NEWBURYPORT — The city's medical professionals are rallying to help a well-known orthopedic surgeon who is battling leukemia.
Dr. Richard Mindess, who practiced at Seacoast Orthopedics and Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport from 1983 to 2007 and was the former chief of surgery at the hospital, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia about a week ago.
He is currently in isolation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to prevent exposure to infections as he undergoes a month of aggressive chemotherapy treatments. If the high-intensity chemotherapy proves successful in killing the leukemia, the hope is that Mindess will then be eligible for a bone marrow transplant, said friend and colleague Dr. Kevin Lanphear, a family practitioner in Newburyport.
Lanphear said news of Mindess' illness has rocked the Newburyport medical community, which is organizing a bone marrow drive next week in honor of him and his passion and dedication to medicine.
"We want to see if we can support our friend and colleague through this whole muddle of a process he's going through," Lanphear said. "He's helped a lot of people in the community."
Mindess' symptoms came on quite suddenly, Lanphear said. Following a weekend golf outing with friends about 11/2 weeks ago, he returned home to Boxford completely beat. When the fatigue worsened over the next two days, he went to see his doctor. X-rays and lab work revealed the leukemia, and he was sent to Boston for treatment, Lanphear said.
"In 24 hours, his life changed," Lanphear said. "He went from being on top of his game to being in isolation for at least a month."
Lanphear said Mindess has been a strong supporter of and contributor to the community. In addition to performing surgery on hundreds of area patients through his practice, he has served as a team doctor for local high school sports teams, including several at Newburyport High.
Mindess, who has been practicing orthopedic surgery in Springfield in recent years, is past chief executive officer and medical director of the Lower Merrimac Valley Physician Hospital Organization and Whittier Independent Practice Association in Newburyport and past president and chief executive officer of Wellport, a subsidiary of the Whittier IPA.
A recipient of the 2008 Leaders in Quality Award from the Massachusetts Medical Law Report, Mindess was instrumental in securing a grant that brought electronic medical records to physician practices in Greater Newburyport. The husband of Tracy and father of two daughters, Danielle and Katie, is also a member of several medical associations.
"Rick has been such a part of this community in so many ways," said Lanphear, who succeeded Mindess as president of Whittier IPA. "We've worked together for decades on many a project trying to help the health of the community. He's been very involved in a lot of different movements here."
Known for turning a bad situation into something good, Mindess had no hesitation in sharing his story and serving as the "poster child" for bone marrow donation as part of a drive, Lanphear said.
Next week's Be The Match Marrow Registry drive is not only focused on finding a match for Mindess, but for aiding other patients in similar situations who may not be as well known in the community.
"We thought, let's take advantage of the opportunity to help not only him, but others," Lanphear said.
To participate in the April 26 drive at Anna Jaques Hospital, potential donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and meet certain basic health guidelines. The testing is done through a simple cheek swab sample from the inside of the mouth.
Individuals who aren't comfortable becoming a donor are encouraged to make a donation to support the Be the Match Registry on Mindess' behalf.
Lanphear said organizing the marrow drive is helping the local medical community cope with the uncertainties facing Mindess.
"He's a high-energy, go-getter sort of person, and one of the most frustrating things for him is to be locked in isolation," Lanphear said. "He's out of town and out of sight, but we don't want him to be forgotten here. We want to support him in any way we can."
IF YOU GO
What: Be The Match Marrow Registry drive in honor of Dr. Richard Mindess
When: Thursday, April 26, 3 to 7 p.m.
Where: Anna Jaques Hospital cafe conference room, 25 Highland Ave., Newburyport
How: Call 800-283-8385, ext. 720, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT TO KNOW
Potential donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60 and meet health guidelines.
Testing is done through a cheek swab sample from the inside of the mouth.
Most donations for individuals who are a match are done through an automated nonsurgical blood donation. The remainder of the donations are done through a surgical procedure typically performed on an out-patient basis, with blood stem cells withdrawn from the back of the pelvic bone.
Tissue typing and processing fees are covered by most insurance companies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. People should bring their insurance cards. The drive's sponsor, Michael's Fund of Fall River, will cover the cost of the testing for potential donors without insurance or whose insurance does not cover the procedure. There is no out-of-pocket expense.
To donate to the Be The Match Marrow Registry on Dr. Mindess' behalf, visit www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/ribc.