After laying in coma for three weeks in a Prague (Czech Republic) hospital, spending one week recovering at a Czech friend’s house and almost three weeks at a North Haven rehabilitation center doing physical therapy twice a day, Professor Edward Alwood said he is longing to get back to Quinnipiac.
“I’m not a very good patient,” he said. “I’m in a hurry.”
Alwood was visiting Prague for what he thought was going to be a nine-day trip during Thanksgiving Break, when he fell down a 20-feet escalator shaft in the national train station. He regained consciousness three weeks later in a Prague hospital. He is now recovering from an infection that occurred during spinal surgery.
When Alwood went to purchase his two-week tram ticket in late November, the Prague train station was under construction. The ticket office was temporarily closed, even though the posted hours clearly stated that it was supposed to be open at that time. Alwood left to get a coke and with the intention of returning a few minutes later.
“I don’t remember what happened,” he said. “The last thing I remember is that an aggressive type of pan-handler came up and tried to sell me a ticket of some sort. I vaguely remember a sensation of being lifted by the belt.”
At the hospital, a doctor who examined him noted swelling of the brain and artificially induced the coma.
At first, doctors and police could not identify Alwood, since his identification card was only written in English. However, his friends in Prague were worried when they did not hear from him, so they reported him missing to the Prague police, and soon the pieces fell in place.
“For a long time, I was just a missing person,” said Alwood.
At the same time in the United States, the university started to worry about Alwood.
“When Professor Alwood didn’t show up for class on Monday after Thanksgiving, we suspected a problem,” said Jarice Hanson, dean of the School of Communications. “He is very conscientious, and would never miss a class if he could help it.”
After checking with a travel agent to see if there had been any weather delays, Alwood’s building manager was contacted to check the apartment.
“When there was no evidence he’d been there, the manager contacted his brother in Florida,” said Hanson. “I then called the brother, and within the next 24 hours the brother had contacted someone he knew in the State Department, and the American Embassy in the Czech Republic was contacted. They knew that Alwood was in the hospital.”
After Alwood’s friend got him out of the Prague hospital, he stayed with her for a week.
“She had two foster sons and she put them in charge of me,” he said.
In general, Alwood said, it was not too difficult to make himself understood at the Prague hospital or with the two boys. He does not speak much Czech, but he had a dictionary with him, and the doctors at the hospital spoke some English.
“My Czech friend brought me a cell phone,” he said. “If there was something I really wanted to tell the doctors, I could call my friend and tell him [in English], and then he could tell the doctors.”
From the American side, language was a bigger problem in trying to determine what had actually happened to Alwood.
“Not only was language a problem, but the time difference was too,” said Hanson. “Professor Ben Page speaks Czech and made several calls for us. Once we finally started to get more information, we were in touch with the American Embassy, and the vice council who helped us.”
Alwood has been to Prague several times since he has an adjunct affiliation and is doing research there.
“Whenever he talks about Prague his face lights up,” said Professor Mira Binford, who shares an office with Alwood.
Several students have e-mailed Alwood during the break wondering what happened to him. Many students also wrote cards and letters expressing their concern. Hanson sent these letters to the embassy, and her contact person there delivered the letters to Alwood on New Year’s Day.
“It is very reassuring that people are worried,” said Alwood.
The university brought him his laptop last week, so he can now check and respond to e-mails, and he is just finishing grading student papers from last semester.
“The university has been wonderful for me,” he said, mentioning also how people at Quinnipiac helped him get back to the U.S.
Hanson explained that while she worked with the insurance companies, Regine Lambrech, director of International Education, helped her find airlines and services available to injured travelers, and Doctor Ron Rozett in the Health Management program helped find an orthopedic specialist so Alwood had a doctor to see when he returned.
“Several of our faculty and staff have volunteered to take him to the doctor when he needs to go, and many visit,” said Hanson.
Alwood is hoping to be back to teach his classes in journalism in mid-February. As of now, adjunct instructors are teaching two of his classes, and different faculty take turns teaching his graduate classes that meet once a week.
“Professor Alwood already had syllabi and books ordered, so we’re following his directions,” said Hanson. “Hopefully, he’ll be back very soon. Within a couple of weeks he’ll be teaching his classes on his own again.”
Professor Edward Alwood has been at Quinnipiac University since the Fall 2002 semester. Before that, he was teaching at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa.