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A Beautiful Life

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Elvira Gonzalez died at the age of 58 from pleural mesothelioma. She was born in Cuba. The bulk of her asbestos exposure occurred when she washed her father's clothing-- he was exposed to asbestos while building and repairing sugar mills. Elvira is survived by Dr. Jose Gonzalez, a retired internist, who now lives in New York. When his wife was diagnosed in November, 1995, Dr. Gonzalez studied the available medical literature. They spoke to doctors at Sloan Kettering in New York City and at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas, as well as their doctors at the Christiana Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, where the Gonzalez' lived at the time. They decided to undergo the pneumonectomy at the University of Pennsylvania. Tragically, Elvira developed a post surgery infection and passed away 48 hours later. This is Dr. Gonzalez' story.

"Elvira was always a very healthy person. At 58 she looked in her early forties. During her life she went to a hospital only twice to deliver two babies. Always jovial, friendly, extremely well educated. More recently she became a grandma and was crazy about her two grandchildren. But one day in August of 1995, she felt a sharp pain on the right side of her chest. An x-ray showed pleurisy (accumulation of liquid at the base of her right lung) and a diagnosis of aviral condition was given. However the discomfort persisted even after the liquid was removed and, in November of 1995, a lung biopsy was done."

"The terrible diagnosis was mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer. That day the surgeon told me that she will be dead in less than a year. Elvira never smoked. No one in her house ever did. She always worked at home. However we learned about the association of mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos. Elvira's father was a boiler maker in Cuba for several years and Elvira helped by washing his soiled work clothes, which were loaded with asbestos. Over the years, she had other exposures to asbestos products without even realizing it."

"We went all over the USA with her, trying to find a cure or at least a treatment, to no avail. All available therapies, either chemo or radiation, were untested or ineffective. Her health deteriorated and she became lethargic and depressed. Her beautiful smile disappeared from her face. She was no longer herself..."

"The Cancer Dept at the University of Pennsylvania recommended surgery to remove her right lung as a last resort. In desperation, she agreed. The operation took place in early May 1996. After surgery, she developed problems with her left and now only lung and went into a deep coma, dying on May 15, 1996. Her demise, at least, was quiet and without undue suffering, due to her coma."

"A beautiful life that is no longer! A remarkable human life with much to serve and enjoy, taken away by corporate crime. These asbestos producers looked elsewhere while their product was seeding the unaware with the germ of death. Miserable clan of money makers, with no conscience or human honor! Somehow, society will learn its rights and claim its dues! But nothing will bring her back..."

Jose F. Gonzalez, M.D. (Elvira's spouse).