Dear Friends: Many of you have been worried about my health, and questioned whether I should return to Quito. I am grateful for your concerns, so first I'm going to give an account of recent stay home.
I flew home Monday, July 15, and had a pacemaker put in on Wednesday, July 17 at Good Sam Hospital in Downers Grove, by Dr. Matthew Nora. My friend Deacon Chuck Lane drove me there. The medical team was excellent. The funny thing is that I don't remember seeing the doctor at all. I remember that they gave me a local, the room felt cold, and then it was over. I stayed overnight and went home to Our Lady of Mercy on Thursday. I was surprised at how much the procedure took out of me, and had to "lay low" and just watch History Channel videos all day Friday. By Saturday I was back in motion. We had scheduled a meeting for two weeks later to see how my body was reacting to the pacemaker. When I went back after two weeks to have my pacemaker checked, to see how it affected my body, I passed with flying colors. The doctor said "we'll see you in November."
The second issue is that all my life I've had very dry skin - eczema -but recently it's been worse. I've been itching and scratching incessantly. Dr. Davis, my skin doctor, prescribed an ointment, and said to come back in two weeks. The combination of the previously prescribed ointment and my new daily use of my existing creams worked marvels, and now I feel no itching at all. So when I went back to the doctor everything was fine and this problem seems to be solved. Meanwhile a friend advised me to see an allergy specialist, which I did. It turns out that my only allergy is to dust and dust mites. But I guess everybody has this.
The third issue is that for a long time I've had a problem with excessive urination. Two years ago I had an operation at our San José Hospital here because my prostate was pressing on my bladder, causing a failure to completely empty. I thought that maybe my prostate problem had returned. In July I went to the DuPage Medical team and was tested. Tests and x-rays showed that there is no problem with my prostate. I was asked to provide a urine sample. After analysis I was phoned and told that my sample was overloaded with sugar and that I must see my diabetes doctor. This seems to hit the nail on the head because I've NOT been a good patient regarding diabetes recently, eating ice cream and not taking my daily blood sugar count regularly. It was my skin doctor who told me that there is a special name for diabetes-caused excessive urination. My diabetes doctor seems OK with my resolution to follow my diabetes diet from now on. If I do, and take my daily blood count, I should be OK.
In summary, every doctor has said there is no reason why I could not go back to Quito. I will keep coming back home every three or four months to see my doctors. I am going to be very strict on avoiding sugar to control the diabetes and will avoid all the foods on the urologist's list, which includes caffeine. I feel great for an 80 year old!
What has happened here in Quito since I have come back several weeks ago? Our parish, Santa Cruz, (Holy Cross) has an anniversary on Saturday September 14. That's the day (the Feast of the Holy Cross) that Fr Paddy founded the parish 25 years ago. Since San Antonio de Rancho Alto is part of this larger parish, we will participate. The ceremony will also involve a good-bye to Fr Paddy, though I think something more is being planned, since he's not leaving until October 13. In the meantime Fr Paddy's friends, mostly present and past priests of the St. James Society, will be coming and staying.
An Ecuadorian priest who has been ordained for three years is coming as pastor after Fr Paddy leaves. In Ecuador, diocesan priest pastors move into the rectory with their families. For this reason, and to make sure Fr Paddy has room for all his friends who are coming, I am moving up to Rancho Alto. For those who have been here, it is easy to explain where I will be living. I will have two places. Principally, I will live in that small blue two-room cabin right next to the house of the Sisters and missionaries, across the playground from the chapel San Antonio, and above the daycare center Miguelito. I also will use a two-room suite in the pastoral (educational) center, where I have kept my treadmill. I have bought two new oil heaters, a scientific mattress, and three new bookcases. I will eat most of my meals with the mission team - three Sisters and two missionaries. They are trying to make me feel like one of the family. I will investigate getting a connection to the internet and e-mail, to keep up with my friends. I don't know about TV. I've paid for a satellite TV for the house for ten years - we get CNN International and BBC which may be the world's best TV stations. I'll see if I can get either of my places hooked on to the satellite so I can receive these channels. Also, on any day I can drive to the foot of the mountain and pick up the Miami Herald International in English. This will be the first time I will not be with someone who speaks English. Nor do I know how things will work out with the incoming pastor. But I'm an adventurer and am glad to be beginning a new year here. I should be fine.
This past week the community of San Antonio de Rancho Alto celebrated a novena in honor of Our Lady of Cisne, which is Quito's equivalent of Guadalupe. Every night, from different homes people carried statues in procession to another home, singing hymns to Mary. This is the Latin American church at its finest. In the second house, in between prayers, people testified to the depth of their devotion to Mary. This was the first time that I participated every night, and I was moved by the experience. The week concluded with a Marian theme attached to the Mass on Sunday.
While I was home I re-read Cardinal Bernardin's "The Gift of Peace," in which he explained how he had enriched his priesthood during his terminal cancer by visiting the other cancer patients in the hospital, and then as many other patients as possible. It sounded as though he had re-discovered this important part of the priesthood. Since coming back here I have asked during the Masses for people to give me or Sister Rosa the names of the sick people in our barrios who need a visit, and I will make visiting them a top priority. We have two young missionaries - Valeria and Talia - who go with me. Since their Spanish is better than mine, and they have a good manner about them, they add much to the visit. The sick person receives the Sacrament of the Sick and Communion. So far we have seen one person every day. I want to make this a permanent part of my life here. One day I will bring my camera and photograph the inside of the houses. It is only when I visit the sick that I see the poverty of my own people in the States. Pictures will help me share this with you.
I am re-contacting with the local schools and forming Young Christian Students groups, with a mind to help the students put on a program to help both their fellow students and their parents to avoid the pitfalls of both illegal - very often stressed in official programs - and legal prescribed drugs/medicines.
Interesting news for those who have been here:
(a) Anita Salas now works in the Miguelito, with the one-year olds,
(b) Carlos Maldonaldo is now the Miguelito's groundskeeper/handyman.,
(c) do you remember Victor's son "Little Victor"? Last Saturday he married the school secretary,
(d) Rocio Macancela, who used to be the librarian for the parish below, and I will co-teach the course on Human Formation for "Fe y Alegría",
(e) Carmen Tapia, who for years was the heart and soul of Miguelito but had to leave because she couldn't lift her arm, was found to have a bad case of stomach cancer (she had a successful operation but will be in bed, out of action for about three months),
(f) Martha, that fabulous woman who has been a combination housekeeper and Religious Ed director, has said that she will be leaving at the end of September, so has Elva, our secretary who works here afternoons three times a week, we often talk together and have become good friends -- I will miss seeing them both, and finally,
(f) there is a sad story about Ernesto Salazar, the architect/engineer who was so important in my life here during our construction period. Those who have come down on construction missions will remember him. It's hard to think of all the things he has done: expanding both the school Aleman and the daycare center Miguelito, remodeling the chapel San Antonio itself, expanding the soup kitchen, doing the education center, and, when the earth fell from the level above to the lower level of the school Aleman, making it dangerous for kids and adults, he designed a concrete retaining wall to keep more from falling. I have not seen him for awhile. Recently, he came back to say good-bye to Paddy. He hasn't had much call for his work lately, but he did spend a great deal of time on one project, constructing a huge building outside the Barrio, but he hasn't received payment, and is taking the case to court, but it is moving slowly. In the meantime he has lost his house, his pride and joy. Members of construction teams that have seen it thought it was great. He is suffering from a bad back, and his wife has always had poor health. He is really down. He always dreamed of coming to the U.S. Please keep him in your prayers.
That's what's been happening. I'll let you know how things work out with my new situation. Thank you for your constant support.
Love, Father Don