Marty with his brother, Lonnie (r) July 29, 2002
Marty Mitchell is a 48 year-old bricklayer and refractory mason who was
born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He grew up in a crowded home, with six
brothers and four sisters. Their dinner table was loud, with thirteen
sets of tableware banging against plates and multiple conversations going
on at the same time. This may seem too much for some, but for Marty, it
was home sweet home.
As the seventh child, Marty learned at an early age what it meant to share,
share a bedroom, share a wardrobe, share school supplies, share the back
seat of Dad's car. Marty's father, Bert Mitchell, was a hard working,
loving father who instilled a no-nonsense work ethic in his children at
a young age. Bert was a bricklayer and refractory worker for years. He
taught his children the importance of getting along as a family and putting
in a full day's work. He also made sure they took the time to enjoy
life as well.
The Mitchells were a family, they were a team, they were each other's
worst enemies and best friends, built on compromise and cooperation.
A BAND OF HARD WORKING BROTHERS
After graduating high school at 1973, Marty went to work alongside five
of his brothers. The Mitchell brothers worked as bricklayers, laborers,
and boilermakers for much of the 1970s and 1980s. Like father, like sons.
The brothers were well known for their quality of work and joy they took
in their job. They worked out of local unions that shipped them to job
sites all over the Midwest, including steel mills, aluminum plants, glass
factories, blast furnaces and power houses. The brothers piled into their
cars and drove in caravans to different jobs. If a car broke down en route,
it was left on the side of the road and repaired on the way back. Like
the Marine Corps, they lived by a code that championed the importance
of team work and resilience.
Before Marty headed to Detroit for surgery, he had 20 volunteers who offered
to care for his Harley. They were all disappointed as Marty took the keys
with him into the operating room.
At first glance, plant superintendents and job foremen would eyeball the
Mitchells warily, as the brothers came across as disorganized - they seemed
to be having too much fun, always laughing and cutting up. But when the
whistle blew and it was time to punch the clock, the Mitchell brothers
snapped to attention and worked harder and with more efficiency than any
other group in the yard. The brothers were component parts of a well-oiled
and seemingly indestructible machine
A HAPPY LIFE ON MITCHELL MOUNTAIN
Today, Marty lives on five acres on a hilltop in West Harrison, Indiana,
which is just across the Ohio border in southeast Indiana. He's proud
to call the hilltop his home (he affectionately refers to as "Mitchell
Mountain") and is quick to point out that it is the second highest
peak in Indiana. He has lived here for the past 20 years. The house lies
off the road, meandering down a rock path through several rows of tall
trees. Deer and other wildlife can be found on Mitchell Mountain, and
a few times, the deer draw close enough to become Sunday dinner by way
of Marty's arrow or muzzle loader (when in season, of course).
Marty's house serves as the official 'party' place for his
family and friends. He hosts a Halloween party every year that has become
legendary in West Harrison. His yard is full of witches, ghouls and goblins
that if you look closely are actually his brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews
or one of his three children or seven grandchildren.
Marty is quite the handyman and does all the repair work in his home as
well as his neighbors'. When his children were younger, Marty built
an impressive "fort" for his children with wood that he obtained
from his brother's home. The fort resembles more of a log cabin, sturdy
enough to house a small family. It has a front porch, electricity, a hinged
front door and shuttered windows. Now that the kids are grown and moved
away, Marty uses the fort to house a second refrigerator, to store his
deer and turkey meat.
Marty's passion - Born To Ride
He just recently welded and installed a frame for his hard-case saddle
bags for his Harley Davidson motorcycle. As you can tell, this is a man
who loves to keep busy, who
needs to keep busy. Marty frequently rides with the Scarecrows motorcycle club.
Several times a year, the Scarecrows ride for a charity selected by the group.
MARTY'S LIFE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
Everything in Marty's life was in order, everything was going great
-- until December 15, 2001, when, as the saying goes, the wheels fell off.
That day, Marty broke his leg, just above the ankle. It was a compound
fracture and the doctors did not place the leg in a cast, so therefore
he was ordered to stay off the leg until it healed. Soon after, around
early January, 2002 he developed flu-like symptoms. He also noticed that
he was short of breath, which was unusual because he was still homebound
due to his leg.
"MINOR" SYMPTOMS MASK A BIG PROBLEM
In February, 2002 he met with his family physician. Chest films were taken
which revealed a left-sided pleural effusion. On February 19, Marty underwent
a thoracentesis. Cytological tests upon the fluid removed from his chest
cavity were negative for a malignancy. Marty was prescribed antibiotics
and sent home.
Some of Marty's collection of deer mounts
Around late April, Marty returned to his doctor, complaining that his chest
was still hurting, he was still short of breath and still coughing. The
doctors felt Marty was suffering from a sinus infection and prescribed
antibiotics. They did not take any chest films.
Four weeks passed and Marty returned, still complaining of chest pain.
This time, chest films were taken and after reviewing them, Marty's
doctor told him he could find nothing wrong with him and sent him home.
Another few weeks passed and for the fourth time since February, Marty
met with his doctor, still complaining of a cough, pain and overall "tiredness."
Another set of chest films were taken. The doctor compared them with the
previous set and immediately informed Marty that they did not "look
good." Marty asked him what he meant by that, but he was quickly
referred to a cardiopulmonary specialist.
On July 15, a CT scan was taken which revealed an abnormal rind of nodular
pleural thickening encasing the entire left hemithorax. The radiologist
on duty told Marty that the pattern would be suggestive of diffuse pleural
The 'fort' Marty built for his children
What is that?
The cardiopulmonary specialist told Marty that after reviewing his records,
it was his opinion that he was suffering from mesothelioma. He recommended
that a biopsy be taken to be sure. On July 19, Marty underwent a CT-guided
core biopsy of the left lung and pleura. Three 16-gauge core samples were
obtained and sent for immunohistochemical analysis. The local pathologist
examined the tissue sample and on July 19 diagnosed Marty with malignant
Mesothelioma? Marty asked himself, "What is that?" He had never
heard of it, but he knew from the way the doctors were looking at him
that it couldn't be good. He immediately went on the Internet and
researched as much as he could.
On July 25, Marty met with a local surgeon to discuss the diagnosis and
his treatments. Surgery was an option. The surgeon suggested Marty meet
with a local oncologist. During his research, Marty discovered Dr. Harvey
Pass of the Karmanos Clinic in Detroit, Michigan, who is also a member
of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (
MARF). Before making any treatment decisions with his local doctors, Marty
wanted to meet with Dr. Pass first. He had gained the impression that
Dr. Pass was tops in his field, and he wanted the best. Marty met with
Dr. Pass on July 30th.
Marty Mitchell, October 8, 2002
After reviewing his medical records and blood work, Dr. Pass felt Marty
was an excellent candidate for an extra-pleural pneumonectomy, which includes
the removal of his left lung, among other adjacent parts. The surgery
was scheduled for August 23. Marty is optimistic about his chances, and
feels that he has done all that he can do. Still, he's disenchanted
disgusted is a better word. He has learned that this risk was known by the asbestos
companies for more 60 years ago, and was totally preventable, if not for
the greed and inhumanity of a few. He speaks of inviting the CEOs and
their lawyers to his surgery - "I don't want or care about their
sympathy, but they should know the consequences of their pursuit of the
almighty buck. I wonder how they would feel if they knew the only way
they might survive is if a doctor ripped out their lung."
Unable to work since July, having filed for disability assistance, no longer
contributing to his pension fund and having bills to pay, Marty wonders
how he will make it through the rest of the year. His medical insurance
will terminate in six months. How did all of this happen, and happen so
quickly? One minute he was hunting deer and turkey with his brothers,
the next minute is diagnosed with an incurable cancer and facing the removal
of his lung. "What did I do wrong?" Marty asks himself.
You didn't do anything wrong Marty -- you were
wronged. We will keep you posted on Marty's recovery.
*** POSTED AUGUST 21, 2002 ***
An Update -- 10/9/02
On August 23, Marty underwent a left thoracotomy, extra-pleural pneumonectomy,
reconstruction of his diaphragm with a Gore-Tex patch, lymph node dissection
and a partial pericardiectomy. At the start of the surgery, Dr. Pass removed
the sixth rib in order to obtain access to Marty's thoracic cavity.
He immediately encountered an incredibly thick, bulky tumor with endothoracic-fashion
invasion at multiple sites. The tumor was so massive, Dr. Pass decided
to open the diaphragm first and work from the bottom to the top, a path
not normally taken. After the surgery, Marty remained in the hospital
for several more days.
On September 1, he was discharged but remained in Detroit. On September
3, he was readmitted for increased swelling in his left lower leg. An
ultrasound was performed which showed a deep venous thrombosis of his
calf vein. He was treated with anticoagulants, including Coumadin, and
released two days later. Marty then made the long drive home to Mitchell Mountain.
Marty's surgical scars
Marty is slowly recovering from the surgery. He has lost nearly 30 pounds
since the diagnosis. He is unable to chop the firewood necessary to keep
his home warm for the upcoming winter. He also worries that perhaps he
should find a warmer location to sit out the cold, bitter, Indiana winters.
His friends and family have chipped in to help him with household chores
that Marty enjoyed doing himself, including mowing the three acres of
grass surrounding his home, keeping the house clean, fixing meals and
doing the laundry. He has never had to rely on anyone before and feels
terrible about putting his his family and friends through this.
This past weekend, Marty was unable to participate in the latest charity
ride of the Scarecrows. Not wanting to be left completely out, he volunteered
to help sell tee-shirts at one of the stops on the ride.
We will continue to follow this warrior thoughout his recovery.
Mr. Marty Mitchell passed away on May 10, 2003