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Getting A Heart Pump And Living A Tethered Life Are Better Than Death

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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.

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Dear Rev.
Oh dear, that roller coaster has taken another frightening dive (colonoscopy) before you even had a chance to completely catch your breath from being bumped from Mayo's top spot. Never an easy ride to fight for one's life and health, but certainly not along this stretch. May God send His most powerful angels to support, guide and protect you until the ride returns again to it's upward thrust.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Yes, Marie, life indeed is like a roller-coaster ride with its frustrating ups and downs and wicked swerves to the left and right. But thank God for Jesus. We can do all things through Him. And as long as we stay close to Him, we're safe and secure because He is PARADISE. He promised never to leave us, too. He assured us of that when He said, "And lo, I am with you always. Even unto the end of the world."

Mr. Banks,
I hope that you are still on the waiting list for a new heart, and you were not disqualified for a transplant because of the colonoscopy. You have a wonderful attitude about the waiting, and that will really help you on your transplant journey. I hope that you receive your gift of life with a new heart soon.
I am also writing to you because I would like to reprint part of your latest blog message in a newsletter. I am the editor of the newsletter for OTS, the Organ Transplant Support group in Chicago. OTS is a non-profit organization that provides support and education to transplant recipients and their families in Chicago. We have a bi-monthly newsletter that is mailed to 1,200 members. I would like to reprint part of your latest blog message in the March issue of the OTS newsletter. We have many members who are also waiting for a transplant, and I know that your optimistic attitude will be a powerful message for others. I would certainly include your name and the name of your blog with the article. I would like your permission to reprint part of your Jan. 29 blog in the OTS newsletter. Please contact me at my email address ( if you have any questions about this request. You can also check the website for more information about this organization. thank you, Carol Olash

BANKS' RESPONSE: By all means, Carol. Feel free to extract and reprint any portion, or portions, of my blog as long as you attribute the comments to me and to THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. I never meant, and the paper never meant, for this blog to be some private club or network "for members only." I have a message for the world and I want this blog to remain a global message because there are millions of patients around the world on waiting lists for life-saving organ transplants. In countries lacking this sophisticated medical technology, patients are transported, with help from others, to countries where they can receive such health care. So, spread the word. I'd be honored to be a part of your needful newsletter, which is committed to the same thing I am.

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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.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on January 29, 2011 5:14 AM.

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

Waiting Can Be Fun When You Have A Healer Like My God is the next entry in this blog.

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