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Glen Monks Dedicated His Life To Helping Others


I remember like it was yesterday. August 6, 1996. We were in the home of Glen Monks, taking his videotaped deposition. Glen lived in the country on the outskirts of Camas, Washington. Glen was sitting back in his recliner, surrounded by bottles of pain medication and a swarm of defense lawyers. That morning he had complained of severe pain. I asked if we should terminate the deposition. "No", he said emphatically. "I need to tell my story."

Glen was only 48 years old. He had a teenage daughter who he loved more than anything. Glen had mesothelioma. His doctors did not offer any treatment. Glen knew his time was both precious and limited and he wanted to make the most of every second. "I'm doing this for my daughter, and maybe it will help send a message to the companies \who did this to me."

Glen Monks was a firefighter with the Portland Fire Department. It was in his blood to sacrifice personal comfort to help others in need. I asked him, "What did you like about your job?" Glen replied: "I liked helping people out of tragedy they might be in, or save their lives, whether it be in a fire, or heart attack, car accident. It was just a feeling of helping other people in need."

Glen's medical course began around the end of January, 1996, when Glen began to have dyspnea (shortness of breath) on exertion, mild non-productive cough, pleuritic chest pain on the left side and intermittent drenching night sweats and chills. He had also lost approximately fourteen (14) pounds over the previous two to three months and had a poor appetite. A chest film was taken which was almost whited-out on his left hemi-thorax. Glen was referred to The Portland Lung Institute in Portland, Oregon.

At the Portland Lung Institute, Glen was diagnosed with a bloody left pleural effusion. An ultrasound guided left thoracentesis was performed on February 29, 1996 by Dr. K. Gem Shaker. He withdrew 1300 cc of fluid. The procedure was aborted for fear of hemodynamic (affecting the force of blood circulation through the body) compromise. During the procedure Glen began to experience dizziness and nausea. The cytology was highly suspicious for a malignacy. The doctors needed a biopsy. Chest films showed no evidence of pneumothorax (collapsed lung) but a large effusion remained. On March 5, Glen returned to the doctor where another CT scan was done revealing a large left pleural effusion and this time a collapsed lung and mediastinal shift to the right side.

On March 6, 1996, Glen underwent a left thoracotomy with a pleural biopsy taken and 2200 cc of fluid removed. A chest tube was left in place to drain future fluid accumulations. The procedure was performed by Dr. Duane Bietz and Dr. Robert J. Berecz, general surgeons. The pathology report confirmed a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. Unfortunately, the doctors did not recommend extra pleural pneumonectomy or pleurectomy or any tri modal therapy.

Glen was referred to an oncologist, Dr. Wilfred A. Geschke. Dr. Geschke presented Glen's case to his colleagues at the Providence Medical Center in Portland. The doctors determined that Glen was not a candidate for surgery. At the time, as well as today, there are no doctors in Oregon who perform any tri-modal therapy regimen for mesothelioma patients.

Dr. Geschke felt that the best chemotherapy for Glen would be alternating Adriamycin with Carboplatin in an attempt to achieve palliation (simple reduction of pain, not a long term curative treatment). Glen was treated with several chemotherapy regimens beginning in March of 1996. He received nine (9) to ten (10) doses, however, they failed to slow down the raging tumor in his chest. It was decided by Glen and Dr. Geschke that the chemotherapy was doing more harm than good. All chemotherapy was stopped in early July of 1996.

By June of 1996, Glen's breathing had become so labored that he applied for a disabled person's parking permit. In April of 1996, Glen applied for and was given total disability status through the Social Security Administration. Glen tearfully had to resign from the Portland Fire Department.

Glen's condition continued to deteriorate. In mid-July of 1996 Glen began to use the service of Southwest Washington Medical Center/Hospice Southwest to assist him with pain medication and pain management and general overall care. By August 6, Glen was taking 390 milligrams of oral morphine daily. Before the oral morpine, Glen was using morphine patches to control the pain. On August 29, Glen underwent an intercostal nerve block which gave some immediate relief from the pain he had been experiencing. The anesthesiologist who performed the procedure told Glen that it could take up to a week for the full effects of the block to be apparent. At that time Glen had gone from a husky man weighing in at over 230 pounds to a mere shell of a man at 172 pounds.

On September 10, Glen rushed to the emergency room because of abdominal pain . The doctors resigned Glen to "hopeless" status.

While in the hospital, an MRI study was performed which revealed significant spinal cord compression. There was also spots of metastatic disease on the spine which was causing neurological dysfunction. Glen was suffering symptoms of left leg pain, urinary retention and abdominal pain and obstipation. Dr. Marilyn N. Ling recommended that Glen receive radiation therapy to reverse the current neurological dysfunction and would also maintain it at its current level without further progression. Glenn acknowledged that his mobility level was minimal at that time and was questioning the value of radiation if he would likely be immobile given his progressively weakening state. Glen wanted to discuss this option with his family and friends. He chose not to have the raditation therapy.

Glen's home was nestled under a grove of towering evergreen trees . Glen worked for years to pay for the 2.5 acres. It was his dream to cultivate the land and live a simple and honest life. He could not mow his grass. His father, brother and firefighter brethren came by regularly to help out. By the middle of July, 1996, Glen was so short of breath that he could not even walk the 100 feet from his front door down to his mailbox. Simple everyday tasks like showering and shaving became exhausting.

Glen, who dedicated his life to helping others, unfortunately was stricken with a tumor that could not be extinguished. He passed away on September 28, 1996.

Glen is survived by a sixteen (16) year old daughter. Glen and his daughter had planned to spend an extended vacation on the road the summer he was ill going to the beach, attending Seattle Mariner games and ending the summer with a cruise. Glen never left his home from July of that summer until he passed away in late September, except for visits to the doctor and hospital.

We will not forget Glen Monks, Firefighter, Father and Friend.

We recently settled the Monks wrongful death case filed in Dallas, Texas for $2,272,900.

*** POSTED MARCH 26, 1999 ***