Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Angels I Don't See PART VII


On Christmas Eve my mother, grandmother, aunt and brother visited Ric in the hospital. All except my brother were visiting from Texas on a long-planned Christmas vacation. My brother is a sophomore at NYU and he acted as their tour guide while they were here.

My heart broke that the first – and probably last – time my grandmother met Ric was in a hospital room. Though she did not know what he was hospitalized for at the time, my concern was that when she found out it would only reinforce negative notions of gay people and AIDS.

But my grandmother did something extraordinary. My mother asked if we could pray and my grandmother took Ric’s frail hand in hers and bowed her head. It was one of the few times in my life that I have seen the compassion of Christ so magnificently personified. For all my misgivings with my family and their beliefs, that one moment of absolute love without condition is something I will never forget as long as I live.

She spoke to him as though he was one of her very own grandchildren, gave him Christmas gifts (one of which was a pamphlet by Ric Warren, but she didn’t realize why that might not be the best pick. I doubt she even knew of the controversy surrounding Warren at the time), laughed at his silly jokes and listened as he repeated the same story over and over again.

Shortly after my family left, Ric decided he was going to leave the hospital. He ripped the IV out of his arm and started to get up. I restrained him and the nurses rushed in and put the IV back. Once he calmed back down I asked him about the HIV results, something up to that point I had not mentioned. He had no idea I knew his status.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were positive?” I sobbed.

“What? I’m not positive. What makes you think I have HIV?”

“Dr. Stop, the infectious disease doctor, had your bronchoscopy results faxed over from Dr. Libby’s office and the paperwork said you were positive”

“Dr. Libby’s an ass! He just made it up. I’M NOT POSITIVE”

“You’re telling me that one of the top pulmonologist in the nation, with posh offices on Madison Avenue, made up your HIV status just because he’s an asshole?”

“That’s exactly what I am saying. And besides, if I was positive I would have contracted it from you!”

“Well that remains to be seen. I am scheduling an appointment with Michael’s doctor to get tested” I said, trying to regain some composure.

“Well, I’m not positive. I just need muscle relaxers and I will be fine”

Once a certain idea entered Ric’s mind it was hard to shake him of it. The muscle relaxer bit was one such idea. He continually talked about muscle relaxers even though a) none of his muscles hurt and b) he could never explain how muscle relaxers would help his condition. He was convinced that acquiring the pills would be the cure for all that ailed him.

Exhausted and emotionally spent I went home to try and get some much needed rest. I took comfort in the fact that Ric was in the hospital despite some misgivings I had with the doctor to whom Ric had been assigned. Though the infectious disease (ID) doctor proved to be invaluable, Ric’s general doctor during his stay was completely worthless.

On Christmas day I returned to the hospital only to find Ric in an incorrigible mood.

“CALL DR. MIRZA AND TELL HIM I AM LEAVING” Ric screamed to the nurse.

“Whatever you say, Mr. White” the nurse conceded, visibly shaken by Ric’s behavior.

“He can’t be released! If he is released he may never make it back! He might die before he gets help again” I pleaded.

Shortly after the nurse returned to Ric’s room with another doctor and a piece of paper for Ric to sign.

“Dr. Mirza said that if you wanted to go home, it would be AMA. Therefore he wants you to sign this piece of paper and also agree that if you come back to this hospital for treatment, you do not see him” the other doctor explained.

AMA, for those not blessed to know medical jargon and acronyms, means “against medical advice” and usually when a patient checks out of a hospital AMA, insurance will not cover the stay.

Ric signed the paper and began to walk towards the elevator. I followed closely behind.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I asked.

“Leaving. I am not spending Christmas in the hospital. I will come back another day”

“But another day might be too late. You’ve got to stay. You’ve got to get an HIV test and they’ve got to figure out what’s wrong with you”

Even though Ric denied that he was HIV positive he refused to consent to a test during his stay at the hospital. Since his status was not absolutely certain, the ID doctor could not start him on HIV medicines to improve his condition.

After a tumultuous night spent at home, full of yelling and discord, I spent the following morning scheduling my HIV test and figuring out my escape.

At that point, I didn’t know for certain what my next move would be. But I did know that I was leaving Ric. If he was to willfully choose to ignore medical advice and possibly die, I was not going to be around to watch it.

I could not watch him choose to end his life. But ultimately I could not allow Ric to take me down with him. His suicide mission would have only one fatality.

I was going to live. And if not, I would die trying.

Part VIII here

1 comment:

alan said...

I cannot imagine the heart rending you must have gone through to come to these decisions...

Mine is rending for you!


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