Monday, November 30, 2009

Lana Thompson Tribute

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I heard about Lana Thompson before I met her. I was told that this woman was a powerhouse, turning heads, changing minds, and making lots of art sales in the small community of La Grange, Texas. Lana and her husband Joe Mole ran a gallery, filled with a large variety of art. As a fabric artist herself, Lana promoted all creative efforts and carried her enthusiasm with her wherever she went. Lana was thrilled to exhibit and sell my art in her gallery and even got me connected to a gallery in Chicago. She was always sharing and helping others.

Lana and Joe closed the gallery several years ago so that Lana could focus on determining just what was wrong with her health. Lana Thompson left this world on November 2, 2009. She had a form of leukemia and her marrow transplant never took hold. She fought this disease with her exuberant energy, saying, "death will just have to sneak up and catch me." After a three-year battle, Lana allowed herself to be caught.

Lana’s changing diagnosis and problems with the US healthcare system has been blogged about in detail by her step-daughter at, but as I checked my links, I discovered that this site has been removed.

I feel honored that Joe asked me to come over and take Lana’s paintbrushes and create more art with them. I also received many other wonderful things of hers – clothing, music, art materials, and art books. While I was visiting Joe in their home, he shared with me the following and gave me permission to share this about Lana and his life with her.

Our Miracle

Lana J. Thompson, my wife of twelve years was an artist, writer and poet, and had been very ill with acute myelogenous leukemia. Her symptoms started nearly three years ago but her first bone marrow biopsy proved negative. She had no definitive diagnosis until early January of this year. She died on November 2, at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Twenty-four days earlier she had had a bone marrow transplant but it did not regenerate. They could not keep blood in her; even daily platelet infusions were no help. Her blood simply would not clot.

I held her hand as her heart beat for the very last time and she breathed her last breath. It is not altogether a sad story, in fact we did get a miracle it just wasn’t the one we were looking for. At 2:30 Sunday morning the 1st of November while I was at home in La Grange, Texas, and in bed asleep I had a vision. Lana had been in room 23 in the C pod on the seventh floor of the hospital, the ICU floor. Her room was the first room you see as you come around the corner from the ?F? elevators and look into the C pod. All of the rooms have patio doors so that the end of each room is glass to make it easy for the nurses to read the monitors without coming into the rooms.

What I saw in my vision was light – ten times brighter than daylight – streaming from her room. I knew that angels had come to escort her spirit up out of her body. As soon as daylight came I drove to Houston which is two hours away. The first person I spoke with was the RN on duty in her room. She was not busy and we spoke for half an hour. I told her of my vision. During the next two hours, twelve to fifteen MDs and RNs wanted to speak with me concerning end-of-life issues. A chaplin also wanted to see my legal papers, medical power of attorney etc. Every thing was in order. Their decision Sunday was to give Lana another five days, so I came back to La Grange.

The next morning at 10:30 I got a call on my cell phone from her transplant surgeon Dr. Ciurea. He said to come back to Houston as soon as possible. I arrived at 12:45. The same RN was attending Lana and made the comment, “Mr. Mole, do your remember the story you told me yesterday about what you had seen. The ventilator (the machine which was assisting her to breath and which is a computer and has a monitor) recorded the time you said as the time your wife could no longer breathe on her own. After you left yesterday your wife had a CT scan of her head and it showed swelling in her brain.” In other words, Lana became brain dead at 2:30 Sunday morning.

During the next hour and a half I talked with all the people involved in the process of “termination-of-life supports.” Finally I was connected to an MD by phone who said that all I need to do was to say yes to terminate life supports and Lana would be put on “comfort care” only. That involves only a sedative and painkiller. Lana had been on dialysis and that was the first thing to be disconnected. With that done I was able to go and stand next to Lana’s bed and hold her hand. Over the next 20 minutes the RN disconnected the 22 IVs which were on three stands, and then she left the room. The monitor above her bed was displaying her pulse, which initially registered 64 beats per minute. Every minute the number was one less: 63, 62, 61, 60. When it fell to 32 the next reading was 0. I noted the time, 15:33. One minute later the RN came back into room and said, “Mr. Mole, your wife has just died.” I waited another minute then left the Lana’s room.

Of all the people I spoke with during those two days none thought I was a crackpot or some kind of weirdo. Basically what I had done was to tell all of them when Lana had actually died. The machines simply kept her body alive for another 37 hours. Life supports were terminated at 2:45pm and it took only 48 minutes for her to pass away.

I am a classical music fan and had been a Chicago Symphony Orchestra season ticket holder for many years. Concerts are rebroadcast on the Internet and the radio every week. A week earlier I had recorded one from the Internet at but had forgotten what I had recorded. It was a two CD set, a recreation for the very first concert ever held in Orchestra Hall, Chicago, one hundred years ago. When I went to Houston Monday morning I played the first CD and all but ten minutes of the second. Ten minutes after Lana died I left the hospital and began driving towards the freeway. Just as I reached it what should come next as the final selection of this concert but Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. I played it over and over for the next two hours about 24 times.

The sun began to set as I neared Columbus, Texas. There were no clouds in the sky and it was a perfect day. The sunset stretched for miles across the vast Texas landscape. When I turned off interstate 10 towards La Grange I looked over to the right to see the most beautiful perfect full harvest moon which had just come up over the horizon. It was glorious! What this meant to me was that all creation was celebrating for Lana. She didn’t just get some old spare parts from another woman to keep her going for a while but a whole new body.

Obituary of Lana J. Thompson

Lana Jean Thompson age 64 of La Grange, TX died Monday November 2, 2009 at 3:33pm in Houston, Texas, from a three year illness. She was born Wednesday December 13, 1944 in Ellicottville, New York. She is the daughter of Elizabeth Hilbig and Chester Konieczka, a merchant marine who died November 29, 1966 in the shipwreck of the Daniel J. Morrell off the thumb of Michigan. It was the sister ship of the Titanic and also split in two in a storm. Lana’s mother had no attending physician or midwife. Bernard Thompson, who later married her mother and raised Lana died this year on July 25th. Her mother died in 1994.
Lana is survived by her husband of twelve years, Joseph L. Mole and her daughters Anna Christen of La Grange, TX; Carol Armstrong of Yoakum and a son Leonard who lives in Hallettsville. She has one brother Bernard Thompson and three sisters: Mary Drake of Johnson City, TN; June Lyness of Winter Haven, FL and Betty Moss of Kissimmee, FL; five grandchildren, and two great-grand children and plus one due in a few months.

During her life Lana was an award-winning artist working in all forms of water media and collage as well as fabric arts including fine art quilts and wall hangings. She is also a poet and writer and was an avid reader. For six years she and her husband owned and operated the Thompson ? Mole Gallery in La Grange. The gallery was closed due to her illness. Tommy Taylor is handling her final arrangements; there will be no funeral service or wake.

A pink glow at the edge
of the horizon
heralds the arrival of the sun.
The earth is quiet,
in hushed anticipation.
The wind holds her breath.
Beams of light explode over
the rim of the earth,
rising to the heavens
like the arms of angles singing
Allelujah! . . .
Allelujah! . . .
Lana Thompson

Be A Rose
A rose is a rose is a rose,
an unfolding of petals
much like the unfolding of life.
The scent growing
stronger?robust with life.
Even after death the scent of life
lingers, holding memories of its once
glorious life.
Be a rose
Caress the delicate
velvety petals as
you would a lover.
Kissed by the sun
moistened with dew drops.
Note: during this time Lana was confined to bed at the Seton Medical Center in Austin. She had had chemotherapy in late May and now had the dreaded “neuprogenic” fever. Her white blood cell count was 0.00. She nearly died on June 2nd from dehydration and again on June 11th before the correct medication was administered.

Journey Home
Humans: on a journey home.
It begins somewhere beyond the stars.
Fill your cup with the juice of life
for the return trip home.
The Gods are very thirsty.

Lana had a long and difficult struggle with the medical system. Lana and Joe were denied some coverage and treatment at times. Joe could always use more help financially. If you can help, please enclose a note saying "Please deposit to the Lana Thompson Medical Fund" and mail checks to:

National Bank & Trust
P. O. Box 310
La Grange, TX 78945


Kelly Borsheim said...

Lana J. Thompson's Illness

In late January 2007 Lana became weak for no apparent reason. Earlier she had had a bout of shingles but it seemed to go away with medication. On February 3, 2007 we went to Home Depot and bought 12 sheets of ? inch thick luean plywood to install under the new bamboo flooring. I put it in the bathroom which is just outside our bedroom door. The next morning Lana became very ill.

I took her to the local doctor who takes care of the run-of-the-mill doctoring in the community. By coincidence on that day all of his other patients were coming down with the flu. Lana?s treatment was the same. She did not respond. A day or two later we returned and he ordered a blood test. When the results came later in the afternoon he asked her to come in. She could barely walk. When he discovered that she had a very low hemoglobin level he immediately sent her to an oncologist. An ambulance was called and Lana was rushed to the Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas. She needed two units of whole blood. They kept her for three days to try and evaluate what might have caused her to suddenly loose red blood cells. They couldn?t find anything then. The oncologist called her condition myeloproliferative disorder, as her white blood cell count was very high, as high as 234. While she was at Seton they did a bone marrow biopsy and it did not show any abnormal activity at this time.

The high white blood cell count caused numerous problems with her body. The fatty tissue behind her right eyeball became so inflamed one night that in the morning her eye protruded ? inch and was immovable. We immediately went to an eye surgeon who ordered an MRI of her head. For the following year Lana?s eye problems were monitored by the most prestigious team of eye surgeons in Austin. The next thing affected by the raging inflammation in her body was her thyroid glands. They both had tumors. We found a specialist in College Station, Texas who informed her that her thyroid glands were the victim of whatever was causing her problem.

Kelly Borsheim said...

The next thing was that all of her joints were becoming inflamed and very painful. An infectious disease specialist was called and by this time we had four months of weekly blood tests. He asked Lana a hundred questions, carefully examined all of the blood tests and made several phone calls. His conclusion at this time was that Lana did not have cancer or leukemia but she did have one of four non-lupoid autoimmune disorders which he could not immediately determine.

For the next eighteen months Lana began seeing a rheumatologist in College Station. Her condition seemed to stabilize and only occasionally did she need blood. In the beginning her platelet count was in the 600 range. That is very high. All the while her red blood count remained on the low side. Then for some unexplained reason her platelets began to disappear. In the spring of 2008 they dropped to 38. Normal is at least 130. Her rheumatologist ordered her first infusion of platelets. Two or three more times in 2008 she needed platelets as well. All during 2008 she had red blood transfusions just 4 or 5 times.

In January of this year Lana could no longer produce her own platelets or red blood cells and her oncologist ordered another bone marrow biopsy. This time it showed myelodisplactic syndrome. Chemotherapy was begun immediately but proved totally ineffective. We were told that Lana had only two years to live without having a bone marrow transplant. This had to be done at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I went online and immediately registered Lana as a patient. About two weeks later we had a visit with the transplant surgeon.

The first step was to put her in the hospital and give her massive doses of chemotherapy. She was kept in reverse isolation for the next 29 days. All the while she had no less than six bags being infused day and night. A central venous catheter, CVC was installed in her lower right arm. I needed to officially learn to be her ?Caregiver?. This required classes and being tested by an RN who was quick to point out any deviation from the accepted procedure. When we began going to Anderson we had adequate insurance coverage to take care of the cost of a ?Family Transplant?. The cost would be $270,000.00. That was in April. The bill for the first 29 days was $160,000, $46,000 was for medications, blood and platelets.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Lana came home for the next month while the chemo did its job of killing all of her white blood cells. Several more bone marrow biopsies were ordered. Then she was admitted again for a second round of chemo. It lasted only five days and she was discharged. This is when the problems really started. About a week or two later while we were back at M. D. Anderson Lana began to vomit. She also had diarrhea. She was given bags to throw up in while she lay on a sofa in the aisle just outside of the B elevators. We were waiting for her 2:00pm appointment to have a unit of platelets. Later, about 5:00pm she was discharged. The trip between La Grange and Houston is 105 miles and normally about 2 ? hours. When I got her home she went straight to bed. She was very weak. The vomiting continued as well as the diarrhea.

At 11:00 the next morning Lana called me and said, ?I need help now?. We had already had several very bad experiences with the local ER. I did not want her to go there. It would take them anywhere from 2 to 6 hours to determine what they should do. This waiting period is called ?triage?. They don?t take the patient?s or caregiver?s word for anything. I immediately went to the RN?s who did her blood tests and asked what I should do. I was told to go to the ER. ?Lana doesn?t have time for that,? I replied. ?What if I ask one of the doctors that she goes to here in La Grange?? ?They will want to see her first,? was the reply. I did go quickly to the clinic where Lana had been two months earlier. I left a detailed message with the receptionist and left. I had no sooner arrived home than the doctor called. He said to meet the nurses at the front door of the hospital, they would be waiting for her. Ten minutes later Lana was in a bed with an IV in her CVC port. They also gave her antibiotics. What we hadn?t checked at home was her temperature. She had a fever of 101. Six hours later Lana was put in an ambulance and taken to Seton in Austin. I did not follow but rather waited until the morning. Lana was gravely ill. The name for her condition was the ?neuprogenic fever?. Antibiotics have no effect on this type of fever. It is caused by not having any white blood cells. Lana?s white blood cell count that day was 0.01. The fever lasted eleven days. On the second day her oncologist told her that one out of four patients who have this reaction to chemotherapy die, and that I had made the right decision not to let the ER touch her. He also credited the local doctor for his cooperation and correct treatment for this condition. Mainly that she have fluids and to send her to where she could get the proper care. Lana stayed at Seton for 22 days and the bill for this stay was $98,000.

Kelly Borsheim said...

When she was discharged from Seton we went back to M. D. Anderson. They ordered another bone marrow biopsy this time her diagnosis was ?Acute Myelogenous Leukemia?. They also ordered a third round of chemotherapy. It would be milder this time. We had additional visits with the transplant surgeon. He was happy with Lana's condition. She was exactly where she should be for a transplant but there was a problem. We no longer had enough insurance in our plan to cover it. Forms were mailed to us for ?Financial Assistance?. They wanted to know where every penny came from for the last three years. We also had to verify that we were American citizens and legal residents of Texas. Weeks went by and one day I got a call from the woman in charge of our case. I had filled out the forms incorrectly plus she needed an additional 6 items of information. I was an emotional ?basket case?. Whether Lana lived or died now depended entirely on me. Could I satisfy them? A week later the answer was again NO. There was still another item that had to be verified. Fortunately I was able to have it taken care of the next day. The application was now complete.

All of 2009, from January to now, August 24th Lana has had at least 25 two unit blood transfusions and fifty platelet infusions. Blood costs approximately $2400 per unit and platelets $1600 per unit. Her monthly bill for medications she takes at home is somewhere between $5000 and $6000. December 1st Lana will be eligible for Medicare. That will solve some of her financial problems but if the transplant does not take place by then she will be ineligible, too old.

As to how Lana looks, she has lacerations and bruises up and down both arms and also on her lower legs, breasts and butt. Her skin is like butterfly wings it is so fragile. The slightest bump and she has a laceration. She has also lost her hair. We carry Band-Aids in every size and type as well as all of the surgical kits necessary to change the bandage on her CVC and the blood thinner necessary to keep the lines open.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Tomorrow, August 25th, we see the transplant surgeon again and are hopeful that he will have the authority to proceed with the transplant. Lana and I have just returned from her Monday blood test. Her platelets are at 12 and her nose has begun to bleed. We are at this very moment waiting for a call to go to Austin for platelets. This is always an all day affair. Last Friday on the way to Austin, again for platelets, the transmission of our car began to go out. I stopped at my local GM dealer on the way home. Two days remained in the Cash for Clunkers program. I saw that as an opportunity, as my Buick Estate Wagon was now 13 ? years old. Fortunately no money was involved. Sign here and pay 72 monthly payments. I didn?t need more payments now but had no choice in the matter.

After meeting with the transplant doctor and the woman in charge of our case we were told that we had been approved for financial assistance of $500,000. That is the cost of a non-family donor transplant. We were also told that we first had to pay an up-front fee of $11,600 in cash first. She also told us that there might still be a shortfall of up to $190,000. But as of that day we still had $130,000 of insurance coverage remaining.

My $500,000 lifetime family health care limit was set in 1980. It has never been increased. I am retired now and it is not possible for me to change plans as our medications are covered by Medco. I am afraid even to call Blue Cross to see what, if any coverage remains. Please help if you can. We are not a tax deductible charity and will have to pay income tax on whatever we receive. Please think of it as laying up treasure in heaven.

Kelly Borsheim said...

The M. D. Anderson Financial Assistance Process

July 16, 2009: The five page financial assistance package arrived from the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. I filled it out and found all of the supporting documents that day and the next day.

July 30, 2009: Tonya, the financial assistance coordinator, called to say that it was incomplete. All of the income sources had to be verified as well as a copy of my birth certificate and Texas drivers license. This required calls to Social Security and my Union pension plan. The shock of hearing that our application had been rejected nearly gave me a heart attack.

August 8, 2009: The requested information arrived in the mail and I photocopied them. At this time I redid page one and three of the application.

August 11, 2009: Lana and I saw Tonya at M. D. Anderson and presented the additional information. At this time as we were talking about the application and the income sources and I mentioned where the "Other" income came from. I was immediately told that the donor had to sign a notarized statement saying they were the giver.

August 12, 2009: the donor faxed the required statement to Tonya.

Unknown Date but between the 12th and the 18th someone called my bank and asked for my balance. Mind you I had to send them four months of bank statements. They were given my balance as of that minute.

August 18, 2009: the "Denied" letter was typed but not mailed.

August 25, 2009: Lana and I saw Tonya again and in a very low soft voice she read a short blog at the bottom of the application.

Kelly Borsheim said...

"Your application has been approved for $500,000 for a transplant. You will be required to pay $11,600.00 in cash. Neither Lana or I remembered the amount correctly but we did say that we would be back in Houston in one week. In fairness to Tonya I admit that I am hard-of-hearing. But we were not in a position to pay that amount on the spot. Money market stocks had to be cashed in.

August 26, 2009: I went to my stock broker and signed the necessary forms.

August 27, 2009: The Denial letter was mailed by Elvira.

August 28, 2009: The check arrived in the mail from Edward Jones.

August 29, 2009: Lana and I received the Denial letter. Just a short while after receiving the letter I called my daughter, Colleen.

She immediately fired off emails to: The American Cancer Society, Senator Kay Baily Hutchison and Lloyd Doggett. She was aware that the Senator and Congressman were acquainted with me and she felt they could be of some help. They both had copies of my book "The Saga of Old La Grange".

September 1, 2009: Lana had an appointment with her transplant surgeon. I had forgotten to take my checkbook with me. We also did not know the status of our financial assistance application other than it was denied. We again saw Tonya. Both the surgeon and Tonya said that the money needed to be paid before the application would be approved. We only had an approximate idea of the amount. I asked for the exact amount. She made a phone call and said the amount was: $11,619.05. I asked her to please write it down for me. She did. Lana, Tonya and I went to the finance office together and I presented my ATM card. Sorry we cannot take an ATM card, was the answer. That's all right I replied, I will return tomorrow with a check.

September 2, 2009: At three in the morning I had the thought that I should not write a personal check but rather get a Certified check at the bank. Lana was adamantly opposed to my getting a Certified check, saying that she did not have time to waste. I did not listen but rather left twenty minutes early to go to the bank which opened at 9:00am. It only took five minutes for them to make out the check and three more minutes for me to photocopy it when I got home. We arrived at M. D. Anderson at 10:50am, parked the car, put Lana in a wheelchair and took the sky bridge from the parking garage to the Main Building. Who should be standing just inside the door of this mammoth facility but Lana's surgeon. She immediately took the Certified check out of the envelope and waived it for him to see. He was talking on the phone but smiled and gave her a thumbs-up. Now we knew everything would be OK. Lana and I went alone the finance office and gave them the check. The teller did not know what to do with the check since we had a zero balance. I explained that it was front money for a transplant. She made a phone call, seemed satisfied and processed our check. She was very pleased that it was a Certified check. There would be no waiting until it cleared our bank. She gave me a receipt and I asked for two additional copies, one for Tonya and one for the transplant coordinator. We went to the 8th floor, transplant department and asked them to call Tonya and the transplant coordinator, that we would meet them here in the waiting room. Five minutes later Tonya arrived, this time she was all smiles. That too was reassuring. I gave her a copy of the receipt and she said she would give the other woman hers as well. Finally we were officially approved. They mentioned that the donor would be called immediately and brought to Houston.

Andrew said...

You picked a beautiful painting to represent her body of artwork.

It's always sad for the survivors to lose someone, but I'm sure she's in a better place.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Thank you, Andrew. Actually, Lana's husband Joe sent me that image of Lana's art, as well as the image of her with the camera.

Yeah, this year has seen a lot of losses for many people that I know.

Gene P. said...

Thanks Kelly for sharing this beautiful and sad story. I'm sorry for Joe's loss and yours, I think you both were Angels in action.
A reminder of fragility of life and how important to live and die in celebration.
I donated some tears of happiness and sadness for Lana.
Gene P.

Anonymous said...

Lana was my patient at the rheumatologist she went to in College Station. She was the sweetest lady ive ever met. Everytime she would come in she could not leave without a hug and kiss from me. When she passed away i was heartbroken. Just a few days later Mr Joe came to see me and he had a blanket Ms Lana made for me. I was so happy and i knew Ms Lana would not want me to be sad. She was on my mind today. Rest in Heaven sweet Ms Lana.

Kelly Borsheim said...

Thank you for sharing that. It is so wonderful to know that Lana is being remembered as the sweet soul that I also knew her to be.