Charles 'Wayne' Lenhart
All-State Halfback, Oklahoma
Wayne Lenhart is a 64 year-old retired sheetmetal worker and small business
owner who was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in September
of 2000. He and his wife Pat reside in Irvine, California. As the pictures
on this page illustrate, mesothelioma has waged a painful war against
Wayne's body. His weight has dropped from 180 to 140 pounds. But despite
the daily assault, Wayne is fighting back. As he says, with a fierceness
in his eyes that dispels any hint of joking around: "I come from
a long line of fighters. We don't quit."
In 1955, Wayne left Oklahoma to come to work in Los Angeles. He left behind
a promising football career. Wayne was an all-state halfback and star
sprinter, clocking a best of 9.9 seconds in the 100 yard dash -- which
is blazing even by today's standards. Football opened many doors for
Wayne. In his senior year, he was offered scholarships from 22 major NCAA
schools, including the University of Oklahoma. As much as he loved sports,
Wayne had a more important calling. He married his high school sweetheart
and they moved to Los Angeles to raise their child.
Wayne joined the Sheetmetal Workers union upon arrival. When the scouts
at the University of Southern California heard that Wayne was in town,
they beat a hasty path to his door, hoping to make him a Trojan. The offers
were tempting, but in the end Wayne heard the call of duty. Work before
play. Family first. Pay your own way. No shortcuts.
Over the next 30 plus years, Wayne helped build hundreds if not thousands
of buildings, including airports, courthouses, skyrises, hotels, industrial
plants, shopping malls, hospitals, schools and colleges. While helping
provide for his family and build a better city, Wayne unfortunately inhaled
billions of asbestos fibers, which lay dormant in his lung linings for years.
Symptoms Appear in June of 2000
The asbestos reared its ugly head in June of 2000.
Dressed up for Charity Gala
Wayne, who sold his sheetmetal company a few years before, began to noticea
soreness in his right shoulder. He went to his primary care doctor, Dr.
Shawn Hamilton of Irvine, California. She thought Mr. Lenhart might have
tendinitis, ordered a chest film, and prescribed physical therapy. Mr.
Lenhart's health plan required pre-approval for the chest film, so
there was a delay of about a week. The chest film was taken at Irvine
Regional Hospital and Medical Center (IRHMC) in early July. Wayne was
also having severe night sweats. Dr. Hamilton telephoned shortly after
the films were taken and advised that "they saw something and they
wanted a second x-ray." A few days to a week later, the second films
were taken at IRHMC. The Lenharts met with Dr. Hamilton again. Her words
were hardly comforting: "It's cancer, but don't get upset,
there's all degrees of cancer."
Dr. Hamilton referred the Lenharts to pulmonologist Dr. Johnathan Adhoot.
He scheduled a thoracentesis, which was performed by a Dr. Kincaid, who
drained two-and-one-half liters of fluid via the back on the right side.
The fluid was black. Mr. Lenhart experienced excruciating pain during
the drainage. Pat recalls, "He was yelling; it was terrible for me.
It was the beginning of the beginning."
Cancer Detected, But Cell Type Undetermined
The Lenharts were referred to an oncologist. Within a week the fluid had
returned and was causing pressure. Pat sought emergency help for her husband
and was advised to go to the Emergency Room at IRHMC. The E.R. at first
refused to perform the drainage for bureaucratic reasons. Reason finally
prevailed and Dr. Adhoot was called in, but he was unable to withdraw
any fluid because he could not push the needle into the pleural cavity,
probably because of the size of the tumor.
Charles and Patricia Lenhart
Maui, Hawaii - 1998
The Lenharts at this point knew they were dealing with cancer, but they
did not know what kind. They were referred to a surgeon, Dr. Chino, to
attempt a thoracentesis and biopsy. Dr. Chino performed a right-sided
thoracotomy and repeat thoracentesis at IRHMC. Immediately after the surgery,
Dr. Chino said that he had found a thick growth like a banana peel around
the lung itself, which was squeezing the lung. Dr. Chino said that he
believed Mr. Lenhart had mesothelioma. The Lenharts were advised that
pathology had confirmed the diagnosis before his release from the hospital,
six days after the surgery. His cell type was sarcomatous.
Wayne Vows to Fight, Goes to Boston
A few days after his discharge from the hospital, the Lenharts returned
to Dr. Chino for removal of the staples. Dr. Chino asked Wayne, "Do
you want to fight this thing?" When Wayne said he absolutely did,
Dr. Chino advised Wayne to consult with Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston
to see if he was eligible for the "tri-modal" therapy of extra-pleural
pneumonectomy, intraoperative chemotherapy and adjuvant radiation.
Wayne and Pat flew to Boston to meet with Dr. Sugarbaker on October 18th.
Wayne's right lung had collapsed because of the encasement by the
tumor, and was completely non-functional. Surgery was rescheduled for
the following Monday the 23rd. The Lenharts were hopeful that Dr. Sugarbaker
would remove the malignant rind around his lung, as well as any tumor
cells on the margins, and slosh heated chemotherapy in the chest cavity
as a final cancer cell-killing "mop up."
Lenhart Grandchildren rally around Grandpa, November 2000
EPP Aborted Due to Huge Infection
Unfortunately, during the procedure, Dr. Sugarbaker encountered a huge
empyema or puss-filled infection which forced him to abort the EPP. The
doctors speculated that the infection was introduced during his initial
drainage procedures back in Orange County. Dr. Sugarbaker was able to
remove as much of the tumorous rind as he could see.
Wayne remained in surgical intensive care for the next several days, where
he was treated for pain and also with antibiotics for the infection. Two
chest tubes remained in place because he was having difficulty breathing.
Wayne was finally discharged on November 2, 2000. The surgery left him
weak, drawn and more determined than ever to get into the ring to tame
the monster inside him.
The Challenge: Keep Weight Up and Pain Down
After their return to Irvine, Wayne and Pat have been trying to keep Wayne's
weight up. He has lost about 40 pounds. The doctors prescribed megace
to stimulate appetite. On top of the anorexia, Wayne was also having to
cope with chronic pain, both around the incision site, as shown in these
photos, and throughout the right chest cavity. Two of his local doctors
recommended that he consult with a pain management doctor regarding a
nerve block, which is the chemical or electrical induction of regional
anesthesia that prevents sensory nerve impulses from reaching the conscious
part of the brain.
Charles Lenhart, Post EPP,
Because of the pain, Wayne cannot sit still long. Talking to him, he strikes
you almost as energetic -- a wiry if not hyperactive sort who has little
time for nonsense. As you can imagine, it's hard for him to stay focused
mentally on any one topic for too long, as the stabs of pain are omnipresent.
Anticipating Wayne's inability to withstand a long and tedious deposition
by the asbestos company lawyers, Wayne's doctors stepped up and provided
testimonials that limited the length of the examination to two hours.
Dr. Chino, who cited the standard prognosis of mesothelioma patients of
6 to 12 months, advised that prolonged depositions would not enhance his
patient's recovery. Dr. Ahdoot concurred, writing that Wayne "has
been very much debilitated due to his underlying mesothelioma as well
as pain and narcotic that he is taking for pain control."
Despite the pain, weight loss, anxiety, fatigue, and shortness of breath,
Wayne Lenhart is, like all great athletes, finishing strong. He will not
give in to self pity. He does not demand anyone's sympathy. He does
not want cheerleading, back slaps or attaboys. What he wants is simply
a fighting chance. If there is hole in this tumor, like a cat-quick scatback
dodging would-be tacklers, Wayne Lenhart will find a way to bust through
Wayne won't utter the words, but talking to him, you know he is imbued
with an unflinching faith in his body's ability to rebound. We hear
athletes on television all the time spewing shopworn cliches about "never
giving up" and "staying positive." For Wayne, these are
not merely cliches, they are part of his code. Wayne knows from experience
that strength, honor and family are what count in this life, not empty
rhetoric. He testified that what keeps him going are his family first,
his love of life and a commandment deep within his genetic code that will
not let a Lenhart quit.
*** POSTED DECEMBER 15, 2000 ***
Mr. Charles Lenhart passed away on May 20, 2001