Chicago Sun-Times
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January 2011 Archives

God bless you.
A year ago today, after suffering a cardio genic shock that almost killed me, I underwent open-heart surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where chief cardiac surgeon, Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, implanted a heart pump to save my life and sustain me until I get a new heart.
It hasn't been fun living a tethered life.
By day, I'm powered by batteries whose electrical current is channeled by a system controller through a drive line that goes through my chest area into the Heartmate II, which does the pumping my diseased heart can no longer do sufficiently to keep me alive.
At night when I bed down, I change from the batteries, that are carried in a vest, to household current. To make that transition, I disconnect from the 18-inch-long cables connected to the batteries and reconnect to 15-foot-long cables drawing the power from a power console plugged into the wall to access AC current. Heaven helps me if there is a widespread, extended electrical blackout.
My batteries weigh roughly three pounds each and run for 12 hours before requiring recharged batteries. I've had to purchase huge shirts to wear over my medical machinery so that people don't mistake me for a terrorist because batteries are pretty much strapped to my sides. When you see me wearing the system controller and batteries, I can look rather armed and extremely dangerous.
I certainly have to conceal them especially when I board a plane.
The batteries afford me pretty much unlimited mobility, except for things like taking baths, swimming or sitting in a sauna, as long as they are charged. But the night cables restrict me to a range of 15 feet from my bed.
Yes, living a tethered life isn't fun. In fact, it is downright boring and frustrating. But it's better than the death I almost suffered.
I spent 30 days spitting time between three hospitals. I was placed on life support twice. And I remember clearly what I firmly believe was imminent death. I saw angels. No, not the kind normally depicted in human form, wearing wings and halos. Rather, what I saw looked like transparent dragonflies or small propeller-driven airplanes zoomed all around the room I was in.
I wondered why those around me weren't trying to shoo away these flying objects. I wanted to tell people around me what I was seeing. But I couldn't because I had a breathing tube stuffed down my throat. I experienced both feelings of fear and happiness. Fear that I was dying with extending proper goodbyes to my family and happiness because I would soon be seeing Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior.
Only after I fell into a coma did I cease seeing these "angels?" For or five days before I left the hospital last Feb. 5, I was so weak that I could not scoop down or up in my bed. Nurses had to come move me into a comfortable position. Sometimes, I'd have to push that emergency button again and again before anybody came to ease my discomfort.
I could not even sit up on my own. So, obviously, I could neither stand nor walk either. So whenever I had to use the toilet, I had to do so into a bedpan the nurses slip under me and I can think of nothing more uncomfortable.
Pain killer was my round-the-clock menu until I stopped hurting and realize I was too weak to move on my own or even feed myself.
I have been blessed to return to work and also to preach from time to time. And I'm talking about preaching with power.
Now, I'm waiting for a new heart. That isn't easy either because of the medicines, roughly 20 pills I still have to take, some with very irritating and painful side effects. The water pills frequently give me the gout, which I have suffered in every joint of my body. And the gout forces me to take indomethcin, a medication that is harmful to my kidneys.
Then there is my blood thinner that keeps my blood from clotting and causing me to have a potential deadly stroke. That medicine occasionally results in torrential nosebleeds and also results in blood in my stool. Now, Mayo has placed my candidacy on hold until I undergo a colonoscopy to rule out any emergence of colon cancer.
After suffering the agony of being diagnosed with a brain tumor and after enduring the pain of prostate cancer and radiation seeds implantation, the last thing I need is to be dismissed from the heart transplant list by colon cancer or any other serious health issue. I undergo the colonoscopy, an out-patient procedure, next week.
Yes, I'm blessed and glad to be alive and not in any significant, ongoing pain. From the very start, I placed everything in God's hands. I pray that His healing will be made manifest in my flawed flesh. I'm doing my best and trusting God for the rest. There is only much that I can do or control. But God has all power in His hand. And the bottom line and every Christian's prayer is that God's kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
God bless you.

God bless you.
Today, Jan. 11, 2011, is the one-year anniversary of the day I was rushed to the hospital by para-medics and almost died.
It's good to remember the good and the bad of the past. It is said that if you can remember where you came from, there is no limit to where you can go.
It is also said that he who forgets the mistakes of his past is bound to repeat them.
One thing I don't want to ever repeat is that fateful Jan. 11, 2010. It started a 30-day hospital stay, during which I was revived by defibrillator paddles, placed on three-day life support twice . Then on Jan. 29, I had to undergo open-heart surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam implanted a heart pump (Heartmate II) to save my life and keep me alive until I can get new heart.
I have been on the Mayo Clinic's heart transplant list for 14 months now. During December, my hopes were high because I was the only patient classified 1A, the Mayo's highest classification, for one month because I am LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) recipient and have B-poisitive blood.
I was told there was a 75 percent chance that I would get a heart during that period. Unfortunately, none became available in Mayo's Midwest region. So I was returned to 1-B status, where only one patient is ahead of me.
The Mayo performed a heart transplant on a patient in mid-Decmber, just three weeks ago. But that patient was no B-positive blood type. So I couldn't have gotten it.
At the time I am writing this entry, at 11:00 a.m. today (Jan. 11 2011), it was the same time a year ago when I received a telephone call from Sheri Stokes, my benefits specialist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, telling me that as of Dec. 31, 2009, my health coverage and my 37-year employment at the Sun-Times had been terminated.
"What!" I responded. "Are you sure? This can't be because nobody has informed me of this or even told me this was scheduled to happen."
I knew the Sun-Times was laying off people. But it had not informed me that I was one of them.
Stokes assured me that she had been so informed. I told her I had to confirm this, as news reporters are conditioned to do in my trade, before I said or did anything else.
But after we ended the call, I was scared, frustrated, confused, pained and angry. I had been on the heart transplant list less that two month and am still fighting prostate cancer. So the worst news somebody in my position can get is that he, or she, instantly had no job and no affordable group health insurance coverage.
So I got on the telephone and frantically tried to reach somebody on my job to confirm what I had just been told. I called Albert Dickens, the sports department's executive assistant and records administrator. He said he knew nothing about this.
I called payroll and they assured me I was still getting paid and that my health insurance premium was also being paid out of my paychecks.
I called my boss, Chris DeLuca, the people in Sun-Times Human Resources, Jeannie Smyers and Barbara Ercoli, my union reps Bob Mazzoni and Misha Davenport and none of them were in.
Then before I could call anybody else, I started suffering chest pains and shortness of breath.
"How can this all happened like this," I thought. "Here I am on the heart transplant list and fighting prostate cancer and I've lost my job and my health insurance."
So I called my wife, Joyce, at work, and told her what I had heard, how I had been trying to confirm it and how I suddenly felt chest pains and shortness of breath. I was familiar with shortness of breath because I was an end-stage congestion heart failure patient. That's one of the primary symptoms and I been rushed to the hospital before to receive diuretics through I-V, so that I could urinate to release the excess fluids that had backed up into my lungs and were causing me to drown in slow motion,
But the chest pains commanded greater concern because I had never suffered a heart attack. So the para-medic came to my house, helped me into the ambulance and rushed me to South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. When I got there, my heart was pumping at the speed of 155 a minutes and rising. They had to put me under and use defibrillator paddles to revive me and stabilize my heart rhythm.
That evening, I was transferred to Northwestern hospital, where I stayed and received treatment for two weeks to determine whether I needed a heart pump or a new heart first. After they told me that if they performed either, I would have to instantly retire, never drive again and have a caregiver with me around the clock, I call the UCMC, where Dr. Jeevanandam had performed a triple bypass on me on Feb. 14, 2001.
When the UCMC assured me that, after recovery, I could eventually work again, drive again and not require a caretaker to be with me 24/7, I chose to have the UCMC continue my care. Because of my prostate cancer, which was in remission, the UCMC said it could not consider me to be a heart transplant candidate on their list until I had been cancer-free for five years.
What they could offer me was an LVAD, which I needed desperately, given the uncertainty of heart transplant availability. So I received the heart pump on Jan. 29 and I was released from the hospital on Feb. 10, 2010.
In November of last year, the Mayo Clinic concluded that because they felt my prostate cancer was in sufficient remission, and that since my brain tumor had been declared benign, I qualified for their heart transplant list and they placed me on it.
Since then, I have been waiting to get a new heart, to change my insurance coverage to Medicare being a primary carrier and to start getting my pension, which has been hostage by the government for seven months after the government took over the plan because our paper was in bankruptcy.
I want to retire as soon as possible. I was hoping to retire two months ago. But that was because I had hoped to receive my new heart and my pension by that time. I would have been in perfect condition to do so. But that has not been the case.
In my condition, for me to lose my job, my group health insurance coverage and still be without my pension, would amount to a death sentence. I could endure these other problems if I were healthy. Clearly, I am not. This is a well-documented fact.
Yes, today is an anniversary of agony and anguish. But thank God, that that Jan. 11 false news did not kill me and I was assured by the Sun-Times that it was false before I was released from the hospital.
To this day, nobody wants to claim responsibility for that misinformation. I have my suspicions, I have lawyers helping me sort this out and we have some evidence to justify make charges. But that is not my present priority.
Most of all, I thank God that I'm still here. I'm alive and reasonably functional to continue working, though at a slower pace and reduced load.
Thank you, Jesus, for sustaining me.
And thank you readers for your continued prayers.
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 January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

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