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January 2014:

Dear friends: 

I am grateful that so many of you are concerned about my health.  I have written some short notes in the past two months about my health situation, but I don't know how many of you received them, so I will first summarize what has happened before discussing my plans for the future.

On October 20 at Rancho Alto, I felt rundown.  I had lost my energy, pep, drive for three days. My friends told me that I was not well, and should go to the hospital for tests.  For six or seven days I was at San Jose Obrero hospital in Quito.  They said I was dehydrated, perhaps had anemia, and I had not handled my diabetes well.  For two weeks plus I stayed at the cabin where I lived, resting, and being cared for by the Sisters who live next door, with a helper who helped me walk with a walker.  The clinic team visited every day, finding my "vitals".  Dr.  Franklin advised me to go to the U.S.  Since I already had a ticket to go home for Thanksgiving, I had the flight date changed and left Nov. 16.  I had no suspicion that anything was seriously wrong, even though a young man had to carry my laptop and carry-on for me through the airport at Atlanta. The couple who picked me up at O'Hara said I looked terrible and wanted to take me to a hospital.  I think I had a problem with balance. I was helped up to my second floor room at Our Lady of Mercy by the young Indian priest there.  I slept for a long time. I fell three times going to the bathroom.  Fr.  Hugh Fullmer, the pastor, heard and came to help me to my bed.  He consulted the parish nurse, who came and then phoned a nurse practitioner.  All agreed that I should go to the emergency room of Edward Hospital.  There they put camera through my mouth to look at my heart, a catscan of my lower back, removing the pacemaker that was inserted in July so I could have an MRI, and finally a piccline so I could receive liquids intravenously through tubes.  After all this they decided that my real problem was a dangerous infection located on a heart valve.  Another problem was that since returning to the US, I have had great pain across the lumbar region of my spine.  They had difficulty treating it because they didn't want a painkiller to affect the medicines they were giving me for the infection.   They felt that maybe the infection had also settled in gaps in my back because two disks in my lower spine were degenerating.  The net result was they put me on antibiotics and felt that I needed to receive the antibiotic for six to eight weeks, while getting physical therapy to regain my strength - both of which I could do outside the hospital.  They made arrangements with St. Patrick's, where I have been since Dec. 3.

St. Patrick's Residence for the Elderly and Infirm is right across the parking lot from St. Thomas church, where I was pastor for eight years before coming to South America. I have said many Masses here, and anointed some sick people.  It is where my mother lived for eight and a half years, and where she died.

Two women from the St. Thomas staff brought in a lighted Christmas tree and a beautiful lighted nativity scene for my room.  Knowing my love for music, they also brought in a boom box, along with Christmas audio tapes and CD's.  I can play movies on my laptop, so they brought in Christmas DVD's.

I have had many visitors, both in the hospital and here, at least one on every day since coming to the U.S.  This includes three bishops, including the present bishop of Joliet. Retired Bishop Imesch has dropped by twice.

Regarding my health: There are two main areas of concern: my infection named endocarditis on a heart valve, and bacteria in my blood.  We are fighting this with the antibiotic cefazolin, which I take by tube three times a day for an hour.  Besides this, I still have some pain in the lower back.  I receive three types of therapy every day: (1) physical therapy, which here means the lower part of the body, (2) occupational therapy, which deals with my upper part, and (3) restoration recuperation, which involves moving all the muscles of the body, from top to bottom.  One day the team here sent me to the M&M Orthopedic Center to look at my back, but the team there said the therapy I'm doing at St. Patrick's is on track.

This past week I received good News:  Dr. Matthew Nora, who put in my pacemaker on July 17, and who took it out so the hospital could do an MRI, said he doubts if it is necessary to put it back in.  Also, I "graduated" from the wheelchair to a walker.

My spirit is high.  Everybody says that I looked like death when I came here in November, but that I look much better now.  I am anxious to go back to Ecuador as soon as I can.  On Tuesday, Jan. 7 I will meet with the two "infectious disease" doctors who are in charge of my case, and I will learn how much longer I have to take the antibiotic therapy.  I will let you know what they say.

As I have previously conveyed, Father Paddy McIntyre retired on Oct. 16 and went back to Ireland where he is helping out in the Derry cathedral parish - his native parish - with Masses and confessions.  The new pastor of the parish I serve in Quito, Santa Cruz, is Padre Santiago Acosta, age 28.  I am looking forward to working with him once I am ready to move back to Quito, and he is anxious to work with me.

I am missing Rancho Alto very much, especially the novena before Christmas, when for nine nights I would visit the homes of poor people and be moved by their faith.  I also missed seeing them on Christmas Eve, the procession coming down from the barrio Jose Peralta, with people carrying candles and singing Christmas hymns, where they would then meet a similar procession coming up from the pastoral center right in front of the chapel SN Antonio, before Midnight Mass.

Thank you for all the calls, visits, cards, and e-mail messages.  Have a great 2014.

Love, Fr, Don