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