Ken and Donna Ramsdell
Kenneth "Ken" Ramsdell, the 44 year-old son of a railroad man,
Navy veteran and businessman who resides with his wife Donna in Tahlequah,
Oklahoma, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on April 17, 2000.
Ken's health has roller-coastered over the past few months, as he has
suffered from complications including a collapsed lung and severe nausea
and dehydration related to chemotherapy. However, as these photographs
attest, even after these ordeals, Ken looks very healthy. He has good
energy and, all things considered, remains upbeat as he faces the trials ahead.
Annual Physical: Collapsed Lung
Donna has Ken get a check-up and chest film once a year. Ken was feeling
fine when he went on April 7, 2000 for his annual check-up with Dr. Donna
Schneider in Tahlequah. The chest film showed that Ken had a 20 percent
pneumothorax (a collapsed lung) on the right. The pneumothorax did not
resolve, so the same month Dr. Mark Boomer, a thoracic-cardiologist, inflated
the right lung at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The lung collapsed
again, and Ken was scheduled for surgery around April 20 with Dr. Spann
at St. Francis. Dr. Spann re-inflated the lung, and also performed a right-sided
thoracotomy with biopsy. There was no fluid buildup.
The pathology department at St. Francis had a working diagnosis of mesothelioma
versus adenocarcinoma. The pathology department was "leaning towards
mesothelioma, but was not sure." The tissue biopsies were forwarded
to City of Hope National Medical Laboratory in California, which returned
a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, epithelial type on April 17.
On April 28, Ken was scheduled for a follow-up chest film at a clinic in
Tahlequah. The film showed a 75 percent pneumothorax of the right lung,
and the collapse had progressed to 80 percent by the time Ken was at St.
Francis. He was hospitalized there through May 8.
The Drive to Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC
The Ramsdells were recommended to Dr. Downey, a thoracic surgeon at Memorial
Sloan Kettering in New York City, for treatment of Ken's mesothelioma.
Because of his pneumothorax, Ken could not take a plane. On May 9, the
Ramsdells began the drive from Tahlequah, stopped overnight at Ken's
father's home in Orrville, Ohio, and finally arrived in New York City
on May 11. The Ramsdells had brought all of their records from Tulsa and
the City of Hope slides. After Sloan Kettering confirmed the diagnosis
of mesothelioma, Dr. Downey scheduled Ken for a right-sided pleurectomy
and possible extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) on May 16.
On that morning, Dr. Valerie Rusch met with Dr. Downey right before the
scheduled surgery. Dr. Rusch had just attended a conference at which the
Australian Gemcytabine and Cisplatin protocol were discussed. After conferring
with Dr. Rusch and the Ramsdells, Dr. Downey canceled the EPP, and drew
up orders for administration of the Gemcytabine and Cisplatin protocol
in Tahlequah. The plan is to administer chemotherapy for two months with
the aim of shrinking the tumor, and then to reconsider pleurectomy/EPP.
Surgery Delayed, Chemotherapy Begins
The Ramsdells were not able to leave New York City until June 2, because
Ken's right lung kept collapsing. Ken underwent two talc pleurodeses
before the hole in his lung was finally patched. The drive back to Tahlequah
took two days.
On June 5, the Ramsdells consulted with Dr. Sara Riddy of Tahlequah regarding
the chemotherapy protocol. On June 12, Ken began the chemotherapy. Over
the next three days, he developed severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration,
which required his hospitalization on June 15 and 16. True to his spirit,
Ken played golf on the day of his release. He subscribes to the school
of thought that if you cannot
be normal for reasons beyond your control, at least you can try to
Ken served in the Navy from 1973 to 1978 as a Sea Bee electrician. He and
Donna were stationed at Keflavik, Iceland from 1974 to 1976. The Ramsdells
were married on February 28, 1975 in Keflavik, Iceland. Donna enjoyed
their time in Iceland, saying it was "different . . . kind of like
living on the moon." She says there's very little violence there.
The people there are "huge Vikings you wouldn't want to mess
with anyway." Ken was transferred to Bermuda in 1976 "as a reward"
for his Iceland tour.
Donna, Ken and their daughter Jamie Ramsdell
After Ken's honorable discharge, the Ramsdells returned to Oklahoma,
where Ken worked for a number of large electrical contracting firms. Weary
of the travel associated with this kind of work, the Ramsdells started
their own company, Ramsdell Electric, in 1980. Over the years, the Ramsdells
built their business to the point that now they specialize in custom homes
and commercial projects.
The Ramsdells have two daughters, Sara, 23, and Jamie, eighteen. They have
a nine month-old grandchild, Kennedy, from Sara, who is married. Jamie
attends Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Before falling ill,
Ken was an avid golfer, playing three to four times a week. He was very
handy around the house. In addition to Ramsdell Electric, the Ramsdells
also own, maintain and operate an apartment complex the Ramsdells built
five years ago. The Ramsdells enjoy antiquing, going out to dinner, and
traveling with friends.
We wish the Ramsdells the best as they face mesothelioma and all of life's
obstacles -- together, with God.
POSTED JULY 27, 2000
An Update -- 2/5/01
On February 5, we spoke to Donna. Kenneth is battling a touch of pneumonia.
He is also still recovering from a pleurectomy he underwent in Septermber.
Mr. Kenneth Ramsdell passed away on May 25, 2001