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A Year Ago Today I almost died. But Thank God, I'm Still Alive.

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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.

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What a Mighty God we serve! Often I have to be reminded of this so I'm going to remind you...God has the plan, He made the promise...let Him handle it. We are so blessed, our Gracious Father loves us so much, in spite of us. It's 21 degrees out this a.m. and I don't even have to go out in it. I am blessed, I am warm and my God loves me. Just think, in the wink of an eye you can just rattle off blessings. Those of us who love you and your family and try our best to keep track of you, pray for your continued strength, llift your family up in prayer continually and see our prayers being answered. Together now...Just because He let you be a conductor on His train, He did not ask you be the engineer nor set the route.

BANKS' RESPONSE: For He knows, I'm so glad He knows, just how much we can bear. His blessings so overwhelm us, we can't begin to count them or even conceive them. His blessing us began million of years before we were born so that we would be born and survive the cradle. Then He blesses us to be born, whether healthy or unhealthy, whether rich or poor, whether black or black, whether in hostile territory or peaceful environment, it's just good to be alive for however long. That is a testament to the priceless wonder of life. I learned long, long ago not to even ever try to get into the counting game with God. He gives us more than we could ever know before birth, during life and after death. When we are aware of that, we realize that no matter how terrible the times we may go through, God always leaves us with more pluses than minuses, more blessings to be thankful for that bad times to be mad, feel sad or bad about. Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good. His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations. Of taste and see that the Lord is good. Yes, sisters and brothers, even in bad times, God is still good. His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures through all generations. I appreciate your continued prayers of faith. Prayers of the righteous availeth much, but the prayers of the righteous are also becoming fewer and fewer because more and more people are refusing to prayer for anything or for anybody or even for themselves. They refuse to pray because they don't believe in God, They think it's useless. But when you get right down to it, they don't pray because they believe that there a god, who is The Lord strong and mighty, who hears and answers prayers. And if they dare to try to believe He answers prayer, they demand that He answers them the way they want them answered and when they want them answered. They want to be like some kind of mythical genie they have rubbed out of some magical lamp to grant them three or more wishes that will be granted in full. But know that the Lord, He is God. It is he that hath made us and not we ourselves.

Resurrected a year ago and still alive! How fortunate you are!

I often wonder how false information gets disseminated, without first being verified. But, who am I to question people who have jobs when I don't.

Your post today touched me very personally, as I am, currently, dead in the water, so to speak - out of unemployment benefits, out of money, and still out of work. I've never felt quite so invisible as I do right now. Resumes don't get answered, calls don't get returned. It's as if I no longer exist.

But, faith endures. I don't know why, but I still have the undeniable feeling that all is well. There are things going on of which I'm not yet aware. I don't know what God knows. So, I abide in faith. And I understand that I can only do what I can and the rest is out of my hands.

So, we each have one more day in which we can do what we can do and be grateful for the moment. In light of what recently happened in Tucson, it's my opinion that each one of us should be in a constant dazzlement of surprise that we've made it this far and start valuing our time more. That's what I plan to do.

Thanks for the reminder.

BANKS' RESPONSE: In my opinion, you are the real hero of this blog. You are the growing face of American labor. Increasing joblessness, and I'm talking joblessness of pestilential proportion, is the present curse of America. Joblessness, and its resulting stress, tension, anxiety and hopelessness, is causing nervous breakdowns, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks and rage. You are the poster man of American perils. Your situation mirrors the state of millions. Like you, many people are taking this challenge quietly with faith in God, faith in this country and faith in themselves. But more and more are not. They organize political parties with the revolutionary mantra of "fighting to take back America." Your joblessness is a ubiquitous obscenity. In environments like this, evil forces like Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party come to power after tapping into the terrible anguish and anger of the masses. They assure you that they have a cure for your ails. They blame these problems of "big government" or charge that government, with its taxes, is oppressing the masses. I know the horrors of unemployment. I was once fired by this very paper for charging racial discrimination and refusing to recant it and apologize for my charges. I was out of work for 13 months and all kinds of evils thought visited me. I thought of venting my anger with violence against the people who caused my firing. I was visited by temptations to try to drink my problems away. I thought of joining the Black Muslims. I even thought of killing myself because I didn't feel like a man, didn't feel like a husband, didn't feel like a father, didn't feel like a human being. Over those 13 months, I became a social leper and our bank account and unemployment checks had run out and we were planning to move out of our Hype Park apartment in an integrated, peaceful community and ove into public housing. But faith in GOD, and patience to wait on the Lord, sustained me through that odious ordeal. I prayed and I fasted through my terrible temptations. I can't deny the pain and the embarrassment. I was a college graduate. I was a Vietnam veteran. I was a preacher. I was a proud worker. I was a trail blazer in racial diversity as the first reporter to be hired by the Kansas City Star, the Indianapolis Star, and the first black sports reporter to be hired by the Chicago Sun-Times. No black writer has worked for the Sun-Times as long as I have. This is my 39th year. I fear for America, John. I fear and grieved for hungry unemployed like you, people starving for a job and eventually starving for bread. Millions of American jobs have been exported to China and other foreign countries to prey on cheap labor at the expense of destroying the American working man. Millions of those same jobs will never return to America. My 13 months of unemployment had a happy ending as God blessed me to win my arbitration hands-down and my boss and the paper were found guilty of discrimination. The arbitrator directed the paper to give me back my job, my beat in the sports department and 13 months of back pay. As a proof of my faith that God would bless me to win back my job, during those 13 months, I refused to cash my severance check of $2,700. I returned that check to the paper and it returned some $27,000 of back pay. My trials weren't over. For more than a year, I was humiliated by being forced to just answer the phone and do copy boy work as the paper tried to frustrate me into quitting. I was called "nigger" and "stupid black SOB" by a couple of co-worker. I knew I would never find a job in a predominately white company where racial discrimination would not exist. Don't fool yourself. It still exists today. But I knew that it would be much more difficult to get a decent job as a black man who charged my bosses with racial discrimination. I had to take my case to the federal court because the paper had violated the collective bargaining agreement to abide by the binding ruling or arbitration. The federal court also ruled in my favor and I was returned to my beats of covering the Bulls and writing a weekly column. But since that labor tragedy of mine 34 years ago, I have enjoyed the best days of my life working for the Sun-Times. Since then, I have worked for the best bosses and worked with the best people in the world. To work with quintessential reporters like Roger Ebert ( Love that genius to death partly because he inspired me more than any other person), Bob Greene, Jack Griffin, Edger Munzel, Irv Kupcinet, Tom Fitzpatrick, Mary Mitchell, Bill Adee, Stu Courtney, Mark Brown, Fran Spielman, Albert Dickens, Elliot Harris, Chris DeLuca, Rick Tellender, Mike Royko, John Jackson, Herb Gould, Len Zhiem, Toni Ginnetti, Jim O'Donald, Carol Spezek, Taylor Bell, Bob Pille, Richard Roper, Stella Foster, Rev. Jesse Jackson, John White, Bob Black, Bob Richards, Phil Hersh, Bob oille, Dave Manthy, J. A. Adande, Vernon Jarrett, Leon Pitts, Lu Palmer, Don Snider, Ellis Cose, Betty Washington, Toby Roberts and so many, many more is the stuff of dreams. Yes, I enjoy the ecstasy of having a job and I've suffered the agony of being unemployed. I applaud your faith, John. I I applaud your willingness to wait upon the Lord. I assure you that although weeping endures for a night, joy cometh in the morning. Hold on and hope on. Above all else, below all else, beyond all else, and in spite of all else, hold on to God's unchanging hand. These words and my continued prayers are really the very, very best that or anybody else can give you. They sustained and rewarded me. They will sustain and reward you if you keep the faith. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. But in all things, acknowledge Him and He will direct thy path.

Dear Rev. Banks,

When I heard about your blog I knew I had to write and offer my support.

My husband had CHF as well. Like yourself, he had successful bypass surgery and was fine until 2006 when he had a 2nd heart attack after he developed a fast heart rate and they attempted an angioplasty to spare him from a 2nd bypass operation. That's when he developed the heart failure. He went from 185 lbs to 134 lbs. and he was 6'0. He went to the hospital in September of 2009 for a Heartmate II but sadly, he never got the LVAD and he died 3 days before the surgery. He also had prostate cancer, which I think partly contributed to why he went downhill so fast.

I read most of your blog, and I could not believe all of the ups and downs that you have been through, from your brain tumor to your prostate cancer, to hearing the false news about losing your job and health benefits when you needed them most! It was just unbelievable to me that someone put you through all that. And then I read about your ups and downs about being on the transplant list.

Sometimes it's so hard to have faith that things will work out when there are so many obstacles. But I believe that God knows what He's doing. You never know--maybe the heart that you thought you would get wouldn't have been the best match for you-- it might even have been a blessing in disguise. I think the hardest thing to do is to hand everything over to God--for better or for worse. And I struggle with that a lot lately. My life has changed so much since my husband died, financially and otherwise.

I just want you to know that I am going to keep you in my prayers that everything will work out and that you will find a heart, that your surgery will be successful, and that you will be able to enjoy your retirement with your wife. You are so blessed to have her there beside you to help you through all this.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Dear Margaret, your comment was so dynamic, so heart-touching and so sad. Obviously, you had kept up with my blogs so that you explain so clearly and eloquently the troubles I've been through and am going through. What amazed me most is how your husband's situations were so, so similar to my own, right down the line, with the exception of my cancerous brain tumor that was quickly diagnosed as benign and with the exceptions of heart attacks I did not have until I suffered that cardio-genic shock that almost cost me my life. It is so eerie. And there he was hoping to get that life-saving LVAD (Left-Ventricuar Assist Device) to give him more chances to live and more chances to bring his prostate cancer into sufficient remission to become a heart transplant candidate. I appreciate your encouraging words. I pray God grant you full recovery from the sad event that wounded your heart and soul time and time again. I pray that God also increase your faith in Him and His joy in you because the joy of the Lord is our strength. I, too, pray so often for an increase in faith and patience. I've been trying to do my best and am resigned to let God do the rest. I also accept that the bottom line is that God's kingdom come and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God bless you, Margaret. I grieve for you loss and how its has devastated you. But all things, ALL THINGS!!!, work together for good to them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Continue, please continue, to trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. But in all things, acknowledge Him and He will direct thy path. Walk on, Marget, by faith and not by sight each day of your life.

Hi Rev,
It’s good to know that you are keeping track of the milestones in your journey toward healing on THIS side. As you know, I’ve been following your blog for a while, but I still enjoyed reading your carefully and skillfully crafted synopsis of your journey thus far. It serves as a reminder for those who’ve read from the beginning and a catch-up for more recent readers.
Your recent entry brought something very interesting to my attention. It is the fact that we rarely recognize that throughout our lives, we have a lot of “birth” days in addition to the one we typically celebrate, the one in which we came out of our mother’s womb. From our first cry through the usual first year of firsts, then our school years, young adulthood, burgeoning careers and beginning families, a lifetime of events mark unique new birth days in our lives.
Those of us with spiritual beliefs recall the birth day on which we made the commitment to a particular religious belief. Christians, as perhaps those of other faiths, experience many re-births in Christ over the course of our journey with Him. Such milestones represent birth days in the adventure toward becoming more Christ like and more reflective of His image and invitation to a dying world. They represent moments when our lives are truly transformed by some small and some great realizations of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us. So far the greatest birth day for me has been recognizing that He can indeed use someone so unworthy like me to make a difference in this world.
So, your recognition of January 11, 2010 as the day you almost died and January 11, 2011 as the first anniversary of the day that Jesus said “Oh no, Lacy Banks WILL live!” is an awesome event and certainly worth recognizing. It motivates me to spend more time in relationship with God, thinking about and appreciating my own birth days.
God bless you, Marie

BANKS' RESPONSE: As always, your comments are very uplifting to the heavy-hearted as well as the light-hearted. You know how to say things that address the core of people's needs. You possess a perception that is quite, quite penetrating. Your wonderful words are like heat-seeking missiles. They hone in on your reader's hurts and heal them. I am honored for my blog to be a platform for the eloquent, articulate, poetic and prophetic likes of you and John, Marcia, Gwen and so many. many more. People like you make my blog a joy to read. So many of our fellowmen and fellowwomen are being held hostages by the horrors of life's many adversities. They need a lift. Their rescue may be a kind word, a prayer, a pat on the back, a smile or a best wish shy of freeing them. Speaking of birthdays, we Baptists have a saying that our mothers can tell us about our first births, but we have to tell them about our second. These comments of yours are the most spiritual so far. They inspire those who have been born just once to be born once more,A.K.A., again. Our Savior Jesus Christ told a self-righteous Pharisee named Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again." Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher sent from God for no man can do the miracles that You are doing except he be sent from God." Not that Jesus did not appreciate Nicodemus' flattery and praise. But Jesus knew that Nicodemus came tp Him to do more than just sugar Jesus' tea. Jesus X-rayed Nicodemus' heart, mind and soul and instantly concluded that this justice of the mighty Sanhedrin court came seeking. Nicodemus came because he knew that he could get more from Jesus than he could give back. So rather than let Nicodemus beat around the bush, Jesus saved a lot of Nicodemus' precious after-hours time by telling him that the vacuums and voids he was looking to fill, the thirsts that he was looking to quench and the hungers that he was looking to satisfy were wrapped up in his being born again. But reborn of the spirit and of the fire of the Holy Ghost through faith, repentance, submission and baptism of the water and of the fire. Nicodemus asked for a biological explanation for the scientific absurdity of a grown man entering into his mother's womb a second time to be pulled out again. This violated the laws of nature, the laws of physics, the laws of medicine, the laws of geometry and trigonometry. But rather than give Nicodemus a biological answer, He gave him a theological answer when He said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh. And that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I say unto thee, ye MUST be born AGAIN!" As such, Jesus gave Nicodemus maximum bang for his buck. He offered Nicodemus forgiveness for his sins, salvation for his soul, life for his death and heaven instead of the hell toward which Nicodemus and all unrepenting and unbelieving sinners are headed. So when Jesus opened the doors of the church right there in, perhaps, that ally, Nicodemus joined as a candidate for baptism, the right hand of fellowship and all the perks of God's grace, which is sufficient to supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory . Watch out, now!!! 'Cause here comes the Holy Ghost!!! I can't say it any better than Jesus said it, and neither can anybody else. To you who have been trying to make it through on your own knowledge, your own skills, your own physical powers, your own fame and fortune, your own pride and philosophy, if you want to maximize the value of your earthly life by trading it in for eternal life, marvel now that I also say unto thee, ye MUST be BORN again. You have to have faith, or total trust, in Jesus. You have to repent of your sins. And you got to confess Jesus as Lord AND Savior. And when you do that, you can obtain the staying power that Marie has to soldier her through her trials and tribulations. you can have the positive patience and hope of John (the) Powers (that be). You can have the the joy of Marcia. You can enjoy Gwen's sweet fellowship with Jesus. You can receive the same fire of the Holy Ghost that makes Donna Pittman sometimes act like she ain't got no sense.

God Bless you! Get well soon. Thanks for sharing your Personal Experience. Keep continue to share new updates!!

BANKS; RESPONSE: Thanks for reading this blog and for taking time to extend your best wishes. God bless 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.

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This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on January 11, 2011 11:55 AM.

No New Heart For Me Under My Christmas Tree, So............ was the previous entry in this blog.

Getting A Heart Pump And Living A Tethered Life Are Better Than Death is the next entry in this blog.

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