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No New Heart For Me Under My Christmas Tree, So............

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God bless you.

This Christmas, we celebrated the birthday of Jesus Christ by giving money

to the church, to charities and individuals, by decorating a record three Christmas

trees in our home with thousands of light, including 1,000 LED white and blue

lights alone on the largest tree in the family room and a gaggle of presents under

the tree to exchange between our children and their children.

We sang and prayed before the kids opened their gifts. But by that time, my

wife Joyce and I knew that the most precious physical present we all, including

you, were hoping I'd receive was neither under the my figurative tree. There was

no new heart for me under my Christmas tree. So, I'll just keep on waiting and

praying.

On Nov. 16, after I had been elevated to No. 1 on the Mayo Clinic's heart

transplant list for B-positive blood types with big chests, I was told the chances

were around 70 percent that I would get a new heart by the end of the year.

After all, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where I am being treated,

had been averaging two heart transplant operations a month this year. So I felt

the numbers were in my favor to get a new heart sooner than later.

Unfortunately, the Mayo had limited my No. 1 status in the 1-A group to 30

days for two reasons. First, their policy guaranteed me that because my heart

was being sustained by a heart pump, technically described as a Heartmate II

Left-Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). Second, the Mayo rotates that 1-A status

between other LVAD patients suffering end-stage congestion heart failure just as

I am.

Although I badly need a new heart because it is my best chance for

long-term survival since my heart would be pumping at roughly 10 percent

efficiency without the pump, I am not in as dire straits as other patients with

failing hearts.

"If you were in worse health, you would remain at the top of the 1-A list," Jody

Hanson, the nurse case manager representing the cardiac surgeons and

cardiologists treating me in Rochester, "But you have been responding to the

pump exceptionally well. You are in much better shape than most LVAD patients

who are suffering end-stage congestive heart failure. So we have returned you

to the 1-B status where there is only one patient ahead of you."

In other words, in the last couple of weeks, I was dropped from being first

among those classified 1-A to second among those classified 1-B because that

other 1-B patient has been on the list longer.

"If your condition were to worsen, say, because of a pump malfunction,

your situation would be more urgent and you would be returned to the top of the

list," Hanson said.

But, until my condition worsens, other heart patients in worst shape with get

the 1-A classification. But when the next two hearts for B-positive blood types

become available, and there is no similar patient classified 1-A, then those hearts

will go to my current cardiac colleague and me.

Yes, I'm disappointed. When I was first placed on the Mayo Clinic's heart

transplant list on Nov. 15, 2009, I was told I should be getting a new heart within

months because of my rarer blood type. Unfortunately, I suffered a cadio-genic

on Jan. 11 that resulted in me spending 30 straight days in three different hospitals.

When I underwent open-heart surgery on Jan. 20 to have the heart pump

implanted to save my life, that assured me of not being eligible for another

open-heart surgery until I had spent three more months recovering from the

LVAD operation.

Obviously, My chances of receiving a new heart are still high since, as

of Christmas, there was only on patient ahead of me.

Joyce and I recently spent two weeks in Rochester, Minn., so that if a heart became

available I would be easily accessible. It was a boring stay plagued by a 17-inch

snowfall that resulted in me being stuck in the snow twice while going out to get some

food. But the most enjoyable part of a stay was my opportunity to sing Christmas

carols and other songs in the Mayo Clinic's giant atrium at the subway level. Jane Belau

was my pianist. She plays there every Monday and Thursday as part of her many

community service activities. I also joined some regulars who are Mayo employees, who

love to sing and who normally joins Belau to contribute beautiful music that also makes

for powerful medicine for all of us who are there, from all over the world, to receive

treatment for our assorted health challenges.


It would have been nice to celebrate Christmas with a new heart, which

is what we prayed for. But I'm still having a merry Christmas. Once again, my baby

daughter, Natasha Banks, flew up from Atlanta; My middle daughter Noelle came

over with her son. Caleb. And my oldest daughter, Nicole Chapman, came over

with her husband, Larry, and their children Lauren, David, Timothy and Nina.

We had a beautiful time celebrating during the day. Then at night, Joyce,

Natasha and I watched "It's A Wonderful Life," together, because that's my

favorite Christmas movie and because Natasha said she had never really seen

it before.

I warned Joyce and Natasha beforehand that I would cry at least four or

five times and to not make fun of me. Really. I've seen that movie maybe 100

times now, in black-and-white and in color, and I can't help but cry at the peak

scenes of sadness and gladness. Since no other movie moves me so deeply so

consistently, I guess I'd have to call "It's A Wonderful Life" my favorite movie of

all time.

Oh, I love "Gone With The Wind," "The 10 Commandments," "The

Greatest Story Ever Told," "Star Wars," "The Godfather," "Bladerunner,"

"Gadiator," "Raiders of the Lost Art," "Schindler's List," "Les Uns Et Les Autres,"

"Scarface," "Casablanca," "Lost Horizon" and so many, many more. But "It's

A Wonderful Life" is my favorite. And when I think of my life, my ups and downs,

on the whole, I can't complaint. Mine is not a perfect life, neither the worst nor

the best. But, thank God, it is a wonderful life.

God bless you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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2 Comments

Hello Rev. Lacy! What a great Christmas you enjoyed with your family, despite the absence of that special gift on that particular day. You do know that a desire deferred doesn't mean it is denied, just postponed according to God's timeframe. One thing that stood out for me in your latest post is the reason you were given for the slight shift in your status on the transplant list. As uncomfortable and inconvenient as it is to remain on the heart pump, it appears you are doing much better on it than perhaps was expected. I suppose that's small consolation in the grand scheme of your health situation and for your plan to retire after the transplant. Patience is perhaps that most difficult character trait to develop because it requires extreme periods of waiting under unfathomable circumstances, something most people if not all, are not adept at accomplishing and it's so out of sync with the hurry up and get it done world in which we live. As you always remind us, we continue to lean on and trust in the Master of Every One and Every Thing. Thank you for continuing to be an excellent example of leaning on and trusting in the Lord. My very sincere and heartfelt prayers for you, Joyce and your family to enjoy a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2011!
Marie

BANKS' RESPONSE: Invaluable. Impeccable. Ever-inspiring. These are just a few of the ways I can describe your timely testaments. They feed me. They lead me. They seed me. You refuse to allow my garden to fall barren as has countless scorched earths of history. Voltaire urged us all to cultivate our gardens. Then as we grow in wisdom and knowledge and in favor with God and man, we also learn that if we want to vouchsafe the cultivation of our persons gardens, we must help cultivate the gardens of others. Yes, we are our brother's and our sister's keepers. no man is an island. No man stands alone Each man's joy is joy to me. Each man's grief is my own. We need one another. So I will defend (and I upgrade the finish of this great poem) each man and woman as my brother and sister ,and each man and woman as my friend.

Well, Lacy, I decided to start 2011 out with doing something creative, like writing. I am sorry that you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas, and even sorrier to see that my skills as a prognosticator need so much refining. I will now predict that by Valentine's Day - the day in which hearts play such a predominate role - you'll have a new heart. Or maybe by Dr. King's Day, because he had so much heart. I can just keep predicting holidays, and eventually I have to be right.

I start this new year as one of the 99ers who have lost unemployment benefits. Although I currently exist on nothing but the generosity of others, and I've lost all hope, I haven't lost faith. The Italians have an old saying: "The man who lives only by hope, dies with despair." So, as I felt the last vestiges of hope dying out at the end of the year, I switched over, like a hybrid car switching from electric to gas, from hope to faith. I remembered again from whence I came and peace came upon me, for I realized that I can afford to expect good results from my efforts. Having moved the cloud of aimless hope from my vision, I could see clearly to make a new plan in which faith guides my actions and gives me the confidence to ask for what I need and to receive it. I am in recovery from the effects of two years of unemployment. I expect a full recovery at that.

Like you, I watched It's a Wonderful Life this year - I usually see it twice each year. I don't claim any one favorite film - I spent yesterday watching The Godfather and then The Godfather Part II - but if someone were to insist that I pick only one, I'd choose Wonderful Life, which I consider to be a terribly underrated film. It is much more complex and darker than a lot of people - especially those who haven't watched the film - realize. But, at the same time, it is filled with classic moments and an irresistible warmth and sense of encouragement. It is a message of pure karma - what goes down comes round - as George, seemingly in free-fall into tragedy, sees the seeds of love he has planted bloom. And the central notion that one person's life touches so many others has never been addressed with more grace and humor. Whoever it was who neglected to renew the copyright on that film, allowing it to fall into public domain and, therefore, be discovered by so many so often, really did the world a service.

The message of that film will stand for all time and will mean something to all people. We get out of the world what we put in, even if it takes awhile, even if we have to march hip-deep through the mud of sorrows first. If we just keep marching, we'll get there. If we just keep planting good things, we'll reap them. If we realize that each of us has the power to touch others with good or bad, we'll choose good and that will be what our world will reflect. And, if those of us with broken hearts or empty wallets can remember that our suffering is not in vain, that it speaks to others as well as ourselves, we can continue in faith and know that, sooner or later, one way or another, these things will pass.

I wish you and yours a happy 2011, the year of healing.

BANKS' RESPONSE: I totally agree with everything you wrote about "It's A Wonderful Life." It is a film of profound prophecy, past, present and future. Greed. Greed. Greed. It has been the main origin of collective agony and eventual carnage throughout human history. It's the greed at the top that trickles down to the sufferings of you and me and the majority of humanity. I've it before and I'll say it again. Your continued unemployment is an egregious obscenity and a capital indictment against the so-called American system. The ranks of the unemployed are increasing astronomically because of the senseless, ruthless greed of the Potters of the world. I believe that there is enough money and mentality of America, the richest country in the world, for every citizen to have a job and all the other basic ingredients of life, liberty and the acquisition, but just the pursuit, of happiness. The wantonness of the wicked in high places is recycled again and again, resulting in the fall of empire after empire. History repeats itself again and again and mankind seems to learn little, if anything, from the horrors of the past. I remain in prayerful exchange, encouragement and best riches with you, a symbol of all that is going wrong with our great nation. Now that the people who caused some of our worst economic nightmares are back in power, expect to see and suffer more and more Potter peril. More and more of this world's best wealthy and health is being concentrated in fewer and fewer people. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul. The population of those who glory in the gory is multiplying exponentially. Heaven help us. Let us continue to hold out hope for one another until our savior Jesus Christ returns for His church. In the meantime, let us never cease to believe and evolve into knowledge that if we have not a mustard seed-sized portion of pure faith in Jesus, we can transfer that through ourselves and move the mightiest of mountains.

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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.

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This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on December 26, 2010 10:27 AM.

Faith In God is Lightening The Weight of Waiting was the previous entry in this blog.

A Year Ago Today I almost died. But Thank God, I'm Still Alive. is the next entry in this blog.

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