We will miss Harry. He was the sort of man you wanted to help. He never
asked for much. He was a "self-made" man and enjoyed the kind
of intelligence that a formal education could never foster. He enjoyed
learning. He enjoyed improving his life and the lives of those around
him. He was proud of the fact that he taught himself to be an electrical
engineer. He was the classic "autodidact" -- the kind of man
Mark Twain had in mind when he said that "The only educated man is
a self-educated man." From 1968 to 1986, Harry was an Electrical
Maintenance Instructor at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in
Marinette, Wisconsin. He taught classes in the evening.
Harry and his wife Nancy have been married since 1988. Upon his retirement,
the Rector's split their time between their homes in Wisconsin and
Florida. They spent the winter months in Florida.
Below is a very moving summary of Harry's last days, as written by
his wife Nancy on July 20, 1999. We hope that the asbestos company lawyers
will read this. We hope that they will understand the consequences of
their unethical and immoral business tactics. This was avoidable.
My husband, Harry Rector, passed away on Saturday, July 10. This was one
week after his 69th birthday. His mesothelioma progressed very rapidly
the last month of his life.
We signed up with Hospice on July 1st. The people were very helpful; but,
the intrusion into your home of equipment (hospital bed, oxygen machine,
oxygen tanks, shower bench, bedside commode, wheel chair, nebulizer [breathing
machine]), brings reality to the constant forefront of your thoughts.
The kitchen counter was covered with medication. The oxygen machine running
24 hours a day. (see photos) His feet were so swollen that he couldn't
wear shoes; his breathing labored, fighting for every breath. I watch
my world slowly, then rapidly waste away. Finally, Hospice gives you a
list of the symptoms for "The Final Stage of Life", and since
he could no longer swallow, only liquid medications could be given.
After Harry's last doctor visit on June 22nd, he had to admit to himself
that there was no hope. Saying that out load was very difficult for us
both; he was very depressed. That admission may have taken the fight that
he had left. I do, however, highly recommend Dr. Vance Wright-Browne.
Although local, I feel she did a much better job than they did at the
Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa. Dr. Browne called me on the Monday following
Harry's death to offer her condolences and see if she could do anything for me.
We were thankful that the pain medication did its job. However, the side
effects of disorientation, sleep, lack of memory retention, strange dreams,
etc. makes the mind fail while the disease racks the body -- total debilitation.
I kept track of the medication as they were given, and on some days there
were as many as 17 drugs administered including oxycodone, albuterol,
morphine, celbrex, compaxine, lorazepam, prilosec, fetanyl, roxanol atavan,
oxycontin plus various laxatives to counteract the pain medications.
I'm sure you are all to familiar with the patient's weight loss,
breathing difficulty stomach problems if he eats, stomach problems if
he doesn't eat, etc. He was so afraid of the effects this was having
on me. I couldn't leave home, not even to go out in the yard to get
some work done. He didn't want me to take a shower because I wouldn't
be able to hear him if he needed something. I didn't even vacuum because
it impaired my hearing and might not hear him call. This is all day, all
night care giving. A night's sleep consisted of a half-hour here of
there, and maybe an hour at a time for a total of maybe three hours a
night. Some time you just get up to check if he is still breathing. If
is hard to say if I would rather hear a groan and know he was alive or
silence and wonder if he is still with me. Finally, with the recommendation
of Hospice, the last couple of nights I hired a home health aid to stay
up with him so I could get some rest.
I'm very thankful that Harry took early retirement so he got to live
a dream of sailing for a couple of years. He had those memories of sailing
from place to place with something new around each bend. Within a months
of learning he had mesothelioma, he sold the sailboat. I think he was
preparing for his eventual death and did not want me to be left to sell
it on my own.
It's ironic that not only do I have to cope with the loss of Harry,
but my monthly income drops by three-quarters; and, I lose my medical
insurance. The company that exposed him to the asbestos (Kimberly Clark/Scott
Paper) gets to write me off too. Forgive me this paragraph. If helps to
vent my anger.
This is the hardest letter I have ever written.
Nancy A. Rector
Mr. Rector was exposed to asbestos products beginning in 1948 while serving
as an electrician in the United States Navy. From 1955 to 1988, Harry
worked as an electrician engineer, participating in and supervising the
construction, installation and repairing of paper making machines and
boilers in the Midwest.
POSTED JULY 27, 1999