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Facing Mesothelioma


Dave Galea is a 73-year-old retired Navy veteran and boiler operator who was diagnosed with biphasic pleural mesothelioma on January 25, 2001. He and Betty, his wife of 52 years, reside in Port Orange, Florida.

His troubles began the week before Thanksgiving, around November 16, 2000. Dave began to feel unusually tired and was sleeping more than usual. The night before Thanksgiving, November 22, just after he went to bed, he began having chest pains. The pain got to the point where he could no longer ignore it. He at first felt he was having an angina attack and took a "nitro" pill, and then another, with no relief. Dave was then transported via ambulance to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The emergency room physician took several chest films, which revealed the presence of pleural effusions on the right side. Dave was admitted for further testing and observation.

On Thanksgiving morning, his family physician visited him and told Dave that there was fluid on his lung. He expressed great concern that a blood clot might have caused the rapid fluid build-up. Diagnostic tests failed to reveal the presence of any blood clots, and he was referred to a pulmonologist who that same day performed a right-sided thoracentesis employing an eighteen-gauge needle via the back. The thoracentesis produced one-and-one-half liters of amber-colored fluid. Cytological tests noted the presence of reactive mesothelial cells. Dave remained hospitalized until Tuesday, November 28.

The day after his discharge, Dave consulted with his family physician, who asked if he had been exposed to asbestos. He advised the doctor of his Naval and civilian exposure. His family physician then told Dave that his other doctors suspected mesothelioma, but would require a biopsy sample to be certain.

Dave was then referred to a Daytona Beach oncologist, who unfortunately was unable to see him for several weeks. The oncologist in turn referred Dave to a thoracic surgeon.

On January 18 the surgeon performed a right-sided pleural biopsy at the Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach. He made the usual two incisions under the armpit, harvested biopsy tissue from the right pleura, removed an additional four liters of fluid from the pleural space, and insufflated talc. Frozen section analysis upon right pleural biopsies confirmed the diagnosis of diffuse malignant mesothelioma, biphasic type. Dave remained hospitalized for six days. In a report dated January 25, the Pathology Department of Halifax Medical Center diagnosed biphasic pleural mesothelioma.

David Galea, post surgery
Dave had his first chemotherapy treatment utilizing Taxotere under the care of his oncologist on February 9. He is to have five additional treatments every three weeks. His second treatment is tentatively scheduled for March 2. He did not experience any serious side effects, but he continues to tire easily and has dizzy spells. At times the morphine he takes for pain makes his mind foggy, and increases his emotional struggle.

Dave Galea was exposed to asbestos as a seven-year boiler tender in the Navy, as a 32-year boiler man in the Detroit schools, and as a "shade tree" mechanic. He worked a second job at a hospital for a number of years, to help provide for his wife and three children.

When Dave retired from the Detroit school system, he and Betty moved to Port Orange to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Dave doesn't mind the Florida heat; he literally spent his working life in the boiler room. Their tidy home is filled with pictures of their children and grandchildren, and with Betty's collection of porcelain figurines of elephants happily raising their trunks. A self-taught artist, Dave's scenic oil paintings hang on the walls. Dave speaks proudly of his grandchildren's' service to church, and of his own. Dave Galea is one of "the good guys."

Now, they are unsure whether Betty can quit the job she took at McDonald's a year ago for pleasure. (Betty worked a number of years in food service for J.L. Hudson). Some of the medical bills now coming in are not being covered by insurance. Dave speaks movingly of how he used to take care of his wife before he fell ill. His thoughts dwell with her, his family and friends, and God.

Our thoughts and prayers are with this brave, gentle man and his family.

*** MARCH 19, 2001***