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Engineer Learns Something New

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Mark Neuman is an 82 year-old retired Naval engineer who proudly served the United States Navy between 1941 and 1949 as an Electrician's Mate during World War II. He continued in this line of work, enrolling in the University of Pittsburgh in 1949 and graduating with a degree in electrical engineering in three years.

Over the next 35 years, he supervised Naval projects across the country, bringing from design to reality endeavors that measurably enhanced the viability of the United States fleet. He continued his civilian work contracting with the U.S. Navy for the rest of his career, working as a chief test engineer, ensuring that equipment was installed and utilized properly. He worked as a plant manager, qualified for courses normally restricted to Navy personnel and instructed sailors how to operate the complex machinery that defined their jobs.

He has resided in Bayshore, Oregon, since 1986, after moving there with his wife, Jeanne. They were looking forward to a long retirement together. Mark and Jeanne liked to walk, eat out and drive across the country together, making a point to visit the East Coast and their roots at least once a year. They used to garden together, although since Jeanne passed away from cancer just over a year ago, he has gardened less.

RETIREMENT GONE AWRY

In the spring of 2001, Mark was having some difficulty breathing. On May 16, he went to the hospital with a right pleural effusion and undetermined right parenchymal disease. Staff at the hospital gave him a chest film and found pleural thickening, "vague densities in the right lower lung field," and "infiltrate in the mid to lower right lung field and left base." Indicators suggested some lung volume loss, and Dr. John Gotchall, his physician, diagnosed pneumonia, prescribing Augmentin.

Mark returned for further scans and a follow-up exam on June 5. On this visit, Dr. Gotchall observed that the pleural effusion was not responding to treatment and was in fact growing, and there were several nodular densities on the lobes of his lungs. Mark was still experiencing trouble breathing upon exertion, and his "pneumonia" was not diminishing. On August 1, Dr. Charles Beck examined Mark's films and noted his prior work-related asbestos exposure. He suggested that they might not be treating pneumonia but actually mesothelioma.

The next day, Mark returned to the Corvallis Clinic and Dr. Gotchall for further evaluation. Mark reported that he was experiencing back pain from his lumbar region to his interscapular region, and he was waking up every two hours at night from this pain. Dr. Gotchall listened to Mark's breathing and could hear a dullness in his right lower lung field. Dr. Gotchall attributed the pain to the pleural effusion, and scheduled to see Mark again on August 8 after reviewing his most recent scans.

On August 8, Dr. Gotchall examined Mark's most recent scans, observing that his pleural effusion was still increasing in volume. He was able to see a 12mm nodule with shaggy borders on the mid-left upper lobe of Mark's lung. Additionally, he could see scarring in that location and some scarring and densities in the left lung base, indicating that Mark's volume of functioning lung was diminishing. Dr. Gotchall could also see two other right peritracheal nodes measuring 11 mm in diameter. Fearing a bronchogenic carcinoma and possibly malignant mesothelioma, Dr. Gotchall recommended an exploratory thoracotomy with pleurodesis, to which Mark consented.

Five days later, on August 13, Dr. Gotchall performed the surgery and took several biopsies. Initial testing on the biopsies indicated a diagnosis of mesothelioma, and subsequent immunohistochemical staining confirmed the diagnosis. Dr. Gotchall gave Mark the news on August 15 and, considering Mark's advanced age, advised that he receive an expert opinion from Dr. Eric Vallieres at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Dr. Vallieres is one of the world's foremost treaters of mesothelioma and a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease.

Dr. Gotchall also advised Mark that since the tumor had begun showing symptoms some time ago, was now yielding a diagnosis and was clearly visible on the scans, it was slowly gaining mass.

A COMPROMISE, MAYBE A SOLUTION

Dr. Vallieres seconded Dr. Gotchall's opinion. Because of Mark's age and the physical stress of most treatments, there was nothing he could do. He advised Mark to live healthy, eat healthy and wait.

For now, that is exactly what Mark intends to do. He tries to take as little medication as possible for the pain, although he admits that stretching out at night and sleeping is not what it used to be. He tries to walk, but he is careful, so as not to lose too much breath. He spends about five hours a week as president of the Bayshore Beach Club, making sure the 200 permanent residents and over 800 other families who make their home there at some time can live comfortably and have a home and a neighborhood they can be proud of.

Mark Neuman actively pursued an exciting life full of adventures, working on the cutting edge of technology and anticipating new assignments. With his newest fight, though, he has chosen watchful waiting, hoping for a breakthrough in available treatment, and for more life. We will keep you posted on the progress of this fine gentleman, who served his country so faithfully.

*** POSTED FEBRUARY 5, 2002 ***

Mr. Mark Neuman passed away on April 22, 2003