“I work in a large hospital. Nine days ago, I got a call from Nancy. She works in Employee Health. She is responsible for exercise programs, quitting smoking, etc. I was stuck by a needle back in May 1993. The first and second HIV test came back negative.
So, when I got the call from Nancy, I just blew it off, since Employee Health always follows up with a phone call. I gave her a call an hour or so later and she asked if I had time to come to her office. My heart started pounding. With trepidation, I went to her office. She closed her office door and told her secretary, “No interruptions!”
I’m thinking, “This has to be a bad thing.”
She introduced herself and started talking about lab results. She brought out a box of Kleenex, and I still had no idea what she was talking about. I asked her to spell it out for me. She said I was HIV positive.
I looked out the window and saw the trees and the astonishingly blue skies and my first words were, “My kids!” How were they going to be without me? I have to tell you, I did 100 mph in that chair in that second. Nancy and I both cried. We held each other. My God — my babies, my fiancé, my family!
She asked me if I wanted to call anyone. My mind reeled! Dr. Jones, who had been my son’s Godfather and also an infectious disease doctor — I’d better call my fiancé first — my family — oh God, my kids! How do I do this?
I decided I needed to take care of the most pressing issue: my health. I asked Nancy to call Dr. Jones. It turns out he was on vacation. She pressed his service into paging him in the West Indies. He patched a call through to Nancy’s office. He asked for me, bypassing the secretary and Nancy. I remember apologizing for interrupting his vacation. He said “I am so sorry about this. I can’t believe this is happening. I am on my way there.” In the meantime, he gave telephone orders for several lab tests and some orders to the pharmacy.
With that done, I faced the darkest hours of my life. I was just handed a death sentence. Since I was a single mom, who was going to take care of my babies? What was THEIR quality of life going to be like, not to mention mine? What about my fiancé? Is he strong enough to do this?
I asked Nancy all of these questions. She really didn’t have any pat answers, but she said, “If you need anything, ANYTHING at all, even if you want someone to put gas in your car, call me. Here is my home phone.”
I decided not to say anything to my babies. They were 7 and 2 years old. I sat my fiancé on the cedar chest at the end of my bed. I told him and he went silent. He hugged me and then walked out of my life. What do I do now? I called Nancy. I said, “He left and I have HIV. How do I do this alone?”
I found some lifelong friends after that conversation. Nancy, the woman that held my lifeline that night. Gideon, my friend, my soul mate and the man that cut the red tape and came to my house to draw my blood, only to rush it to North Carolina and Texas, all the while maintaining professional confidentiality. He came the next day, only to hug me as hard as he could. Then, there was Dr. D. Jones.
Dr. Jones and I met in his office two days later. He explained my odds and what I could expect during the course of this disease. He then asked me what I wanted to do. By then I was angry. This thing had turned my life upside down and you bet, if I was going down, I was going to go down fighting.
The first thing I asked Dr. Jones was to have my labs redrawn and tested by an independent lab. After another agonizing 2 weeks, those tests miraculously came back negative.
Incredible! Then I thought, “Hey, wait a minute…” I asked Dr. Jones to order a third set of lab tests with yet another independent lab. Those labs came back decidedly negative!
It has been a long, hard road full of grief, sorrow, anger, forgiveness, sweetness and learning. I have my babies, Nancy, Gideon, Dr. Jones and most of all God. Mostly, though, I just celebrate those astonishingly blue skies and the fact that I can do so, everyday, seven years later.”
Trace (Received on Sunday December 12th, 1999)