By Craig J. Heimbuch
David Hose is not angry. The 48-year-old Winchester resident said Friday that he cannot make himself hate the person or people who are sending anthrax through the mail -- killing a handful of Americans.
"No, I'm not mad," said Hose. "The people who did this have no idea what it is they are doing to people. I'm not angry because they really have got to be sick."
Hose, a manager at a U.S. State Department mail facility in Sterling, is sure he inhaled anthrax spores while he was at work. He was operating a fork lift, and said he "took a breath at the wrong time."
"I can't believe it," said Hose. "There must be 50 or 60 people who work there every day, but I'm the only one who got it."
He began to notice symptoms on his way home from a trip to Wal-Mart on Oct. 22 when he said he broke out into a profuse sweat.
The next day, he drove 50 miles to work, and the sweating returned five more times, except on these occasions it was accompanied by muscle and joint aches. Later that night, he began vomiting blood.
"I really thought I was exposed to anthrax," said Hose, who added that he hasn't had so much a cold in years. "None of this was normal."
Doctors at Winchester Medical Center were unsure how to handle Hose the next morning when he arrived in the emergency room.
"[The doctors] weren't sure exactly how to approach me, for their own safety," said Hose. "After going through what I did, I can't blame them. Finally, a doctor decided that there was no more time to waste and began examining me."
Hose was tested for anthrax, given a sample of the antibiotic Cipro, and sent home with a prescription for more antibiotics and cough medicine. Two days later -- on Oct. 26 --Hose said he was so sick that he was going to call for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. However, just before placing that call, Hose's phone rang -- it was the hospital, and he was told to come back right away.
"They were able to do my anthrax culture in 16 hours," said Hose. "I'm told that a lot of doctors can't believe they were able to do it so fast."
Hose's temperature ranged from 101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. His pulse was at 165 beats per minute and his blood pressure was soaring. Doctors put Hose on a fluid-filled cooling pad to try and control his fever, but he said it only made him feel worse.
"I was shaking uncontrollably," said Hose. "I wanted to be so far away from my body."
The experience of the cooling pad was the only time during his 16-day stay in the hospital Hose said he felt like dying.
His memories from Winchester Medical Center are fuzzy due to his high fever, but Hose said he distinctly recalls the patience and kindness of the hospital staff. He changed rooms five times while in his doctors' care. Each time his name was listed under a different alias to protect his privacy.
Hose said he denied all requests to be interviewed while he was in the hospital because of the toll the disease was taking on his body and his appearance. His family would not let him see a mirror for the first seven days of his stay. His skin was pale and lifeless -- a gruesome image of death they feared would only reduce his already downtrodden morale.
He said he prayed a lot during that time, hoping for divine intervention.
"I don't know if you have ever been to the point that you believe in prayer," said Hose. "But I have, and believe me, it works."
He denies that he cheated death, saying that it is not a person's choice when or how they die. It's all because of Him, Hose said pointing to the ceiling.
"You can't cheat God ... God runs the show," he said.
Hose was released from the hospital Nov. 9, returning home to the loving arms of his family, which kept vigil constantly through his stay in the hospital.
Connie, his wife, decorated their Winchester home for Christmas when she found out he would be leaving the hospital.
"God let him come home," she said. "This is my way of giving back, giving back to Jesus for letting him come home."
Now at home, Hose undergoes physical therapy twice a week and has his blood drawn and tested three times weekly. The color has returned to his face and he is starting to gain back some of the 13 pounds he lost while being treated in the hospital.
He is reverent when discussing the ordeal -- he even laughs, or at least grins, about certain parts. He said he feels sympathy when he hears on the news that other people have fallen victim to the disease, particularly a 94-year-old Connecticut woman who died last week.
"This is the most horrible way to die," said Hose. "I can't imagine having lived as long as she had, only to die from this.
"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," he added. "If there is anything wrong with you, this thing just makes it worse."
Hose said he was healthy before contracting the disease, but during his stay, doctors discovered five bleeding ulcers. Anthrax amplifies even the smallest problem a person is having, Hose said
His doctors have told him that he can return to work after the holidays and will reach full recovery in about a year. At this point, he is not ready to make the long drive to work, but said he is not afraid of going back.
"Doctors tell me that I'm pretty much immune to anthrax now," said Hose. "I'm not willing to test that though. I'm not afraid to go back, I'm still just really tired."
In the four weeks since his release from Winchester Medical Center, Hose said he has been inundated with phone calls from various media outlets requesting interviews. He has denied most television programs, including ABC's "Primetime Live," with Diane Sawyer.
"I don't want to be on television for 30 seconds telling people that I am alive," he said. "The people who want to know if I am alive already know.
"I would rather deal with people who are going to take the time to inform people about what it is like to have anthrax," Hose said.