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Pre-Surgery Chemotherapy


Kenneth "Ken" Ramsdell, the 44 year-old son of a railroad man, Navy veteran and businessman who resides with his wife Donna in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on April 17, 2000.

Ken's health has roller-coastered over the past few months, as he has suffered from complications including a collapsed lung and severe nausea and dehydration related to chemotherapy. However, as these photographs attest, even after these ordeals, Ken looks very healthy. He has good energy and, all things considered, remains upbeat as he faces the trials ahead.

Annual Physical: Collapsed Lung

Donna has Ken get a check-up and chest film once a year. Ken was feeling fine when he went on April 7, 2000 for his annual check-up with Dr. Donna Schneider in Tahlequah. The chest film showed that Ken had a 20 percent pneumothorax (a collapsed lung) on the right. The pneumothorax did not resolve, so the same month Dr. Mark Boomer, a thoracic-cardiologist, inflated the right lung at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The lung collapsed again, and Ken was scheduled for surgery around April 20 with Dr. Spann at St. Francis. Dr. Spann re-inflated the lung, and also performed a right-sided thoracotomy with biopsy. There was no fluid buildup.

The pathology department at St. Francis had a working diagnosis of mesothelioma versus adenocarcinoma. The pathology department was "leaning towards mesothelioma, but was not sure." The tissue biopsies were forwarded to City of Hope National Medical Laboratory in California, which returned a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, epithelial type on April 17.

On April 28, Ken was scheduled for a follow-up chest film at a clinic in Tahlequah. The film showed a 75 percent pneumothorax of the right lung, and the collapse had progressed to 80 percent by the time Ken was at St. Francis. He was hospitalized there through May 8.

The Drive to Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC

The Ramsdells were recommended to Dr. Downey, a thoracic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, for treatment of Ken's mesothelioma. Because of his pneumothorax, Ken could not take a plane. On May 9, the Ramsdells began the drive from Tahlequah, stopped overnight at Ken's father's home in Orrville, Ohio, and finally arrived in New York City on May 11. The Ramsdells had brought all of their records from Tulsa and the City of Hope slides. After Sloan Kettering confirmed the diagnosis of mesothelioma, Dr. Downey scheduled Ken for a right-sided pleurectomy and possible extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) on May 16.

On that morning, Dr. Valerie Rusch met with Dr. Downey right before the scheduled surgery. Dr. Rusch had just attended a conference at which the Australian Gemcytabine and Cisplatin protocol were discussed. After conferring with Dr. Rusch and the Ramsdells, Dr. Downey canceled the EPP, and drew up orders for administration of the Gemcytabine and Cisplatin protocol in Tahlequah. The plan is to administer chemotherapy for two months with the aim of shrinking the tumor, and then to reconsider pleurectomy/EPP.

Surgery Delayed, Chemotherapy Begins

The Ramsdells were not able to leave New York City until June 2, because Ken's right lung kept collapsing. Ken underwent two talc pleurodeses before the hole in his lung was finally patched. The drive back to Tahlequah took two days.

On June 5, the Ramsdells consulted with Dr. Sara Riddy of Tahlequah regarding the chemotherapy protocol. On June 12, Ken began the chemotherapy. Over the next three days, he developed severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration, which required his hospitalization on June 15 and 16. True to his spirit, Ken played golf on the day of his release. He subscribes to the school of thought that if you cannot be normal for reasons beyond your control, at least you can try to act normal.

Successful Businessman

Ken served in the Navy from 1973 to 1978 as a Sea Bee electrician. He and Donna were stationed at Keflavik, Iceland from 1974 to 1976. The Ramsdells were married on February 28, 1975 in Keflavik, Iceland. Donna enjoyed their time in Iceland, saying it was "different . . . kind of like living on the moon." She says there's very little violence there. The people there are "huge Vikings you wouldn't want to mess with anyway." Ken was transferred to Bermuda in 1976 "as a reward" for his Iceland tour.

Donna, Ken and their daughter Jamie Ramsdell

After Ken's honorable discharge, the Ramsdells returned to Oklahoma, where Ken worked for a number of large electrical contracting firms. Weary of the travel associated with this kind of work, the Ramsdells started their own company, Ramsdell Electric, in 1980. Over the years, the Ramsdells built their business to the point that now they specialize in custom homes and commercial projects.

Family Man

The Ramsdells have two daughters, Sara, 23, and Jamie, eighteen. They have a nine month-old grandchild, Kennedy, from Sara, who is married. Jamie attends Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Before falling ill, Ken was an avid golfer, playing three to four times a week. He was very handy around the house. In addition to Ramsdell Electric, the Ramsdells also own, maintain and operate an apartment complex the Ramsdells built five years ago. The Ramsdells enjoy antiquing, going out to dinner, and traveling with friends.

We wish the Ramsdells the best as they face mesothelioma and all of life's obstacles -- together, with God.

** POSTED JULY 27, 2000 **

An Update -- 2/5/01

On February 5, we spoke to Donna. Kenneth is battling a touch of pneumonia. He is also still recovering from a pleurectomy he underwent in Septermber.

Mr. Kenneth Ramsdell passed away on May 25, 2001