We had a patient presentation about HIV/AIDS. During the presentation, our professor told us that most people who had AIDS in the 1980s had died. The patient who spoke with us had had AIDS for 20 years!
He started the talk by asking if anyone would give him a hug. It took a minute, and then someone got up. He laughed and said, "Thanks, it's not necessary. I just wanted to show you all that the stigma of AIDS isn't quite gone."
He spoke candidly about being diagnosed, sharing the news with his family, and how it had affected him. It brought back a lot of memories for me.
My biological dad was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. 26 years ago. I'd imagine he's one of the oldest surviving AIDS patients in the world.
As if hearing about living with the disease wasn't hard enough, the patient looked JUST like my dad, right down to his mannerisms and style of speaking.
I think it was so important for our class to understand the gravity of having a disease like AIDS and how it changes your entire life. But at the same time, I'd already been through it, and let me tell you: it wasn't fun.
At this peak, my dad took 74 pills a day.
Yeah, he used something like this, but it was for ONE DAY. He had to take medication every four hours, whether he was sleeping or not.
I remember going to school with him in the morning. Snow would be streaming in our car windows from outside. I'd be in my jacket, wrapped up in a blanket and still be shivering. My biological father would be wearing shorts and a T-shirt. And he'd be sweating.
I remember being in Disney world, and my biological dad was wheeling around an IV with him.
The side effects are not done justice by any description I have ever heard. My biological dad became emaciated. He had uncontrollable nausea, diarrhea, sometimes both at the same time. He was always tired and sick. Sores opened on his body and never closed. He's had a heart attack, and is suffering from congestive heart failure. He would waste, losing weight incredibly quickly. Then, he would gain it all back in his abdomen area. His limbs suffered weird muscular problems that he couldn't get to go away. He was in and out of the hospital at least 5 or 6 times a year.
But you can't be scared all the time. I mean, after the fifth hospitalization, you just become desensitized to it.
The bottom line is: he lived. Against all odds he lived. I came to terms with his (what I thought would be) imminent death a long time ago. So now, thinking of his battle with AIDS isn't as painful as remembering our estrangement when I was 16.
But after thinking about all of this for much of the week, I also found out that a family member may be fighting against a serious disease. Let's hope they aren't.
And then, to pour salt on my wounds, I got trapped in an elevator for 45 minutes on Friday! With 12 other people all crammed against me. I could barely move. After I told them not to get on the elevator because it was too many people. Dag nab it, life.
I'm sure next week will be better. Although I do have an exam tomorrow...