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June 2004

Special report: Don goes to the hospital

In mid-April I started fighting off a cold, but I didn't pay much attention to it. While in Moscow doing some business, I noticed that my ankles, knees and hip joints were sore. I always walk a lot, but it never affects me that way.

Monday, April 19, I went back to Moscow in a hired truck to take delivery of 10,000 New Testaments. When I got out of the truck in Moscow, my legs were so stiff and painful that I could barely walk! I walked around the yard and loosened up a bit, but my legs hurt a lot. After we got back to Oryol, I was stiff and in pain. I noticed that my ankles were starting to swell.

Tuesday morning I could not walk for the pain. I stayed in bed for a few days, thinking that I just needed to fight off whatever "bug" was causing this. I went through cycles of chills, shivering, fever and sweating. By Thursday, the family convinced me I needed to go to Moscow to see a doctor. They have a clinic there with doctors from Canada, America, Australia, and Western Europe.

Friday morning I went to the doctor. I expected him to take my temperature, give me a box of antibiotics, and send me home. He thought I had a strep infection, and said I needed an IV infusion of antibiotics. After that was over, he said I needed another IV on Saturday morning. I was surprised, having made no plans to stay overnight in Moscow. Saturday morning I had a second IV. He said I wasn't getting better, and needed another IV Sunday morning. I had an infusion Sunday and again on Monday.

Monday morning they told me that I needed to be flown to Helsinki, Finland so specialists could figure out what was wrong with me. I contacted my insurance company, and they decided it would be better to send me to Frankfurt, Germany. They bought me a plane ticket for Tuesday morning.

Tuesday at the airport I checked in and was ready to go to Germany. When I reached border control, the guards told me that my visa was already expired. I knew my visa was good for another month, but there was a typographical error that showed my visa expired 4/15/2004, when it really expired 5/15/2004. I showed them a stamp on the other side which showed it was good until 5/15/2004, but they were rude and would not be convinced. There was no choice for me but to go back to Oryol and get the local visa office to correct the problem. I took the train back to Oryol.

It took the local officials until Friday to correct the problem with my visa. While waiting, I took oral antibiotics (Ciprobay) and stayed in bed. I flew to Germany on May 1st.

In Frankfurt, all the doctors thought I had a severe infection. My ankles were swollen, and it was painful for me to walk. My temperature was swinging up and down from 99 to 104 every day. I had hard lumpy growths on my hands, legs, and forearms, just under the skin. They put me on penicillin intravenously. After 4 days, nothing had changed. They were checking other possibilities. I had x-rays, ultrasounds, and they took lots of blood samples.

Finally they determined that it was probably an acute case of sarcoidosis, which is a rheumatological condition that basically means my immune system is attacking my body as if I was an infection. There is no known cause and no known cure. The good news is it has a 95% chance of going away on its own in about 5 weeks. They put a camera down my lungs to make sure of the diagnosis, and the doctors are 100% sure that's what I have.

By May 14, I was ready to leave Germany and go back to Russia. I still had a problem with my Russian visa - I needed to get back into the country as a tourist, because the paperwork was not completely finished on my 3-year residency. When I tried to get a tourist visa at the Russian consulate in Germany, they told me that new rules allowed them to serve only people who live in Germany. Since I was just visiting, they told me to go to America to get my visa! I ended up sending my passport by FedEx to an agency in America that got me a Russian visa and sent it back to me by FedEx. This took a few days. On Friday, May 21, my visa arrived just about 3 hours before my flight to Moscow. Praise the Lord!

It is good to be home. I am feeling much better. The pain is gone, although I do feel a bit weak and I get tired easily. I've lost about 25 pounds since this illness started, but most of those I needed to lose anyway...

I am grateful to God for the way He took care of me while I was sick, and took care of my family while I was gone. I am thankful for all of the good people who sent e-mails, cards and letters. Thank you for praying. God bless you.

In the service of the King,

Don Ossewaarde