My 2022 Health Story

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  • Last Update: 2022-05-20 06:25:49

I came into the hospital here in Mistelbach on Tuesday 26 April with a recurrence of atrial fibrillation.

I was first diagnosed with this in 2016 when it manifested in extreme breathlessness and was combined with massive fluid deposits (to the tune of 40kgs). I was prescibed a cocktail of meds which rapidly reduced my weight and seemed to keep the aFib under control,.

Lately the fluid deposits have gone up again and this past weekend I semed to be back at square one: extreme breathlessness after just a couple of steps.

When we moved from Vienna to Gross-Schweibarth in 2016 we had stayed with our Vienna GP, but he shut up shop a month ago.

So Tuesday morning my wife went to see our village doctor to ask if he would take me on as a patient and to make a house call. He went one better: on the strength of Geraldine’s description of my symptoms he gave her a referral to the nearest hospital and called the ambulance service to take me there.

Blood analysis suggested a massive infection somewhere in my body, which was quickly localized and identfied as being centered in a phlegmon on my inside thigh, caused by skin rubbing against skin.
Also said my blood pressure is very low.

So first order of the day is fighting the infection, with an antibiotic infusion and more fluid while at the same time raising and stabilizing my blood pressure. Since Tuesday they have easily added 10 litres of fluid to my system; fortunately they inserted a urine catheter which takes care of going pipi.

We seem to now (April 30) have come to the point where they will try to extract all that extra fluid again, while still supporting my blood pressure. For this I will still be in the IC Monitoring unit where I have been so far.

Here in the monitoring unit I am massively wired up:

  • a wire in the urine catheter measures the temperature;
  • a tube in an arterial port constantly reports blood pressure;
  • a wire-attached sensor on my finger reports on the blood’s oxygen saturation;
  • five wires attached to stickers on my chest supply ECG data;
  • a port on my neck provides access for fluid and medicine infusions;
  • and a tube around my neck and into the nostrils supplies increasingly reduced oxygen (currently 2ltr/hour).

All of these attachments do not like to be disturbed, making typing longer texts extremely difficult.

They also make it extremely difficult to sit up by myself, because they will always catch somewhere. Sitting itself is also a pain because my belly is now so blown up with water that I cannot sit with it hanging between my thighs; and if it sits on top of my thighs it interferes with sitting and makes it very uncomfortable.

I said to my wife the other day that this is a way of learning (a) patience because one can’t do anything for oneself, and of (b) humility because one has to abandon all shame when lying naked in a room and half a dozen of people of both sexes mill around and interfere with those body parts one normally hides from everybody.

For the next stage I will be moved to a normal ward, with most attachments except the infusion port on my neck and the urine catheter gone. There a slower diureses will begin, for the fluid deposits I brought with me, while at the same time adjusting my meds to better control my aFib (beta blocker, ace suppressor), ongoing diuresis (Lasix based), and prevent blood clots.

I have no idea how long this phase will take, nor how long before I have recovered reasonable mobility, but God knows, and he will give me the necessary patience – I think he’s already helped immensely with the humility.

I will add to this story as it progresses.

Continued Tuesday, May 3rd

Yesterday, May 2nd, I was moved to a normal ward or “Bettenstation”. This was delayed a couple of days after the IC nurses noted some suppuration from the phlegmon at the top of my right leg and a surgeon was called in to cut it open and flush and drain it. It was confirmed that this was the source of my massive infection: an instance of erisypelas; they did not want to move me right after this surgery so my move was delayed until Monday.

I am now also being treated for diabetes; it is not clear whether this is a permanent diagnosis or whether the messed up sugar values are a temporary side effect of fighting the infection.

Yesterday the doctor said I would need to stay here for at least another week; as soon as the wound at the top of my right thigh has healed a bit better we will work on increasing my mobility. This would allow me to get dressed a bit more decently and thus take advantage of the fact that since the weekend limits on number of visitors have been removed (although they still have to be vaccinated/recovered/tested and wear FFP2 masks)[1]. So at least some afternoons I should be able to look forward to some entertainment.

Continued Friday, May 6 Morning

Thanks to my dear wife bringing me my second custom pillow yesterday I woke up much more rested this morning. No longer being wired to a beeping monitor beside my bed may have helped, as well.

Now I am waiting for breakfast, which will consist of two slices stale whole grain bread, tiny portions of margarine and jam, and a small tub of yoghurt. And coffee of course.

Continued May 6 Afternoon

This afternoon a surgeon and three nurses came to thoroughly clean out the erisypelas wound at the top of my right thigh. Curious, because I had absolutely no idea what things looked like down there, I handed my phone to one of the nurses and asked him to take a photo. I will not upload the picture here, but the wound is a cavity about 1½” long and ¾” tall; I can’t tell how deep it is but I guess ½” to ¾”. In order to support healing by keeping the wound dry they inserted a silver oxyde treated sponge attached by a hose to a vacuum pump which suctions the secretions.

This sounds a lot scarier than it is; in fact the earlier dressing was more uncomfortable than this sponge.

On Monday (May 9) the physiotherapist had me sit up again, and this new dressing was a lot less in the way than the previous one, although the ongoing diuresis and loss of fluid from my tissue may also have helped. The therapist wanted me to sit for about an hour; unfortunately after half an hour I had an attack of vertigo and had to lie down again.

I asked the doctor how long my “cave” would take to heal; his answer was “Weeks!” and in all likelihood I will have to stay here in the hospital for the duration.

We shall see.

Continued May 14 

I have now definitely been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and had a consultation with a dietologist to determine my future meal plan here in the hospital. Almost instantly the food I am served is more palatable.

My wound continues to heal, but I can tell it will take some time.

Continued May 20

Yesterday, and a bit unexpectedly, I was told I would be released from the hospital today. Since my wife was busy unil the afternoon with a volunteer job in Vienna this left only last night and this morning to get the house ready for me,

I will provide more details when I am safely settled at home; but there is one important thing to consider: If you are planning to come and visit me, don’t come to the hospital but to our house, after giving us a heads-up at +43-699-1715-0995.

(To be continued)

 

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  1. The vaccinated/recovered/tested requirement is referred to as “3G” here, for German geimpft/genesen/getested[]
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Two Vienna Churches: Stadtlicht and New City Wien

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Having grown up in a fairly traditional Roman Catholic family, by the time I reached my mid-teens I was no longer really interested in God and church. Then I met a group of young people to whom God seemed to be a living reality, and after spending some time with them I decided to follow Jesus myself.

After a few very formative months in England I came back to Vienna during the summer of 1972 and found my way to an evangelical church in the process of formation. This church later became known as the Tulpengasse or TUGA church, and was the subject of a book by Canadian Mennonite author Margaret Epp. Some of the people I got to know there are still more or less close friends today, such as Johannes Fichtenbauer, who today is a Roman Catholic deacon; others have already passed away, such as the church’s founding pastor and his wife, Canadian Mennonite Brethren missionaries Abe and Irene Neufeld; many others I have lost touch with after moving on, for a variety of reasons, to other churches both in Austria and abroad.

Today, the TUGA church is part of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Austria, and thus also part of the state-recognized Free Churches in Austria.

A few weeks ago the TUGA church moved from their longtime facilty in Tulpengasse in Vienna’s 8th district, to the novum venue in Wiedner Hauptstrasse 146, in Vienna’s 5th district, known as Margareten. Consequently they changed their name to Stadtlicht – Freikirche Margareten, i.e. Light For The City – Free Church Margareten.

The Stadtlicht church shares its space with the bi-lingual reformed New City Wien church, which also recently moved to the novum location from their old premises on the other side of Wiedner Hauptstraße, a few hundred meters towards the city center. My connection to New City Wien is the fact that my son Stephen and his wife are pretty intensively involved in this church, and that for this reason I have frequently attended their Sunday morning service in the past.

novum Wiedner Hauptstraße is a part of novum locations, a company started and owned by Christians which owns and operates multiple dual-use facilities across Austria: these are typically used by evangelical churches on the weekend, and rented out as conference and seminar facilities during the week. This business model is not without problems, and the co-existence of the two types of users  is not always friction-free, but it has made available affordable meeting spaces to evangelical churches who would otherwise have a hard time affording their own space.

Stadtlicht have their Sunday service in the morning, and New City Wien have theirs in the afternoon. Because of the restrictions imposed due to the Covid pandemic both churches are live streaming their services on YouTube, permitting me to follow both services despite my health-induced mobility challenges.

Here are the links to their respective YouTube channels, where the livestreams can be found each Sunday, as well with videos of past sermons:

My prayer and wish for these two churches is that together they can be an even brighter light and can even more effectively seek the welfare of the city whom their names reference (Jeremiah 29:7).

There are two things in this story which are not without pain to me:

On the one hand the fact that some of those I got to know and respect in the TUGA church (and of course also in various other churches since then) have somehow and for a variety of reasons drifted  away from biblical Christianity, towards some other ideology or philosophy. While I do not feel called or qualified to speculate on the eternal fate of other people (I am much to busy to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling — Philippians 2:12),  when I hear about someone’s passing, and the report is cloaked in the unbiblical language of New Age or other eastern esoteric religion, then, while I commit this person to the boundless love, mercy and grace of God, I cannot help but have some slight doubt as to their fate.

And on the other hand there is the sad fact that it was apparently not possible to preserve the Tulpengasse venue as a space for Christian ministry, and so an important piece of Vienna’s evangelical history is lost forever.

 

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Alyssa and her family need our help

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Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)

Don & Nancy Prokop came to Austria as Vineyard missionaries, and together with Dave & Lisa Boyd the planted and nurtured the Vienna Vinyard. Their children Amy, Alyssa, and Matthew grew up near Vienna and attended Vienna Christian School (now International Christian School of Vienna). In recent years Don Prokop is part of the Mercy House of Prayer in Vienna, as well as part of the intercession team for the Austrian Roundtable, a grassroots Christian reconciliation initiative.

Their three children are married, Amy in California, Alyssa in Germany, and Matthew here in Austria.

In April of 2020 Alyssa’s husband David Kogler found her unresponsive in her bed. She was rushed to the hospital, and the initial diagnosis was an unspecified infection which had gone septic and caused swelling on the brain (cerebral edema). Alyssa almost died, and a short time later doctors diagnosed a rare condition: Addison’s Disease or hypocortisolism.

All of this has left Alyssa in a minimally conscious state, unable to walk, talk, care for herself or feed herself. At 46, the once vibrant caring wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend to many, a talented singer, has been silenced.

Because of Covid restrictions, initially visits were severely restricted; in fact, Alyssa’s children saw their mother for the first time in a full year in April 2021.

Since last summer Alyssa has been in a nursing home; she needs round the clock care and intensive therapies to hopefully regain some of her abilities. All this is expensive; in God’s providence much of it is covered by insurance and government aid. Nevertheless, Alyssa’s husband David faces a monthly shortfall of $1800 (€1500).

This is why Alyssa’s sister Amy has started a GoFundMe campaign to financially support Alyssa and her family.

In the spirit of “bearing one another’s burdens” I ask all my readers to consider participating, according to their means and abilities.

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A Christmas Childhood Memory

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(Hier gibt es eine deutsche Version dieses Beitrags)

Growing up we had a large print of a Madonna with Child hanging in our living room which has left a lasting impression.

The picture on our wall looked like the left half of the picture at the top of this page, “Four Shepherds”, and I think what impressed me was its simplicity when compared to the usual statues and pictures of the  mother of Christ in Roman Catholic Austria. Neither mother nor Child have a halo, for example.1 To me, the color scheme communicates serenity, calm, and security.

I chose to post the picture “Four Shepherds” here, instead of just the Madonna with Child, because it fits very well with the Christmas season.

The artist, Albin Egger-Lienz, was born in 1868 and died in 1926, and worked mostly in Munich, Vienna, and the Tyrol. His reputation and reception post-World War II suffered from the fact that several high-ranking Nazis had praised his work — but so had Leo Trotsky.

  1. The artist painted several versions of this Madonna and Child motif, some in different colors, and some with halos.
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My Views on the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper

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As an Evangelical Christian, currently attending a Baptist church in Vienna, Austria, I have for quite a while been bothered by the prevailing view of the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, in our circles. Continue reading My Views on the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper

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