September 3rd -“Drs.” Love- Labor- Lost – Cleveland Clinic – Chris Ritchey

September 3, 2012 at 12:05 am 2 comments

2 faces of life- by Chris Ritchey

September 2009– found only 4 blog posts for that month- We had been given the devastating news on August 29th delivered with cold clinical monotone by Dr. Brad Pohlman – as he strode through the door into the “holding room” where Chris, Angela , Nikki and I sat.

“This is bad- very bad – the cancer is back- your only hope for a cure is SGN 35 – and we ( the Cleveland Clinic) closed our trial last Friday-”

I remember thinking at the time as his words only confirmed my greatest fear of the last weeks:

“you have messed around with tests, biopsies, for 4 weeks – knowing as we did, 8 days previously, the cancer was back and you couldn’t have put him on the list for the trial. Bloody Drs. they knew days ago the prognosis- he knew the results the day before when we were called to come in- why wasn’t he or they ready with information as to the next step”.

I looked over at you, behind my own sunglasses as you absorbed the news , there was a swallowing and a slight lifting of your chin only lower it to your chest, your nostrils flared slightly as you sucked in a breath, your knuckles turned white as your hands balled into fists at your side, lips pressed tight together .

We waited, silenced, to be told the next course of action – Dr Pohlman folded his slim frame , with his still elegant slacks and starched white coat and expensive leather loafers into an empty chair.

SGN 35 is your only hope. You will need to find a trial that is still open- but most have closed, as we did, on Friday”

I don’t understand

I said- anger at this man who just delivered my son’s death sentence with the same matter of factness as a mechanic telling you “You need new tires”.

Chris can’t get on the trial here????-


stated the clinician in his lab coat

we are allowed only so many and we are full and have a waiting list – St Louis might have an opening- I will check on the internet this weekend……

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing ” he would check the internet over the weekend-” Hell he has a staff of dozens why wasn’t that information available already?

My son, it seemed to me was a “failure” of the double stem cell transplant – his refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma back with a vengeance – he would not to be counted as a “medical” success story and so was seemingly to me and to Nikki was being passed off- the lab rat didn’t pass the test- I could almost see the wiping of the hands .

I looked at you sitting so still, back pressed hard against the wall( trying to keep upright), eyes hidden behind your aviator sunglasses once again, hiding the tears I know were filling your eyes . Nikki looking with utter disbelief at this man with the white lab coat , diamond earing and white frame glasses who had just delivered a death sentence.
Nikki spoke, her tone incredulous :

What do you mean St. Louis? – this is the Cleveland Clinic you are supposed to be the best- and you are done? Can’t you put Chris on SGN 35 here on compassionate grounds?

A slight shrug of his shoulders, No! as she shook his head-the beautifully coiffered silvery hair not moving. I got the feeling he just wanted out of there…..

Angela, who had said nothing during this time except

” we purchased a juicer and Chris is drinking fresh juices” –

Pohlman looked at this ‘Dr. in training” with a surprise flickering across his face and said

“be careful with how much you do with that it might throw off any treatment results .”

Nikki said :

Isn’t there anything the Clinic can do?

came the reply from Dr. Pohlman .

We could try a ” Allogeneic” stem cell transplant . Are you his sister? We could test you but I think the insurance company will deny it – Chris’ immune system is not recognizing the cancer and chances are your immune system won’t kick in in time , but we will test you, if you like, to see if there is a match I will have the paperwork sent to you .

Meanwhile you sat, saying nothing as your very hope of a life disappearing, as you were “discussed” – words of death echoing off the stark cold walls. I know you daren’t speak. Finally interview over, you walked from the room Nikki and Angela followed you out the door. I stayed back stood up , legs shaking , my world crashing in ….

White Coat of Death- Chris Ritchey

I looked at this Dr. so removed from the cruel news he had delivered and I said:

Is there nothing ? Chris did every damned thing he was told to do – you sat here on June 29th after the double stem cell transplant, in this very room telling me he was clear- dismissing me – when I questioned his need for another PET scan in August? You said – NO! there is no need all his CT scans are clear -He wouldn’t need to be seen until November – this can’t be happening- isn’t there anything you can do you are his Dr. the trial is here – hope is here

I could hear myself “begging” this man for hope…….

I will check with St. Louis, you will have to excuse me , I had to fit Chris in- I have patients waiting…….

The next days were a whirlwind of everyone of us on the internet and phone following leads trying to find trials with openings with the SGN35- St. Louis, Chicago became options but it was to MD Anderson , Houston Texas you went- they called could you “be there tomorrow” for an appointment and we made sure you were. Your Labor day exploring a Texas ranch whilst you waited to start with SGN 35

I wrote, on the following, September 3rd…….

this will work it has to be a sign- fate or whomever decides our destiny couldn’t be so cruel as to keep giving hope only to dash us on the rocks of despair- to give us the “avenue of against the odds”.

3 months later -you died but not from the cancer

and a year later this post – where the juice was mixed with tequilla

NOTE: I have also categorised this post under the Doctors and Physician series “The Good Doctor”, although this post is a little out of the ‘running order”.
Part One

Part Two

This is the story of what happened to THIS family from MY perspective, as we lived through those dark days that ultimately took my son -and from my own “non medical” opinion– I realize there are thousands of experiences with blood cancers and the Cleveland Clinic and I am sure with great success for some

I am hoping readers experiencing the obscenity of Cancer and other catastrophic illness will find they aren’t alone and maybe just maybe those of the white coats who become immune to emotions of death , as they scan the records of their next patient in the holding room, will remember the beating heart does more than pump blood……………….


Entry filed under: a Cow -elle opinion, Chris Ritchey, death, Doctors/Physicians, grief, health, hell is other people, Love, medical, personal opinion, Third. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Life Lessons and Mother May I? One year on- Who holds the key?- George Schneider, David Carter, Gustav Krause ???

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September 2012
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