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Posted December 31, 2002 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Christmas comes late for Hose family

By Charlotte J. Eller

Christmas came late for David Hose and his wife, Connie, this year.

Instead of Wednesday, the holiday started Monday, when Hose, one of the nation's few inhalation anthrax survivors, left Winchester Medical Center.

Hose's departure from the hospital came exactly two months after being admitted for a serious case of pneumonia, his second life-threatening illness in a year.

Hose, 60, contracted inhalation anthrax Oct. 22, 2001, while working for a firm that handles diplomatic pouches and mail for the U.S. State Department in Sterling.

Several powder-laced letters destined for the U.S. Senate were instead sent to the State Department when an optical character reader at the Brentwood post office misread a ZIP code, Hose said Monday.

During both illnesses, Mrs. Hose's faith that her husband would come home has never flagged. The Christmas tree and decorations she put up weeks ago, vowing they would remain until he returned, were still waiting when Hose arrived home at 12:35 p.m.

Slowly, he emerged from the Honda driven by his brother-in-law and sister, Sam and Janie Sandberg of Falling Waters, W.Va., after a morning of instructions, medications, therapy, farewells and good wishes from the hospital staff and Dr. Mark Galbraith, the doctor who has seen Hose through both health crises.

In high spirits, Hose walked up his candy-cane-lined sidewalk and past the "Happy Birthday, Jesus" sign on the lawn. At the front door, his miniature poodle, Frenchie, greeted Hose with an enthusiastic face-licking before curling up in his arms.

Inside the house, Hose stared in amazement at the Christmas decorations he found.

"She's outdone herself," Hose said of his wife. "They are even better than before."

The couple's daughter, Terri Chrisman, who lives next door, was one of his first visitors.

"This is a good day, a great day," Chrisman said. "It's better than Christmas."

The menu for Monday's dinner would be "whatever he wants," Connie Hose said.

"Steak," Hose answered with a smile that lit up his entire face.

The past year has been the hardest of his life, Hose said. Two Christmases ago he was "looking forward to a nice, quiet retirement. But that all changed" when he contracted anthrax.

When news of anthrax first became public, two weeks be-fore Hose's illness, Senate workers were given the antibiotic Cipro immediately, he said. But people in his facility were offered only a vaccine, rubber gloves and small face masks until he became ill, Hose said.

Hose had his daughter call his workplace when he learned he had anthrax. Workers were sent home immediately, he said. The following morning, Cipro was dispensed to staff members, who were met outside and not allowed into the building.

No one else in his facility has taken ill with anthrax, he said, though one person who had a previous lung disease died. But since no autopsy was performed, no one knows for sure if the person died of anthrax, he said.

Five people died in the an-thrax attacks during the fall of 2001. Hose is one of at least 13 others who survived either the skin or respiratory form of the disease. Investigators have never identified the source of the anthrax mailings.

For Hose, the future remains uncertain.

"It's all unknown," he said. "You never know what's going to happen next."

Hose firmly believes he contracted pneumonia because his resistance to disease was worn down by anthrax. "But it's difficult to prove that," he said.

Looking toward the new year, Hose's goal is to get back to his pre-anthrax physical state. The key to that is physical therapy and building himself up by walking, he said.

But doctors have told him they do not expect he will ever be able to go back to work.

In light of that, this fall he applied for Social Security's Supplemental Security Income, designed for those who are permanently disabled.

Work on his application by the federal agency, which is requiring an examination by its own doctors, came to a halt when he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

His financial status is a concern. "I'd like to know I had some kind of secure future as far as money coming in," he said. "Nothing fantastic, but some kind of secure future."

Hose's sister, Janie Sandberg, feels the federal and state governments have "ignored the anthrax victims. They don't want to acknowledge that we have these people who are probably going to suffer the rest of their lives."

Hose and others like him have received no extra aid, Sandberg's husband, Sam, said.
His only income is a monthly government check from workman's compensation that totals 65 percent of his income, which is available for nine more years.

From that, Hose must pay all but 35 percent of his $584 monthly insurance coverage. The federal government pays the rest. Another $500 comes out for rent.

"That cuts a big chunk out of it," he said. "It's been pretty tight for the past year."

But there is much to be grateful for, Hose said. "For being alive. For being able to recuperate," he said. "It's just a very slow process. For a while I thought I was going to be unable to move my arms and legs."

He also is grateful for the people who have sent greeting cards and those who generously have donated money and food to help his family, including co-workers and members of his church, the Fellowship Bible Church.

Hose attributes his recovery "to prayers and God. He just works in mysterious ways," he said, as his wife nodded in agreement.

"We're making it," he said. "I am still surviving and God is still supplying what I need when I need it. And it's all been happening at just the right time."

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