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Chronicle of a heart attack

February 19, 2006 – Sunday

Holy Mass in the basilica, eleven o’clock. About 150 worshipers. I do not feel well, tired, worn out. But it is not the first time.Two o’clock in the afternoon church service for the children. More and more men and women join us. On this day there are about 530 people. In this second service I move between the children and the adults. Since May 2, the day of the new dedication, there has been a miracle. The worshipers, all of them gypsies, watch the service with discipline and in silence. On May 2, it still was like a national uprising. I must remember this day and feel like being in a circus ring among trained carnivores, although all of them are devotionally listening, praying, singing. No reason for fear. After all: a vision. After the service I am totally exhausted.I go to bed and sleep. About three o’clock at night a horrible spasm rudely awakes me. I am frightened, nervous, I am shivering, sweating, I have to struggle for air. I am not afraid of death, but I do not want to suffer. It lasts for three hours. Then it is over. I close my eyes and sleep deeply.The next morning the doctor ascertains a heart attack. Off to the hospital immediately. The nice new private hospital Polisana does not have a cardiology. So, off to the public hospital. From experience I know what I am going to expect there. A friendly doctor persuades me to stay and makes me aware of the danger of leaving. I have brought my own bed clothes. Thank God. The mattress must be from another century, too big for the bed, contaminated, dirty. I have to be on a drip and on a heart machine. A man in a black leather jacket enters and gives some instructions to the three nurses. I ask him, who he is. He then introduces himself. He is another doctor. Communists do not introduce themselves.A few hours later I am brought to another sick room. I have to watch out that I may take my bed clothes with me. Excitement. Bad for a heart attack. 6 people in one room, the beds are too close to each other. Smells. Bad air. The window has to remain closed. A new ECG. Confirmation of the heart attack. The walls are newly painted now, but the rooms are not cleaned, as ever. There is no hygiene in the bathrooms, no toilet paper. As ever. The urinals are emptied in the sink. The toilet lids are torn out. The doctor, a smart man, consoles me. He has himself operated in Germany, if necessary. However, I do not have a health insurance for Germany. I go to his room and we argue about everything and anything. But not about the condition of the hospital.  


February 22, 2006 – Wednesday  

After the third unacceptable night I decide to leave. My people had bought something eatable for me. In Germany not even the pigs would eat what was given out there.The doctor implores me to stay and to wait for my ambulance transfer to the special heart clinic in Tirgu Mures. He patiently explains me the risk of leaving at this stage. I lay my destiny in God’s hands and undersign that I leave at my own risk. He calls the colleague in Tirgu Mures and says a good word for me and tells him, who is going to come, somebody, who has been unselfishly and humanitarily working in Romania for 15 years. I tell him that I do not even have a health insurance for Romania. They had denied it to me. He moves everything and anything, he leans out of the window against all attempts of eavesdropping and contrary to all expectations he manages it. I will get a health insurance, if I pay for the recent three years. I will have to take it from the donations, because I have not had a salary for 15 years.Minodora, the accountant, gets the release papers of the hospital a few days later. She is sent back and forth through the whole hospital area, is half a day busy with collecting six stamps in order to validate the papers.Home again. I feel miserable. But I am home again. A bed with clean sheets, fresh orange juice, good words of my people, silence, peace. I have the idea to rather die here than to live in the dirt and stress of the hospital.


Thursday to Saturday 

I stay in bed, get up once in a while. No pains anymore, but always this fatigue. The doctor comes for a check up every day.


February 26, 2006 – Sunday 

More than 200 gypsies of “my“ parish have gathered for praying in the basilica. I have been told about their devoutness, silence and emotion. They bring candles to the altar and want me to come back. At the same time I leave. I do not want anybody to see me, to stop me. On Monday morning I have to be in the heart clinic in Tirgu Mures. I dread this “factory” for the sick. It is said that not even the doctors and staff know each other, because it is such a big house.I go to a hotel, a last cozy evening with a nice good dinner and a last glass of wine. I sleep very well.


February 27, 2006 – Monday morning

I am in the clinic on time. In the hall about 100 to 200 people shove each other back and forth. I am pushed and hustled, permanently somebody treads on my feet. Noise, noise. I am bothered by beggars. Crippled gypsies with high-heels are permanently strolling by. It stinks like hell. I deliver my referral papers. The assistant does not give me answer. Did I really have a heart attack or do I just imagine? Do I not have to be treated immediately? Not in Romania. In Romania the life of an individual does not count. One year before the integration into Europe. 15 years after the so-called revolution. I feel how they treat people with contempt here. The assistant permanently leaves her offices, locks it up and returns again and again. Permanently people knock at her door in vain or she is brief with them. After 90 minutes waiting (having had a heart attack) I address myself to her on one of her returns. She treats me like a mangy dog, forbids me to speak and does not give me a chance to. I have to wait like all the others have to. I have a fit of rage and shout at her. It gets silent in the hall. She draws me into her office, presents me a file, which she opens at one end only, where I had to undersign. I grab the file in order to see what I am going to undersign. They are four blank sheets. Obviously she has become scared like all those in Romania who have to learn that I do not belong to the communist herd. She tells me that somebody is going to pick me up immediately. A cleaner appears and accompanies me to the elevator. She harshly requests me to bring my suitcase to a storage, to undress there and to re-appear in my pyjamas. I am not allowed to take along my prayer book, she says. I object. That is the way it is, all are equal here. I once again get angry. I feel my heart cramping. I think they have shortage of space and therefore want to get rid of the stupid sick people in advance. I request to have a look into my room before. The cleaner says this was unbelievable. Meanwhile the elevator has stopped two times, has opened and closed, each time full to bursting. No chance to get in. On the opposite side are four elevators which are mostly empty. I ask why we could not use one of those.

They are exclusively reserved for the staff, she answers. I just try and enter such an elevator. Half of it is occupied by the elevator attendant in a big chair. I scrape by her. She keeps silent, maybe she considers me to be one of the staff due to my priest clothing.Arriving on the floor “my” cleaner gets very nervous. She has not been able to avoid that I arrive in my clothes. The doctor is called. Again half an hour passes by and I have to wait standing. My symptoms begin to reappear. The doctor comes and I tell him that I am not a communist and that I have not even learned to be one. I request to be treated with respect like I treat my fellow humans respectfully, even the gypsies in my village, even the dirty children on the street. He looks at me unbelievingly and smiles. I am not able to read this smile. It may be embarassment or even contempt. He says, it is not a problem to have a look into the room. The cleaner shrugs her shoulders and murmurs something like “we are nobody, much too small”. I have to cover my shoes with a plastic wrap (what I understand), but even to put an old shabby, grey and dirty cloak over my shoulders.

I ask, are you sure that there are no bacteria on it …?Now I am admitted to the sanctuary. A long hall area, room by room, in every room eight beds, bed by bed, almost no space between. My heart is cramping more and more. They have reserved a “spare room” for me, they say. Two good-looking beds made of wood, but rather made for children. I am going to fall out of there, I would rather like to sleep well. Moreover, I would have to change the bed clothes. I have to fight for air. I rush back through the hall. I tell them that I have to take an airing. Please let me go outside. The assistant of the doctor comes. Stay, please stay. Of course, you may bring along your suitcase and your bed clothes, but please stay here. I tell her that at the moment I do not know what to do. I have to go downstairs, I have to go outside.

Please let me go outside. I feel, as if I tumble down.I want to go downstairs. Again all the elevetors are occupied. Once again I take a staff elevator. I go outside, sweat, fear, I sit down on the stairs. Viorel and Minodora, my abiders,  had come here on the quiet, too. They had anticipated what was going to happen and they were on the spot … In those moments I know who are the loyal ones.Viorel knows me. He says, come and let us have something to eat first. I relax. I eat a light Lasagne. My face gets ist color back and I am in a mood for joking again: escaped from the death factory.I am back home again in the evening. My appartment seems like a palace to me. Again I am back home. I go to bed. Thank God that he has saved me from this factory.


Thursday, March 2, 2006 - Thursday

I have slept well, I wake up like a bear coming out of hibernation. I make the sign of the cross, say Good Morning to our LORD. I get up and feel well, go to the computer and write this chronicle.My friends Bruno (Switzerland) and Reiner (Germany) organize an operation in Switzerland, inform me about it via phone. I do not have an insurance, not even for Germany, so they even organize the money. Whenever it seems that your are left by everybody, somebody is going to knock at the door. How can I ever make up for that. Our big donator in Switzerland, who forbids to even mention his name, has already given a big sum of money in order that the children may continue living during my absence. Now I can leave with a clear conscience, leave the children and go to a hospital in Western Europe. I do not even have to bring my bed clothes. I am waiting for a sign for my departure. Thank you friends and staff that you are there. Thank you Lord that I am in your hand. 


Continuation of the chronicle will follow.



Sick Factory Targu Mures





2007 Romania will be integrated into Europe
But without the people, without
the hospitals?



Father Don Demidoff ICCC


Chronicle Part II

After an odyssey through Romanian hospitals I go to a Swiss one. This is the second part of the chronicle. Departure for Switzerland. I want to get there without any stress. I am not allowed to fly. I have to be in the hospital of the Canton St. Gallen on March, 14, 2006. They plan to make a “coronary angiography”. I leave Romania at the beginning of March. I want to enjoy the trip to Western Europe, if it is even possible to enjoy a trip shortly after a heart attack. I plan a detour through Austria and Italy. I keep in mind that these might be my last days. I begin to think more and more intensively about death every day, as if it was coming shortly. There is a strange cheerfulnesss in me. After 15 years of torture, persecution and disappointment in Romania death seems to be a pleasant solution to me. If it is God’s will … a better life is waiting for me thereafter. I do not believe anymore in arriving in St. Gallen at all. Stefan is a very considerate driver and so I slide through this wonderful snow and winter landscape. How much whiter, how much purer, how much brighter will it be where I hope to get: in the fourth dimension. Arrival in St. Gallen. Bruno and Reiner have taken care of the financial affairs concerning the hospital. 9.000 Swiss Francs for three days and the angiography. I wince. With this sum I would be able to pay for 20 months of the life of a child in my home. On the other hand, if I am not alive anymore, what is going to happen with the home, what is going to happen with the children …  I feel welcome in the clinic like a chosen one. Everything is clean, hygienic, bright and most of all everybody is friendly. I remember the hospitals in Romania. I have to sit down for a moment. I have to rub my eyes: I actually have arrived. Thank you, you forever loving God: I have arrived. I have to wipe off some tears of thankfulness. The thoughts about death fly away during the following days. Obviously Bruno has told them what I have been through, so they give me a single room. I do not need my own bed clothes, I do not need anything. I think of my abandoned children in Cincu. The first examinations. The food could have been from a gourmet restaurant. The doctors talk to me, they inform me, they are even interested in Romania.Before the heart examination they offer me a tranquilizer. I laugh and say: still yesterday I was thinking of death, I know I am safe now. You do not have to tranquilize me. A little prick into the groin, shortly uncomfortable, then the insertion of the wire and a contrast agent. Shortly heat runs through my head. Then I do not feel anything anymore. 40 minutes later the heart examination is finished. I wait in the next room. There are no good news. “A stabilization by the means of a catheter will be a too big risk. You need a bypass operation.” Strange, how calmly I take that. It does not shock me.  The next day they want to transfer me to Zurich. Doctor, how much will the operation cost without a health insurance? 100.000 Swiss Francs, Father. I do not have it. May I live for some more days? God alone knows. This heart attack has been sufficiently dangerous. Moreover, you are diabetic. That means an aggravated risk. Bruno, the naturopath, examines me. He wants to give me hope, he believes in the great medicine man in heaven, too, and prescribes me natural medicine. He encourages me. Do I still need courage?  I leave. Back to Romania. Back to my abandoned children. Back to my gypsy community. April 13, 2006. I am still alive. I do hardly feel anything of the heart attack, that struck me 40 days ago. It was the second one. A miracle? An intervention of God? Oh yes, I am exceedingly tired in the evenings. Every morning I open my eyes in amazement: I am still here. I get up, I work, I celebrate Holy Mass. On my departure more than 200 gypsies had gathered in the basilica for praying. This prayer has arrived. I know it.