David Reeis, Polish immigrant, hopes to achieve the American Dream but instead is diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma
David Reeis came to America in the 1960's seeking the "American Dream." Born in Poland in September 1946, one year after World War II ended, David's life was full of hope and expectation. The creation of Israel in 1948 offered David's family a life free from discrimination and prejudice. At 10, David and his family moved to Israel. While there, he attended business and architecture trade school. He graduated in 1963. Like many Jewish youths, David learned English and served two years in the Israeli Army (1964-1966) as a member of a tank crew. After his service, David worked as an electrician/maintenance man for a small outfit in Israel.
David finds employment as an asbestos insulator
In 1966, David immigrated to Miami, Florida. Within a few weeks, though, he moved to California where a friend found him a job as an insulator. He soon worked at Northridge College, Northridge, CA, insulating hot water pipes and steam pipes in the boiler room. Though the trade was new to David, his employee noticed his strong work ethic. He quickly became a "lead" insulator and had his own assistant. David often worked long days, frequently eight to ten hour days, insulating asbestos piping with asbestos cement, block and insulation.
David did not know asbestos could potentially cause mesothelioma
After five months, David returned to Miami, Florida. In November 1966, he flew back to Los Angeles, California, where he worked at Pacific State University insulating hot water and steam pipes in their boiler rooms, dormitory and laundry rooms. After three months working at Pacific State University, David continued his trade for another three months for various smaller contractors.
David was never counseled about safety precautions; he was not provided any protective clothing or respirators. His employers never advised him about the harmful side effects of exposure to asbestos.
After six months, David returned to his uncle in Miami. He worked for a small business contractor and performed various tasks including insulating, painting, and installing ceramic tiles in residential homes. He recalled using asbestos tape, joint compounds, floor and ceiling tiles, etc.
David returns to Israel
David returned to Israel in 1970. He worked as an electrician. In 1972, he wed his wife, Mira, and together they raised three children Tali, Yaniv and Nancy. In 1984, after the birth of their third child, Nancy, David and Mira decided to return to the United States.
In 1984, David and Mira started their own home improvement business, "Total Home Repair Service." Mira worked as the bookkeeper while David ran the business. They had three employees to assist David, although David recalls doing the majority of the work alone. Although the company was small, David was happy to be working for himself and even imagined opening a mechanic shop.
Life takes a turn for the worse
David was truly enjoying his life - he had his own business; Mira was doing the bookkeeping; his children were excelling in school; his oldest daughter was studying to become a doctor. David became a permanent resident of the United States in the late 1980's. In 1999, however, David's success came to a halt. The asbestos fibers that he inhaled while working as an insulator had developed into mesothelioma.
David is diagnosed with mesothelioma
In September 1999, David noticed he was short of breath. He was unable to stop coughing. He had right chest pains. He was seen in the emergency room of Aventura Hospital, Aventura, Miami, in October, 1999. A chest x-ray revealed massive pleural effusions in his right lung. Although doctors suspected he had pneumonia at first, a CT scan revealed pleural effusion in his chest. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma. David underwent a thoracoscopy to remove fluid from his lung and alleviate the pressure. A pleurodesis was preformed to seal off his lung from refilling with fluid.
Beside pain medication and chemotherapy, there was little David's doctors could do to ease his pain and arrest the course of the mesothelioma.
By late October, David was released from the hospital. His family rallied around David. His oldest daughter returned home from medical school to be with her father.
After a year long battle with mesothelioma, 53 year old David Reeis died on November 13, 2000. David left behind of loving wife and three children - Tali (26), Yaniv (24) and Nancy (15). David was extremely proud of family, as they were of David.
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