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Wife Donates Legal Settlements To MARF

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A strong man who loved nature, at 68-years-old Hans Hoffacker was equally comfortable trekking with Masai tribesman during a safari in East Africa, or tending his beautiful rose garden at his home in Santa Barbara, California.

During the summer of 1999, just months after his African safari, and with another planned for October, Hans developed chest-cold like symptoms. He felt a suffocating pressure on his lungs, which prompted Hans to see a series of local physicians. Finally, after waiting several agonizing weeks for the results of a biopsy, Hans was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Acknowledging their inexperience in treating mesothelioma, Hans' doctors in Santa Barbara referred him to Dr. Robert Cameron at UCLA Medical School.

On October 7, 1999, Hans endured a grueling 10.5 hour surgery (the subject of the A Day in the Life photo essay), during which Dr. Cameron meticulously burned and scraped away over 3 pounds of mesothelioma tumor, which had totally encased his left lung. Because the tumor had imbedded in the diaphragm and the heart sac, Dr. Cameron had to carefully sew patches on to these organs to prevent infiltration or rupture.

Dr. Robert Cameron of UCLA meticulously cauterizing tumor from Han's lungs, chest wall, diaphragm and heart lining. The marathon operation took approximately 11 hours. Dr. Cameron successfully removed all visible tumor from Han's chest cavity, a total of 3.5 pounds of tumor. The tumor was much larger than predicted by the CT scan. Hans was able to walk one day after his pleurectomy / decortication.

During the procedure, Dr. Cameron preserved living cell lines of Hans' tumor, which he would later inject into laboratory animals and then treat with an interleukin toxin. The surgery appeared successful. All visible mesothelioma tumor was removed and Hans' left lung itself had been spared. Within a few days, Hans was breathing well and walking again.

Hans and Barbara Hoffacker returned home. At first, he continued to recover. However, in late November, his post-operative condition dramatically worsened. Hans was too sick to return to UCLA, and his local physicians were unsure whether Hans needed treatment for a recurrence of the mesothelioma, or for complications from the difficult surgery. Hans died in the local hospital on December 9, 1999.

However, the Hoffackers' fight against mesothelioma is not over. Hans' wife, Barbara, will never forget the pain her husband was forced to endure. She does not want any wife, or any children, to ever have to experience that kind of pain, agony and despair. She and her daughters therefore decided to donate settlement awards they receive for their loss of Hans to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. The Hoffacker's goal is to fund mesothelioma awareness and education, so that not just the relatively few national mesothelioma experts, but all the local frontline doctors will know about mesothelioma, and be equipped to diagnose it promptly and follow up on the difficult treatment procedures.

As Barbara Hoffacker says, "It will not help Hans, but it might help someone else."

Barbara and Dr. Cameron

Two weeks after his discharge from UCLA Medical School, Hans, his wife Barbara and Dr. Cameron were all smiles. However, Hans continued to be plaqued by abdominal cramping and periodic atrial fibrillation. We would like to report that this story had a "happy ending," but Mr. Hoffacker passed away on December 9, 1999 due to mesothelioma-related respiratory distress. Mrs. Hoffacker and her family believe that no family should endure the pain and anguish they suffered and have agreed to donate a substantial portion of the settlements they receive from their asbestos products liability lawsuit to The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non profit whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life ending disease.

** POSTED JULY 28, 2000 **