. 11 phone

call from Sheri Stokes, Blue Cross Blue Shield, telling me that my Sun-Times

employment and health insurance coverage had been terminated, excited me into

a heart attack (more specifically, a cardio-genic shock) as I desperately called

Jeannie Smyers, Barbara Ercoli, my union reps, my sports editor and others at the

paper trying to confirm the devastating news.

By the time I was assured, by Jeannie and Barbara, that this was false

information, I had spent 30 days in the hospital--rotating between South Suburban

Hospital, Northwestern Hospital and the University of Chicago Medical Center--

trying to save my life. I was placed on three-day life support twice before I

underwent open-heart surgery to have the heart pump implanted by Dr. Valluvan

Jeevanandam on Jan. 29 at the UCMC.

I resumed work for the Chicago Sun-Times on April 5.

I appreciate the patience and generous cooperation by the Sun-Times in

helping ease the load during this period of my grave health issues. I know that the

paper has been laying off employees younger and more talented. I am presently

conversing with human resources and union insurance reps to lay the foundation

for my retirement and transition in insurance coverage.


It's been 31 months since Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, University of Chicago

Medical Center chief cardiac surgeon, and Dr. Allen Anderson, UCMC's ace

cardiologist, diagnosed me for end-stage congestive heart failure and told me I

needed a heart transplant to live longer than three or four years.

But in the process of examining to make sure I was healthy enough to risk

being given somebody else's precious heart, I was disqualified when they

discovered a cancerous brain tumor on my brain and a cancerous prostate tumor.

During these last 31 months, after God blessed me to be examined and

treated by 97 different doctors at eight different hospitals in three different states,

my brain tumor and prostate cancer have been brought under control, I have been

implanted with a heart pump and I have rallied from being refused admittance to

the national heart transplant list to rising to the very top of it.

Thank you, Jesus!

In the Mayo Clinic's midwest region, that includes Minnesota, Wisconsin

and the Dakotas, NOBODY is ahead of me among B-positive blood types. If a

heart becomes available in a more remote region during this period, then I will be

eligible to receive that heart, too, so long as it is a B-positive blood-type heart.

Each year some 800,000 patients around the world need a heart transplant.

Only 3,500 receive them.

Some 4,000 Americans need a heart transplant each year. Less than 2,000

get them. At Mayo Clinic, 97.7 percent of heart transplant recipients survive at least

one month, 94.85 survive at least one year, 80 percent survive three years and 75

percent survive at least five years.

As I told y'all before, I feel guilty and unworthy knowing somebody has to die

for me to get his or her heart. Then I calm down and think scientific progress. Death

has always been inevitable with us humans. But God has blessed medical science

to acquire the skill to salvage organs from dead donors and transplant them to save

the lives of others.

My wife, Joyce, my family, friends, Sun-Times staff and you readers have

been most comforting and encouraging to me. Thank you. More than 1,000

comments have been submitted to my blog (http://blogs.suntimes.com/banks/),

where I have been keeping you informed of my situation.

Once I am told a heart is available, I must be on the operating table in

Rochester in four hours. Joyce and I already have our bags packed and four

different air ambulances and private charter planes are ready to transport me.

Regardless of the outcome, I will inform you myself.

"Yeah, but how is Lacy Banks going to keep us informed if he is dead?",

well you just relax and let me assure you that while we're all trying to figure it out,

God has already worked it out.

God bless you.

Where There's A Will, There's A Way To Worry Less

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God bless you.

This month, after waiting for more than two and a half years, I hope to receive my new heart at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn..

I've already made contact with the owner and pilot of a private charter plane. He assures me that he can be at a nearby private airport within 90 minutes ready for takeoff. He'd fly me in for $1,700. Mayo Clinic also has an air ambulance, that would cost $10,000, to be paid by my insurance company because they require air ambulances.

I live just 15 miles from that airport for private planes and I can get there in 20 minutes or less. The 365-mile flight will take roughly 90 minutes. And since I must be on the operating table 90 minutes after I get the call that a new heart is ready for me, I have roughly an hour of wiggle room to get me from the Rochester, Minn., Airport to the Mayo Clinic's St. Mary's Hospital, where the heart transplant surgeries are performed.

At times, I was a nervous wreck because there are other personal and family matters that I have to attend to.

The first priority is the successful transplantation of a new heart as soon as possible because I want to retire as soon as I get it. Otherwise, to retire beforehand and lose my affordable group health insurance coverage would devastate my family financially. I have rebuilt roughly three months of medical leave allowed in our union contract. A layoff at this point of my life and in the situations that I'm in would be a DEATH SENTENCE.

Another top priority is for me to start getting my pension that I thought I would have and should have had by now if the paper and Prudential had honored their Jan. 22, 2010 letter they sent me, which I was in the hospital fighting for my life and preparing for the Jan. 29 open-heart surgery.

That letter offered me the option of receiving my pension payout in one lump sum. But after more than two months after the Jan. 22 letter, and one month after they had given a fellow employee his lump sum payout, they not only refused to give me mine, they said the deadline for receiving a lump sum had expired at Jan. 1, 2010, three weeks before they sent me the letter officially offering me the lump sum option.

Another priority is the will for my wife Joyce and me. After years of promising to do it, I finally wrote out last will and testament last night. That, my sisters and brothers, was an awesome task.

It's one thing to write out your will at age 30, 40 or even 50 years old. But when you cross age 65, are fighting prostate cancer, have a cancerous tumor on your brain, are being sustained by a mechanical pump and are in dire need of a new heart, writing a will is a rueful reckoning with approaching death.

When I was a little boy, I was so much afraid of dead people and death. I wanted nothing to do with dead people because I feared that death was contagious. I preferred life, especially the youth of life when all things are fresh and your perception of all that you can see, hear, smell, touch, taste and imagine are so razor sharp and crystal clear. Add energy and agility to that youth and you are in a wonderland.

I was so in love with my youth that I went over behind a Mississippi barn one day and made a pact with myself, promising that I would never dare get old and die. Boy, was I one cock-eyed, naive, insane optimist!

Finally, and not too suddenly at all, I am sick while I am getting old. My grandson, Caleb, likes to remind Joyce and me, laughingly, "Y'all are old, grandpa. Just face it. Y'all are old. But don't worry. I still love you grandpa and grandma."

Yeah, that's well and good Caleb. But what I way to tell that to us.

So I sat down and finally wrote our Last Will and Testament that remains to be notarized and witnessed. The next thing we want to do, and it's something Joyce has been asking me to do for years, is to get our side-by-side burial plots.

I used to ask Joyce to promise me that she will never stop loving me and never marry another man. She agreed. Then I felt I was being too selfish. Then I had her to promise me that if she married another man, make sure that he isn't some broke guy, who only has sex to offer, and will have to move in with her and live in the house I paid for and sleep in the bed I slept in and live over the money and property I leave her. I'd rather he has a house he can move her into. Otherwise, she can do bad all by herself. Just date him and wish him well. But don't take on a son you'll have to take care of because you'll have far more than he does and you'll in essence be taking care of him.

I saw my mother-in-law completely forget and disrespect her first husband, the loving father of her children, the grandfather of my children, and the man who worked two and three jobs to buy her a house to live in and he financially set her up for life. But she married a man who was broke, in debt , moved in with her and even got her to put his name in her will to inherit everything her first husband acquired to give to her second husband and his daughter and other family members if my mother-in-law died first.

The whole affair sickens me, my wife and her sisters because the man, and sometimes only, man she praises in her life is her second husband, whose relatives stole half of their savings days after her second husband suffered a stroke one day and came back the next day to get the remaining $30,000.

So I beg, Joyce. Please, baby, don't do me that way. Always remember that I was your first love, the faithful, hard-working, loving father of our children, and the grandfather of our grandchildren. And if you marry again, make sure you marry somebody who has more money than you do. There are TOO MANY black women supporting black men who are good-for-nothing leeches, ingrates and deadbeats. Far, far too many!

I'm ol' school. If a man never thought enough for himself to get Jesus as his Savior, get a good education, a good job, make good money, save, get married, love his wife and children and help raised those kid, I, to be honest, don't have much respect at all for men living off of women because they are lazy and never grow up and assume responsibility for themselves and their family.

I don't want these guys as son-in-laws marrying my daughters or granddaughters and I sure don't want them likewise becoming husband to my widowed wife.

Things like this came to mind while I sat down writing our will. We're allowing for some money to go to my grandchildren. But it will only be for their education and they must be law-abiding, hard-working, serious-minded students, who are in good standing with some educational institution and maintaining a grade average no less than a C.

I pray that it will be a long time before our Will have to be opened up because one of us has died. But just in case, that Will makes sure our earthly affairs will be in order. Our heavenly affairs were taken care of long, log ago. Our final retirement in the cosmic condo of heaven is already paid up in full. Jesus paid it all. All to Him we owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. But He washed it white as snow.

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.

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

October 2010 is the previous archive.

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