Monday, February 23, 2009

Angels I Don't See PART XVI

Parts I-XV here

I managed to restrain Ric at the corner of Holy Shit and He’s Running Into Traffic until the ambulance arrived.

“Why did you jump out of the car, sir?” the EMT asked.

“Because Jon-Marc would not stop and get me cigarettes! That’s why!”

It was true. I would not stop to get Ric cigarettes. The reason I would not stop to get Ric cigarettes was because he agreed to go to the hospital and I was racing there before he changed his mind, something he did twenty-seven-hundred times a minute.

Like everything else in our life, a seemingly simple drive to the hospital was turned into a chaotic mess starring the dynamic duo of dysfunctional and delusional. There was no way to go from point A to point B unless we first made pit stops at points C through Z.

“Can you take him to UMC please? That’s where we were heading when he jumped out of the car. That way his doctor can be his attending physician. Otherwise if you take him to [a hospital I refuse to name because it is so abysmal] we will be forced to have him transferred, which will take hours and delay him getting treatment for his condition, a condition that is getting worse by the minute”

At that point one of the EMT’s was already talking to Ric in the back of the ambulance.

“He has HIV, just started taking meds that he runs out of today and I convinced him to go to UMC because he is delusional and growing increasingly dangerous to himself and perhaps to others”. It was all part of the same song I’d been singing for weeks every time I spoke to a medical professional about Ric.

“Sir, we can’t take him to UMC. We have to take him to [the shittiest hospital this side of the Hudson]. But as you said, just get his doctor to order the transfer to UMC”.

I followed the ambulance to [if I am ever put in this particular hospital, someone please just come and pull the plug and shoot me full of a thousand bullets to make sure I’m dead]. When I arrived the ER doctor was already talking to Ric.

“Mr. White, can you tell me who the president is?”

“Bush but soon to be Obama” Ric replied.

“Can you tell me what month it is?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake! Yes, he can tell you what month it is! Yes he can tell you who the president is! He can tell even recite his home address! For the love of God, would someone please ask him about his dog Mojo, his home in the Virgin Islands, his new car and his yacht off the coast of Fiji?” I screamed.

“And you are?” the doctor asked, turning his attention to me.

“I am his Civil Unioned Partner” As I said it, I noted the acronym CUP in my head. I’m his CUP. Cute though CUP does not roll of the tongue the way husband does.

“He needs to be transferred to UMC right away” I continued.

“Well we are going to run some test here. Who is his doctor? His doctor would be the one that would order the transfer”

“I know that his doctor would be the one ordering his transfer. So please, whatever you do, get Dr. M on the phone and tell him to transfer him to UMC. That’s where we were headed when he jumped out of the car and we were forced to come to [if you are ever in this hospital you should do yourself a favor and go ahead and off yourself]. I don’t want him admitted here”

“He tried to jump out of the car?” the doctor responded, genuinely unaware of why Ric was brought in.

Are you f’in kidding me??? You don’t know why the guy you are treating is here? Do they even screen the doctors at [sometimes I have nightmares about being tied down with barbed-wire to a gurney in this place as they are wheeling me into surgery] or do they just have them watch a couple of episodes of Grey’s and give ‘em a stethoscope and some scrubs and then throw them on the floor of the ER for some hands-on training? I thought, for fear that if I said it out loud they might declare me dead right on the spot and start lifting my organs from my still-warm-to-the-touch body.

“Mr White, why did you try to jump out of the car?”

“He didn’t try to jump out of the car. He did jump out of the car!” I replied.

“Sir, I am talking to Mr. White. Now, Mr. White, why did you try to jump out of the car? Were you trying to get away from someone?” said the doctor, staring right at me.

“What? What does that even mean? He jumped out of the car because he wanted cigarettes. The reason he jumped out the car is irrelevant. The man JUMPED. OUT. OF. THE. CAR! He is suffering from HIV dementia or AIDS dementia complex. Either way, he needs help and quick and I want him transferred to UMC where his doctor can see him”

“Mr. White, is that true? Did you try to jump out of the car because you wanted cigarettes” the doctor said as his attention turned to what looked like a Blackberry.

“Why do you keep saying try? He didn’t try! He jumped out of the car. There was no trying involved. He opened the door and jumped out and then ran into traffic”

“I jumped out because he wouldn’t get me cigarettes. I wanted cigarettes and Jon-Marc wouldn’t stop and get me some”

“Well, you know Mr. White, cigarettes are bad for you”

“Well, you know doc, I hardly think lung cancer or heart disease or anything smoking related is at the top of our worries right now. With all due respect, could you please call Dr. M? I can give you his number” I said.

“I’d like to run some tests to see if Mr. White has toxo. Are you aware of what toxo is, sir?”

No, I am not. But I do know what push-me-too-far-you-mother-fucking-piece-of-doctor-caca-and-I-will-go-psycho-on-your-ass-and-if-you-don’t-start-listening-to-me-I-am-going to-take-that-Blackberry-and-make-it-a-permanent-part-of-your-face is.

“No, what’s toxo?” I replied, keeping my thoughts to myself.

As Doogie Whoseit schooled me in all things toxo I quickly caught on to what was happening. Though toxo is serious there was no reason that the test could not be performed once Ric was transferred to UMC. No, the reason we were being held up at [I’m serious as a heart attack. If you have a heart attack do not go to this place!], at least in my mind, was because the ER was slow and they wanted to get as much money as they could before they transferred Ric. Call me paranoid but I think ERs are like traffic cops -- They have a quota to meet.

Six hours later and he still had not been transferred.

“Why are you putting an IV in?” I asked as the nurse tried to find a vein on Ric’s arm.

“The doctor ordered it before Mr. White is taken upstairs” the nurse replied, still jabbing away at Ric’s arm.

“Taken upstairs as in being admitted over night?” I said as I faced the other direction so as not to watch her using Ric’s arm like a dart board..

“I don’t know. I’m just doing as I was told”

“First of all, he is being transferred to UMC and secondly, if you are going to put an IV in, you better restrain him. He will pull it out if you don’t”

“Mr. White, you’re not gonna pull this IV out of your arm, are you?” the nurse said as she rolled her eyes in my direction.

“He jumped out of a moving car! He wouldn’t think twice about pulling it out. And, did you just roll your eyes at me?

“Noooo. I wouldn’t pull it out. I never pull IVs out. He’s lying. Jon-Marc is lying” Ric responded like a five year old child getting ready to pull one over on his parents.

“Ok, that’s it. I’m done! I’m freakin’ done! Get your own damn help with all the lovely people at this sorry excuse for a hospital. I am going home. Good luck. Besides I’ve got to walk the dog”

As I was walking Trotter the phone rang.

“Yes, Mr. McDonald. I wanted to let you know that Mr. White is in the process of being transferred to UMC” the nurse on the other end explained. “To make things easier on him next time, you should take him straight to UMC. There was really no need to bring him here first”

“You don’t say? Straight to UMC next time? Now there’s an idea. I’ll keep that in mind, you know, next time. Thanks for the ad…Oh shit!”

“Excuse me?”

“No, nothing. I just stepped in my dog’s poop. I guess I was so distracted by the fabulous suggestion you made that I wasn’t paying attention and stepped in my dog’s business. Is there anything else?”

“Not really. Just remember to take him directly to UMC next time. That is, after all, where his doctor is ”

I was, officially, in Dante’s 9th circle of hell.

Part XVII soon

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Angels I Don't See PART XV

Part's I-XIV here

In the fall of 2007 I put pen to paper and listed all my greatest fears. Known as a fear inventory, this exercise in sobriety was meant to reveal, in plain sight, what in my overactive imagination I feared most and how exactly those fears were impeding my recovery.

The first four fears on the list were 1) Losing Ric 2) Becoming homeless and destitute 3) Being accused of a crime I didn’t commit and 4) Ric or me contracting an incurable disease.

As I discussed my fears with my mentor at the time, I could hardly imagine what utter hell it would be like to live through any of them. As I conjured up scenarios in my mind, each fantasy ended with either suicide or drinking myself to death. I did not have the emotional fortitude to withstand any situation that included any of those four things.

But staying alone at my friends house allowed me time to reflect. On the night of January 3rd, after yet another plea on the phone with Ric to do as Dr. M instructed and go back to the hospital, it hit me that each of those four fears were no longer imaginary. Instead, they were as real as the air I breathed.

I was in the throes of such unspeakable agony and yet I had not acted as I presumed I would. There was nary a thought of suicide and the thought of a drink repulsed me in ways it never had before. Instead something remarkable was happening.

Life on life’s terms was no longer a slogan cooked up in a smoke filled basement of some church by a bunch of drunks in need of a drink. Rather, it was a possible new way forward. Whereas in my past I managed to shirk life’s reality in a gadarene rush to the margins, I no longer had such a luxury. In fact, there were only two options left.

I could face my fears, bundled as they were, and risk defeat.

Or I could declare defeat without a fight, ensuring a future that was wholly controlled by my circumstances, thereby ceding my fate to everyone and everything except me. This option would also hasten Ric’s death.

If I chose the former, I would be navigating uncharted waters. Up to that point my decisions were always made by determining what would bring optimum comfort and minimum pain (an MO, by the way, that ironically almost always brought about the opposite). Steering my life instead of my life steering me was a foreign concept and the possibility that I might fail to meet those challenges was more incentive to just do nothing.

If I chose the latter, I could simply allow the situation to dictate the outcome like a rudderless boat adrift at sea, praying that one day by some miracle I would make it back to land. Though this option would be painful, it would also be easiest. And when it was all said and done, I could wallow in my defeat and bemoan the uncontrollable winds of life. Besides, there was already a drumbeat of doomsayers in my life that were whispering from the safety of the shore to put Ric in a state run home and secure my belongings at the apartment, chirping from their broken lighthouses words like eviction and death.

“He’s just jumped out of the car! It was moving and he just jumped out! He...”

“Where are you, sir?”


“What is your location, sir?”

Behold, the power of the wind.

Part XVI here

Friday, February 13, 2009

We interrupt our regularly scheduled series to say...

Vic, did you find what you were looking for? Two hours is an ungodly amount of time to spend on my blog. Shouldn't you be working? Does the boss allow his employees to tool around on the internet all day?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Angels I Don't See Part XIV

Click here for Parts I-XIII

What a difference a year makes. A year prior we could have afforded four times the 567.00 each month with money to spare. But standing at the pharmacy that day, with absolutely no money to pay for Ric’s life-saving medication, I was just a bum in a nice coat.

We had no money for rent, no money for bills, no money for food and, of course, no money for medicine. Our life was no life at all. And the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train.

“Can you tell me how much it would be without the HIV medications? Maybe I can just get the antibiotics and come back after I figure out how to pay for the Kaletra and Truvada” I humbly pleaded with the cashier.

“Thirty-seven dollars” she replied.

Thirty seven dollars. Ten dollars less than all the money we had.

“Ok, let’s do that. I’ll take the five antibiotics now and come back for the other two later”

Despair knows no depths. The second you think you have hit rock bottom, the rock bottom falls out. And with it, the world as you know it gets swallowed up in the black hole of hopelessness.

When I walked out of the pharmacy I snapped. Pity the person in my path that must deal with me when I lose my shit

“Mom, I can’t do this! I can’t do this! I can’t! I am about to break in two!”

I called my mother because I did not know what else to do. There was no way I could pay for the HIV medications and there was no way she could pay for the HIV medications but I did not know what else to do. So I did what I always do when I am in an impossible situation. I called my mom.

“Why don’t you call your friend with HIV? Maybe he knows something you can do” my mother suggested.


Angry beyond belief at my mother’s ridiculous idea, I picked up the phone and called my friend with HIV.

“Jon-Marc, go back to the pharmacy and ask for four days worth of the meds. They’ll do that and it buys you four days to figure out where and how you are going to get him the meds for the long term” my friend said. “There are plenty of organizations in this area that will provide you with assistance. After you leave the pharmacy stop by my place and I can give you some names and numbers and we will go from there”

“But I literally have only ten bucks”

“Ok, stop by my place beforehand and I will spot you a few”

Literally four days. If the pharmacy would sell me four days worth of the meds, it meant I had four days to figure something out and not a day more. Once someone starts an HIV regimen it is imperative that they continue, uninterrupted.

When someone stops taking their meds, or skips a day, the HIV starts again making literally millions of copies of itself. Every copy literally has a chance to mutate into a new form that may not be stopped by the drugs if started again.

Little did I know that four days later the drugs would literally be the least of my worries.

In four days Ric was going to stop traffic.

And I don’t mean that figuratively.

Part XV here

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Angels I Don't See PART XIII

Parts I-XII here

My mind didn’t know how to process any more shocking information. Though I entertained the possibility that I might be negative, actually hearing it created an entirely new dilemma I had not yet considered.

If I was negative, and I had strayed in the relationship many years ago, and Ric and I had not been sexually active in over eight months, and Ric was positive, and I was tested three times within the previous 18 months, and it takes a maximum of six months for the virus to show up on blood tests then it meant either…

he cheated and when he found out he was positive he withheld the information from me for several months or…

he had been positive for far longer, telling me he was negative and withheld the information from me for possibly many years.

In fact, using my handy dandy deductive reasoning skills I learned in college years ago, with all the scenarios as they were, there was no way I could have given Ric the virus at all, even if Dr. M said I was positive at that moment.

Dr. M then handed us seven prescriptions for Ric. Two for what Dr. M knew was HIV without having the results to prove it and five antibiotics to fight the thrush Dr. M found in Ric’s throat and mouth.

In the car on the way to the pharmacy I let loose.

“Did you hear Dr. M? He said I was negative. I just wanted to make sure you heard him tell me I was negative”

“Yeah, so?”

“Just making sure you heard. I never want to hear again that I gave it to you. There is no way I gave it to you. In fact, there would have been no way I could have given it to you even if Dr. M said I was positive today”

“I guess Charlie gave it to me”

“Charlie, your ex from eight years ago?”

“Yeah, Charlie. I guess he gave it to me”

“You think Charlie gave it to you and since then, and all subsequent HIV tests, you have shown up negative until last August when, voila, you turn up positive?”

“Guess so”

As we pulled up to the pharmacy, his detachment from everything going on around him became even more apparent.

“After we drop of the ‘scrips to be filled, let’s get lunch at Subway or something, ok? If I don't eat something I think I am going to go insane. I mean it. I think I am going to explode”

“No, drop them off and then take me home, then come back and get my prescriptions”

“Um, are you trying to tell me that you want me to drop you off at home then come back to the pharmacy to get YOUR medications for HIV that YOU hid from me for months, possibly YEARS? That’s rich! THAT'S FUCKIN’ RICH!”

“Yeah, just take me home. Thanks” he said, so void of any ownership or responsibility and so callously indifferent to what I might be going through that I began to honestly wonder if he was a textbook sociopath.

“Could you explain to me where the hell my husband went? ‘Cause I am about to lose my fuckin’ mind and it would be really nice to find him!”

After I dropped off the prescriptions to be filled I took Ric home. No matter what happened, no matter how much I wanted to hate him, I simply could not look at him and see anything except a very sick man that I loved more than anything.

Back at the pharmacy...

“Your total is five-hundred-and-sixty-seven dollars”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you had our insurance information on file. Here, let me give it to you again” I said to the cashier.

“Yes sir. The total is with your insurance. Without insurance it would be twenty-one-hundred dollars”

We didn’t have five hundred dollars. We didn’t have fifty dollars.

“What is so expensive?” I asked, as if knowing would somehow help.

“Um, let’s see. The Truvada and the Kaletra”

In other words, the HIV meds. In other words, the meds that he needed if he were to survive.

In other words, he was a dead man

Part XIV here
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