The initial treatment for Fred Banks’ condition for several years was for allergies, but on Dec.18, 2018, the Dayton native and former Walla Wallan, fighting for breath, received the grim diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis.
“It turns your lungs to leather,” Fred said. The Mayo Clinic notes lung disease occurs when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. The thickened, stiff tissue makes it more difficult for the lungs to work properly. As it worsens, patients’ breathing becomes more labored.
Fred worked for years on a dryland wheat ranch that put him in contact with concentrated doses of wheat chaff, dust and anhydrous ammonia, among other toxic hazards. He also worked for an area fertilizer company.
The only way to determine if his condition is work-related is to do a biopsy, but his lungs are too fragile, he said. Maybe, if he gets a lung transplant, the test could be done then.
Fred’s currently jumping through hoops with doctor appointments at the University of Washington Medical Center to get on a transplant list.
He takes Esbriet, a medication that may help preserve more of lung function by slowing disease progression, as well as steady oxygen flow to breathe. Once on the waitlist, it can take about nine months for patients to receive a lung transplant, he said.
Fred, 65, grew up in Dayton until moving to Walla Walla with his family in 1963. He graduated in 1972 from Walla Walla High School.
He and wife Berniece raised their three children in Waitsburg and Prescott. In 2015 the couple sold their home and moved in their fifth-wheel to the Sequim, Wash., area at the north end of the state’s Olympic Peninsula, overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to assist 4-year-old granddaughter Jocelin Hough, who was diagnosed with leukemia. The good news is no cells have been detected for two years, Fred said.
For two years Fred and Berniece enjoyed the area, traveled cross-country to see the sights and connect with family they hadn’t seen in years, noted daughter Karie Banks-Wellsandt on a Go Fund Me page for her father.
In May this year he was rushed in respiratory distress to Jefferson Medical Center in Port Townsend.
“It was then discovered there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding on how much oxygen he should have been on and he was getting far less than he needed. When the ER team tested his blood gas levels they found his oxygen level was through the roof and his CO2 level was dangerously low. He was suffering from pulmonary toxicity because of the amount of oxygen — CO2 in his system. His extremities were purple for hours until they were able to balance those levels,” Karie wrote.
The oxygen deprivation weakened his body and he remained in intensive care for three days. After a two-week hospital stay to balance his levels and learn how to live life attached to the massive amount of oxygen he needs to survive, he was released.
“His quality of life is greatly diminished because of the burden of transporting multiple oxygen tanks and appropriate concentrators,” Karie said.
While at the hospital, he learned he’s eligible for a life-saving lung transplant as long as he meets a few requirements: He needed to lose weight. He attends pulmonary rehab multiple times a week and adjusted his diet.
With the necessary therapy providing a large portion of his activity and diet change he has reached his goal weight, dropping from 272 to 217, Karie said. “This was the last big hurdle to clear before the transplant process could continue.”
“What we’re finding out now is that he stands a great chance of (the surgery) happening a lot sooner than we thought.
Hospital trips, rehab and related medical costs not covered by their insurance have depleted their savings, Karie said, so she and younger siblings Brandon Banks of Spanaway, Wash., and Amanda Hough of Sequim are helping their parents brainstorm how to maneuver funding when it comes to the transplant, which itself is covered by insurance.
What insurance doesn’t cover is required lodging and in-home care for post transplant — three months or longer, anti rejection drugs, food and transitional care assistance once he’s allowed to return to Sequim.
He will have to remain within an hour of the University of Washington Hospital with round-the-clock care.
“Our mom will be his main caregiver but in the event of any possible medical issue with her or her simple need to get groceries or leave the house, they need someone there with him. It’s obviously incredibly expensive to live in the Seattle area, even more so when you require skilled care.
The family hopes to raise enough money for them to cover monthly living expenses post-transplant and find someone to care for their two small dogs during that time.
“Our dad has so much life to live.” Fred was a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Walla Walla for many years and Karie added, he’s “a man of God so if you’re not able to afford a financial donation please do include him in your prayers and church groups. He misses his church family in Walla Walla so very much and would love and appreciate being lifted up in prayer.”
VFW silent auction aids vets
Veterans of Foreign Wars Grant Farmer Post 992 is hosting a silent auction on Monday at the post, 102 N. Colville St.
The fundraiser will help VFW assist veterans in the community with food, gas and other needs, said Trina Parrish in an email.
Bidding opened Thursday and ends at 8 p.m. Monday.
Items will be on display at the VFW with bidding sheets beside them, Trina said.
She added that the recent Stand Down was mainly financed by the Walla Walla County Veterans’ Relief Program. The Veterans’ Relief Advisory Board is under the administration of the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health.
The VA Homeless fund was used in part to pay the rental of the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds Pavilion.
The Wounded Warrior Project donated about $3,000 and paid the food trucks used for lunch.
Other donations came from the VFW Department of Washington and VFW Post 992 to pay for breakfast food, as well as WWCC Foundation, Blue Mountain No. 39 Disabled American Veterans, Baker Boyer Bank and Doughty Home for Veteran Women.
The Stand Down committee included Trina, VFW 992 chairwoman, Blue Mountain Action Council, DAV Service Officer, Doughty Home for Veteran Women, Helpline, Supportive Services for Veteran Families, Umatilla County Veteran Services, the VA, Workforce, Vet Center, Combat Veterans International Chapter 10, Forest Service and American Legion.