Kerry and Mary Stamas - 1955
Born in the ancient city of Athens, Greece in 1933, during the height of
the Great Depression, Kerry Stamas survived. Hundreds of thousands of
Greek civilians died during World War II. Only seven years old when Mussolini's
Fascist Army invaded, Kerry's parents kept him safe by spiriting him
away to a remote village in the hills. Fate spared him from earthquakes;
a cataclysmic quake claimed his sister. Fortune smiled on him in so many
ways -- classic good looks, uncommon physical strength at five feet, eight
inches tall and 185 pounds. He honed his intelligence with a college education;
he preserved his excellent constitution with exercise and a devotion to
fitness and healthy eating.
Luck turned on Kerry. Uncaring men he would never meet placed an unforgiving
monster in his chest -- in Iowa, of all places.
Kerry came there in 1955 after meeting his future wife Mary, an American,
on a cruise ship. They married and settled down in Waterloo, where they
raised two sons, George and Dean, and a daughter, Lisa. Kerry had earned
a degree in electrical engineering in Athens, but had difficulty finding
work as an engineer in America because his English was poor. He took a
job as an electrician at a John Deere plant in Waterloo, and after about
a year went to work for Iowa Public Service (IPS) at the Maynard Powerhouse
in Waterloo. He perfected his English, but he remained at IPS as an insulator
and certified welder, until his promotion to plant foreman in the late 1980s.
Kerry worked for close to two decades in air so contaminated with asbestos
that at the end of the day he looked as if he had been rolled in greyish-white
flour. He insulated high-temperature steam lines and other pipes. He used
both sheet gasketing and preformed gaskets. He was heavily exposed to
asbestos during boiler and turbine work. He performed regular maintenance
on the turbines, which included tear-out and replacement of asbestos-containing
insulation. He personally used insulating cement and at times raw asbestos
in these jobs. He re-packed pumps. He used asbestos gloves when doing
Three years before he retired in 1995, Mary passed away from a rare illness
which should have taken her ten years earlier. He loved spending time
with his grandchildren, but they were getting older and he was weary of
Iowa's harsh winters, so he moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida. A
chest film with a routine physical taken in 1996 showed that Kerry had
bilateral calcified pleural plaques, or scarring on the lining of the
lungs, a condition consistent with his heavy asbestos exposure. From that
point forward, Kerry submitted to chest films every three months.
Kerry Stamas, his dauther Lisa Collins
and his grandchildren
There was seemingly nothing to worry about. He was strong as a bull. He
walked five miles a day and golfed once a week. Fate smiled again and
matched him with another Greek-American, a very nice woman named Maria.
Around September, 2001, Kerry developed pain in the left side of his body.
He consulted with his primary physician in Clearwater, Florida. His doctor
felt he might have a pinched nerve in his neck. The pain did not subside,
and the true nature of the problem continued to elude Kerry's doctor
until May, 2002, when chest films revealed the presence of fluid in the
left thoracic cavity.
Kerry was referred to a Clearwater cardiopulmonary specialist. On June
10, at Morton Hospital in Clearwater, a thoracic surgeon performed a thoracotomy
with thoracoscopy, pleural biopsy, thoracentesis, and talc pleurodesis
on the left side. The surgeon would not tell Mr. Stamas "anything"
until the pathology laboratory at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
in Washington, D.C. confirmed the diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma,
desmoplastic (sarcomatous) type. Kerry was discharged from the hospital
around June 16.
His late wife Mary had treated her illness with some success at the Mayo
Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, so he decided to get a second opinion
there. Mayo confirmed the diagnosis on July 3. Because sarcomatous mesothelioma
is so aggressive, spreading so much faster than the epithelial type, the
doctors at Mayo recommended neither surgery nor chemotherapy.
Working from her home computer, Kerry's daughter Lisa began scouring
the Internet for open clinical trials which would take her father. She
found none. For his part, Kerry set his will stubbornly, almost fanatically,
on testifying at his deposition and then returning to Greece to see family
in September. On August 29, 2002, his testimony stretched from 10 a.m.
until 7 p.m. Kerry was the essence of dignified stoicism. He appeared
trim, tan, silver-haired and handsome. He would have appeared to be in
perfect health were it not for the grimaces of pain which flashed across
his face. His pain grew noticeably as the day ground on mercilessly. At
the end of the day, many of the defense attorneys belatedly murmured their
sympathies, some clearly troubled by their line of work.
Kerry Stamas (left)
Iowa Public Service Powerhouse
In the first week of September, Kerry traveled to Houston, Texas to seek
experimental treatment at the Burszynski Clinic. His health was deteriorating.
He now had pain on the right side as well as the left. He gasped audibly
for breath. He said, "The last deposition really knocked me back;
I haven't been the same since." Determined to go home to Greece
one last time, but fully realizing he would never make it in his current
state, he clung doggedly to the hope offered by Burszynski.
By the third week of October, CT scans show that his tumor has doubled
in size. He was suffering severe shortness of breath, severe fatigue,
poor appetite, night sweats and increasingly severe pain. On November
1, 2002, he presented to the Emergency Room of Morton Plant Hospital in
Clearwater. Constipation associated with his pain medication had caused
an abscess in his rectum. Corrective surgery was delayed until November
3 as he was on the blood thinning agent Cumadin and needed time to abstain
from taking the drug preoperatively. He did undergo surgery for the abscess
on November 3 and remained hospitalized for approximately eight days.
Blood work in December indicated that the tumor may have moved into the
abdominal cavity. He was taking morphine, 30 milligrams, taken twice a
day, and Vicodin, two 15 milligram tablets, taken every four to six hours
for breakthrough pain as needed. His legs and ankles were noticeably swollen.
He had clearly lost weight, but because of the large buildup of fluid
in his legs and ankles it was difficult to determine precisely how much
weight he has lost. He weighed 173 pounds, down from his normal weight
of approximately 185 pounds.
Kerry's doctor recommended hospice care. A December 30 FDG-PET scan
showed extensive pleural cancer in the left chest, probable diffuse pericardial
metastasis with some direct extension into the mediastinum, and metastatic
involvement of the sternum, left humerus, and right femur, with possible
metastatic extension into multiple mid-thoracic vertabrae. But he fought
on. As late as January 22, 2003, he was consulting with doctors to start
new treatment to extend his life. But the next day found him in the hospital
again, this time for four days. Lisa came to Kerry's side, to spend
his last days with him. He passed away in the night on February 6.
Kerry Stamas at Lisa's college graduation. Kerry's American Dream
will live on through his children and their children
When I first met Kerry, he told me how proud he was to be Greek
and American. He told me that Greece was one of only three nations in the
world beyond the former British Empire which allied itself with the United
States in every major international conflict over the last 100 years.
He told me that the city-state of Athens, his hometown, was the birthplace
Kerry said that despite the cruel end he faced, he had enjoyed his life,
and was comforted that our system of justice would compensate his family
for his wrongful death. He heroically fought his pain, trying desperately
to live long enough to step before a jury of his peers and tell the truth
of what had been done to him. His case settled after his death, but he
would have taken comfort in the measure of his life.
His daughter Lisa now worries over the impact of the pending Federal asbestos
legislation, Sen. Orrin Hatch's
"Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution" Act , not only upon the measure of justice given her father, but equally upon
those still waiting for justice. She wonders whether the defendants who
admitted their guilt for her father's death will walk scot-free. She
thinks of her father's love for democracy, for this country, for our
right to a jury trial, a right so sacred that her father held on to life
heroically, long past the time when he could have realized any benefit
for himself. She asks her Senators and Congressmen from Iowa, all of her
countrymen, to remember that individual, fundamental human rights should
not be sacrificed to the interests of large, inhuman corporations. She
urges her democratically elected representatives to remember her father
and defeat the Hatch Bill. She also expressed the following:
Dad was so proud of my college degrees and accomplishments. We dressed
both of my daughters up in my cap and gown and took pictures. However,
when my father first understood the implications of his disease, the first
thing he said was "You mean I might not see my pumpkin graduate?"
He said this with tears in his eyes and that was the only time I saw my
father cry. He died before Sara graduated high school. His granddaughters
were everything to him. He might not have been at Sara's graduation
ceremony, but he was in our thoughts and heart.
I would like to address a message to the manufactures who made the asbestos
that killed my father. The last few months of my father's life was
pure hell but still he was determined to live. All he wanted was a few
more years to spend with his family. His spirit was unbreakable. I was
so proud of his fighting strength. But I am also left with the horrible
images of what this disease did to him. You see, my father was a very
strong man and capable man. I always knew that if something terrible ever
happened to me that my father would be there for me. But at the end, Maria
and I took care of him. He was too weak to walk unassisted or feed himself.
He had to breathe with oxygen. His body had failed him. And in the end,
when we put him in bed for the last time, I remember him reaching his
arms out to me to take him out of there. He knew he was not going to get
out of bed again. Whenever I think of my dad, this is what I see. So I
have to put thoughts of him away for a while or only think of him for
short periods of time because it hurts so much. A few months after he
died I had a dream of my parents and that they were very happy together
again. I have to believe that his suffering is over, at least for him.
Mesothelioma should not have happened to my father nor to any of the other
victims. The asbestos manufactures stole my father's life away and
took him away from his family.