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Posted December 13, 2004 | comments Leave a comment

Ricin case bitter reminder for anthrax victim

By Charlotte J. Eller

When poisonous ricin powder was found on a letter-sorting machine in a U.S. Senate office building earlier this month, David R. Hose Sr. had to reflect on how terror by mail has changed his own life.

Hose, one of six survivors of a 2001 bioterrorism attack, is still recovering from his exposure to anthrax in letters that passed through his own workplace, a State Department mail handling facility in Sterling run by Lam Associates.

Hearing about the ricin found on the machine in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office made him think of his former colleagues who still work in Northern Virginia.

Ricin powder, more difficult to spread by air than anthrax, "might have gone through the facility that I worked at and those people might be subjected to the same stuff again," Hose said.

Pointing at the Frist incident and the recent discovery of a powder-laced letter addressed to the Republican National Committee, Hose said the recent events make him believe such attacks are linked to foreign terrorists.

"Since [the GOP letter] went through the same post office in Connecticut that [handled an anthrax-tainted letter, according to CNN] that killed a 94-year-old lady in 2001 ... I think this letter links the anthrax with al-Qaida," he said.

Similar incidents Monday, in which a white powder showed up at Project Hope in Millwood, and Wednesday, when three Petersburg post offices were closed because of a package leaking white powder, also have stirred concern.

Since he contracted inhalation anthrax Oct. 22, 2001, Hose, 61, aided by his wife, Connie, has battled for survival against the disease.

Weakened, he spends lots of time "waiting to get better. Going to the hospital. Going to doctors. Going to get prescriptions filled. And getting groceries. That's about all we do." Watching television and playing with his poodle are among Hose's chief pastimes.
Concerned about his lowered immunity from diseases, Hose rarely goes outside.
The first battle Hose had to fight was for his life. With help from physicians and Winchester Medical Center, he continues to recover.

More recently, his war has turned into a fight against bureaucracy for economic survival in a tangle of legal and financial issues that have made even refilling a prescription a struggle.

Physicians have said he won't work again. Meanwhile, Hose's income has been reduced to worker's compensation payments from the state.

Lately, Hose, who has filed a $12 million claim against the federal government, has felt harassed by the state program. His checks, 13 percent less than what he earned while working, arrive late.

In December, when his doctor prescribed a new drug, the state refused to fill it and refill two others.

Not until Hose asked a federal official to get involved did he get his medicine.
When his January check didn't arrive, he called a worker's compensation nurse. She found his name dropped from the program of payees. She immediately got it reinstated.
Efforts to get Social Security payments, for which he filed Sept. 12, 2002, have been only partly successful.

In April 2003, he finally learned Social Security would pay him $15 per month. This year, it increased to $38 per month. Back payments totaled $60, he said.

He has never gotten any explanation about why payments are so small, when he can expect full coverage and why he has had to wait for answers.

Social Security subtracts the workman's compensation payments from what he might otherwise receive. It also deducted $8,767 from him last year for a never-explained expense.

About 80 percent of his hospital bills were paid by his company's health insurance, before going to the workmen's compensation program.

The first one totaled about $325,000, while the second, when pneumonia struck, was more than $630,000, excluding doctors' bills, special tests, and eye exams.

Though the couple are thankful for what they do receive, "it's still very tight," Hose said. "We're trying to be as frugal as we can."

"It's a good thing I was making good money [when he was working] or I would really have been shot. I have had a lot of bills," Hose said.


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