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Lumberton Man Won’t Let Mesothelioma Pen Him In


Alton "Red" Barrett and his wife, Evahnell live on 70 acres of well-kept farm land in Lumberton, Mississippi. Retired since 1986, Red is an early riser, tending to his land, whether it be with a brush-hog in his fields, a hoe in his garden or in his feed plots which he uses to attract deer and wild turkey. When not in the yard, he can be found out in his large shop working on another project. A former welder, Red’s shop contains all kinds of welding equipment, including torches, compressors, valves, pipes, wheels and grinders. Several years ago, he welded a large cannon that he shoots off on special occasions. It is named "Little Red’s Big Bertha."

Red’s hands reveal his past -- calloused palms and think strong fingers, the hands of a working man. As Red says, "I’ve worked hard my whole life and am proud of what I have accomplished."

Red is well-known and well-liked in Lumberton. He was born just down the road in Poplarville, Mississippi and has lived in Lumberton for over 50 years. His siblings own multiple acres in the community which contains elegant homes with large front porches and rocking chairs. It is evident that all of his neighbors take pride in their yards and homes.

Red’s two adult children also live nearby. His son lives next door on two acres that Red gave to him and his daughter "lives just down the road, around the bend."

His skill as a welder provides his neighbors and friends someone they could go to for help in building or repairing all types of farm equipment. For his work, Red refused to take a penny. As long as they listened to one of his hunting stories or jokes, that was payment enough. You see, Red is a passionate deer and turkey hunter. His home has several deer mounts with large racks, taken from his property. His freezer is full of deer meat and turkey. Occasionally, he will stumble upon other "critters." A few years ago he shot a six foot rattle snake that was nesting in his back yard.

Red Barrett with his 6 ft. rattle snake

Red Barrett with his 6 ft. rattle snake

Red regularly maintains his deer blinds and tree-stands. He would not hesitate to haul new lumber out into the woods to make repairs. He may be 78 years old, but his drive and work ethic was that of a man half his age.

Red Barrett had always been in good health. He never smoked tobacco. A few months ago, he began to feel short of breath and run down. He traveled to a clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where several chest films were taken. The films revealed a large left-sided pleural effusion. He underwent a thoracentesis. Cytological tests on the removed fluid were negative for a malignant process. His doctors felt it was just an infection, prescribed antibiotics and sent him home. Four weeks later, the fluid returned, and Red underwent another thoracentesis. Again, the cytological workup was negative for malignancy. After three or four more taps, Red’s doctors admitted him to the Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg for further workup.

On March 24, Red underwent a pleural biopsy as well as another thoracentesis. Using immunohistochemical staining, pathologists at the hospital diagnosed Red with malignant mesothelioma. The cell type was sarcomatoid. Of the two types of mesothelioma (epithelial and sarcomatoid), the sarcomatoid cell-type is the more serious.

Due to Red’s age, his surgeon was unable to recommend surgery as a treatment option. He referred Red to the Cancer Center in Hattiesburg, where Red met with an oncologist who informed him of the possibility of treating him with Alimta and Cisplatin on a compassionate use basis. Unfortunately, the doctor had not been approved to administer Alimta but informed the Barrett family that she would immediately begin the paperwork necessary to gain approval. The process could take up to three weeks. In the meantime, she wanted to begin treating Red with Cisplatin.

Red Barrett lying down

Red Barrett, April 17, 2003

Before beginning the Cisplatin treatments Red and his son Reggie researched Alimta on the Internet, and learned that a patient can be disqualified if they had already received chemotherapy. They informed their oncologist that they wanted to hold off on the Cisplatin treatments. They wanted to locate a physician nearby that already had approval to administer Alimta. Unfortunately, the Barrett family was unable to find a physician close to Lumberton. Red was beginning to really worry. He wanted to begin some kind of treatment. He was getting weaker and was on oxygen 24 hours a day. His feet were swelling and he could feel his chest was full of fluid.

On April 16, Red went back to Hattiesburg for another thoracentesis. After reviewing his latest chest films, his lung specialist informed Red that the tumor had grown. He advised Red that inserting a needle into his chest cavity would risk spreading the cancer. He canceled the procedure and told Red, "I’m sorry, there is nothing more I can do for you."

That same afternoon, Red met with his oncologist in hopes of beginning Cisplatin treatments. Unfortunately, after reviewing his most recent records, Red was told that it was too late, his doctor could not offer any type of chemotherapy, including Cisplatin.

On April 25, Red was rushed to the Forest General Hospital. He could not breath. On April 30, Red passed away. He suffered immensely his last few days, a needless ending to a wonderful life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Red's Big BerthaRed's Big Bertha

*** POSTED MAY 6, 2003 ***