Eveline and Rafe Ledford 1989
Rafe Ledford is a 69-year-old retired Navy machinist and marine sheetmetal
worker who lives in beautiful Port Orchard, Washington. When he retired
in 1993 he looked forward to the peace and quiet of this rural setting.
For over thirty years his ears had been filled with the banging, clanging,
drilling, and pounding that was blasted out non-stop at the Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.
Rafe spent his entire life working on equipment, metal, and machinery.
He served his country in the United States Navy from 1958 to 1962. As
a navy machinist he spent his hours below decks in the machinery spaces
of military ships, including the USS
Bryce Canyon (AD-36) and USS
Upon his honorable discharge he went to work at the Puget Sound shipyard
where he worked on the construction, repairs and overhauls of navy vessels.
"The noise, the dirt, the grime…I loved my job but sometimes
I really looked forward to the end of my shift."
For all of his efficiency and skill with the tools of a mechanic, Rafe
loves the outdoors. He is a man of the woods, an avid camper, hunter,
and fisherman. Every fall, he looked forward to heading up into the hills
of Eastern Washington to hunt for deer and elk. Even if he never knocked
one down or even glassed one, just being in the woods with his buddies
was reward enough. Rafe laughs, though, and adds, "I never came home
without any meat!"
In retirement, he and his wife Eveline enjoyed traveling in their motor
home. Since his retirement, he has driven across country twice. They also
spend time enjoying their seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
It's no exaggeration to say that retirement was everything it was cracked
up to be, until the spring of 2006.
In February of that year Rafe began to experience shortness of breath and
slight pain on the right side of his chest. He was unable to work in his
yard without stopping to catch his breath. He thought he was suffering
from the flu and so did his doctors. He was prescribed antibiotics but
his symptoms did not improve.
On May 10, he met with his doctor at the Harrison Memorial Hospital in
Bremerton, Washington. Several chest films were taken along with a CT
scan. The films revealed a large right-sided pleural effusion. His doctor
wanted to remove the fluid.
On May 12, Rafe underwent a thoracentesis at Harrison Memorial. The surgeon
removed 450 ml of fluid. After a pathologist examined the fluid, the cytology
report noted benign mesothelial macrophages.
On May 24, Rafe returned to his doctors for a follow-up. Upon examination,
the doctors found diminished breathing capacity in the right lung. They
recommended he see a thoracic surgeon for consideration of a video-assisted
On May 26, Rafe underwent a second thoracentesis. The cytology was again
negative, which lead his physicians to believe that Rafe was suffering
from "asbestos pleuritis versus early mesothelioma." Rafe was
advised he should undergo video-assisted thoracic surgery with possible
On June 8, Rafe was scheduled to undergo a right lateral thoracotomy, multiple
pleural biopsies, and partial decortication. The doctor hoped to perform
an open biopsy and attempted a video-assisted thoracic surgery, but due
to a dense parietal adhesion the surgeon was unable to insert the camera,
and altered the procedure to an anterolateral thoracotomy.
Rafe remained in the hospital until June 20. During that time he developed
a persistent air leak that later healed. His chest tube was removed and
he had no difficulty eating or breathing. Rafe was released to his family,
instructed to not engage in vigorous activities, and best of all, to remove
his chest tube bandage in 48 hours.
Rafe and Eveline "on the road"
On June 16, the examination of the biopsied tissue revealed stage II epithelial
mesothelioma. On June 27, Rafe began to experience shortness of breath
and was rushed to the emergency room. He was in new onset atrial fibrillation
and was treated with Coumadin. A CT angiogram showing swollen lymph nodes
in the central chest cavity. He was treated and sent home.
On June 28, Rafe was ready to discuss the diagnosis with his doctors. They
explained the laboratory results from the thoracotomy revealed the extensive
spread of the epithelial mesothelioma into the visceral and parietal pleura,
the lung parenchyma, and the pericardial tissue. Using an iron stain,
the laboratory detected asbestos bodies.
Surgery was ruled out, so Rafe met with an oncologist for evaluation as
to possible palliative chemotherapy.
From July of 2006 to February of 2007, Rafe completed eleven rounds of
Alimta with Cisplatin. Since that time has returned for CAT scans every
When he was diagnosed, Rafe admits he felt "as low as I have ever
felt in life. My outlook of life has really changed, and it's not
getting any better. It's one of these deals that I know what's
going to happen, but when, I have no idea. As far as I know, there's
only one person that does."
Rafe says, "It's really affected us because in the last year we've
not been able to do what we wanted to do; that is, to travel or go places,
because doctors' appointments and stuff has kept us within the area
quite frequently." He continues "We're not able to do stuff
with the kids that we'd done before, and the grandkids seem to be
taking it in stride, but I don't know about the great-grandkids. They're
too young to know what's going on."
Rafe is very concerned about Eveline and the family. He is worried the
mesothelioma will eventually split apart the family. "Whenever the
kids had something go wrong in their life they came to me, who they go
to afterwards, I don't know."
*** POSTED NOVEMBER 9, 2007 ***