Cancer survivor forms services clearinghouse Consolidation of help is aim

October 31, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

An article in the Oct. 31 Carroll edition of The Sun should have said that Dr. Ruth Kantor provides support, but is not a board member of Catastrophic Health Planners. Also, Abrael Fox's name was misspelled.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Louis E. Yeager wants to help the medical community care for the whole person. He knows that a positive patient surrounded by a supportive, calm environment often heals quicker than others.

For people who have terminal illnesses, it could mean the difference between life and death, said Mr. Yeager, a Finksburg resident.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"Doctors are extremely aware about psychosocial effects on disease," he said. "There are so many things that affect a patient's recovery. But very few [medical teams] want to add additional staff to deal with it. If it doesn't relate directly to the patient's condition, there's not much they can do."

Mr. Yeager, president of Catastrophic Health Planners, feels he has the solution: Rather than force a patient to run from agency to agency finding the help they need, his new, nonprofit group will do it for them.

"When you're not feeling well, the last thing you want to do is drudge from organization to organization," he said.

Mr. Yeager said he knows that from personal experience. In 1986, he was diagnosed as having cancer and was given six months to live. He made his own rounds of the support agencies.

Recounting his battle, Mr. Yeager still seems angry about the ordeal. His blue-gray eyes flash darkly, punctuating his words as he relives the diagnosis, the chemotherapy, the bone marrow transplant.

"Imagine being locked up in a room for three to four months, watching the seasons change, [being] extremely sick from high levels of chemotherapy to burn off the bone marrow," he said. "I was dependent only on human ability to keep me alive."

The night before his marrow transplant, Mr. Yeager discerned that his grandmother had died, news his family had tried to keep from him for days. Soon afterward, hospital nurses began to hang shock pads, tongue depressors and other medical implements on the walls in preparation for the next day's procedure.

"I was dealing with the trauma [of his grandmother's death], of being violated for three months, was bleeding internally and then, adding insult to injury, they began to hang things on the wall like a circus," Mr. Yeager said. "They said it was just precautionary, don't worry.

"But they had forgotten the most important part: That there was a person sitting there with a mind inside dealing with the emotional problem of death."

Transplant anticlimactic

The transplant -- a syringe full of bone marrow was pumped into him through an IV tube -- was anticlimactic, he said.

"My wife sat across from me, and when the doctor started the process, she walked out of the room crying," he said. "I asked, 'Does she know something I don't know?'

"We had done all that work, planning for the future for this one moment and it was going to be over one way or the other.""

Again, he said, he felt as if the medical team had not dealt with his family's, or his, emotions.

"They had taken care of me physically, but not taken care of the whole patient," he said. "That was my wake-up call. I said, 'If you survive this, maybe you can make a difference and make sure somebody else doesn't go through this.' "

CHP is the fulfillment of that promise, Mr. Yeager said. During the two years he was on disability from AAI Corp., a defense contractor in Cockeysville, the former project manager researched his concept.

When Mr. Yeager was laid off earlier this year, he incorporated CHP and began actively marketing his idea, he said. He is awaiting word on his nonprofit tax status.

Comprehensive help

Patients enrolled in his program would have a comprehensive support system, ready to fulfill needs not directly serviced by the medical community, Mr. Yeager said. Members would not need to have a life-threatening illness, just one that could change their way of life.

"You can't compare having a broken leg to cancer," he said. "But if a truck driver breaks his leg, it could have the same effect on his family as someone with a terminal illness."

If a person needed to apply for Social Security payments or enroll in a hospice program and didn't feel well enough to do so, Mr. Yeager or an associate would take the information and stand in line for them, he said.

Patients interested in the latest medical research on their conditions, or seeking financial information, could request student interns working for Mr. Yeager search for it. More complex problems would be handled by planners, accountants and lawyers in Mr. Yeager's network who are experienced in dealing with catastrophic illness, he said.

People who just need a helping hand or someone to talk to could find that through CHP, too, he said.

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