Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Angels I Don’t See PART XVII

You can read Parts I-XVI by clicking here


When I arrived at UMC Ric was being monitored by a nurse that would sit in his room day and night. If Ric so much as attempted to get up the nurse would calmly but firmly dissuade him. If Ric persisted, the nurse would stand up and escort Ric back to bed.

It was comforting to know that he was in UMC. At the time, the beginning of January, I did not know anything about the disease that was consuming his life and, by extension, mine as well. Though I had friends with HIV in the past, I never knew anyone that not only ignored their diagnosis but chose to believe that the doctor bearing the diagnosis was an outright, maniacal liar.

"His viral load is 775,000. That is extremely high. But there is no need to be frightened. I have seen the number drop significantly within a few months. However, he must stay on the medication and try not to let him forget to take them as prescribed" Dr. M told me just outside his room.

"What do we do?" I responded not quite clear what viral loads were or what a high viral load meant.

"We make sure he is eating and taking his medicine. Those two things are key. First, get his weight up and get his viral load down and then we get his CD4 count up"

"CD4 count? What does that mean?"

"Basically, anything below 200 and the patient is classified as having AIDS"

"Oh. So does he have AIDS?" I responded without even asking what the actual CD4 count was.

"Yes, by definition, he would be classified as having developed AIDS. But there is a lot that can be done. There is no need to lose hope"

Dr. M continued to talk but I was not listening. Instead my mind was reeling as to how this disease progressed so quickly. If he did in fact find out his status in August, how had it seized his body so quickly? He had HIV tests just months before and they were all negative. Or were they?

Everything that I thought I knew, everything that I believed to be true was thrown into question. Did he cheat? Had he known about his disease for sometime before the August test? Months? Years? There was no way of knowing. As every day brought about more information and more disclosures, Ric's "truth" was as malleable as silly-putty. Up was down, left was right, day was night, my lover was a stranger.

"Now, when does his insurance run out?" Dr M asked.

Prior to arriving at UMC I called Dr. M's office and happened to tell his receptionist that Ric's benefits were set to terminate within days.

"Sunday or Monday I believe. I am trying to figure out how to get him on SSDI and Medicaid. Do you accept Medicaid?" I responded, not sure how I was going to fast-track the SSI, SSDI and, most importantly, Medicaid so there would not be a gap in his coverage.

"No, but don't worry. There are plenty of capable doctors that will. Have you looked into the Health Clinic?" Dr. M asked genuinely.

I knew Dr. M would not accept Medicaid. Though I was upset by that fact, I took comfort that Dr. M would find us a capable physician that could effectively treat Ric's disease.

"I have an appointment with them today. In fact I have so many appointments I am not sure how I am going to keep them all"

Little did I know in early January that my life would be nothing but appointments from that point on. Appointments and paperwork. Every charity and every government agency required separate and equally exhausting reams of paperwork that meant face to face meetings, notarized documents, bank statements and a bevy of intimate and personal questions – questions that one would not even ask their closest friend.

After speaking with Dr. M I went to Ric's bed and stroked his hair. He was sleeping and, as Annie sings, his "face at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale", and I began to pray.

"I can't do this alone, God. I don't think I can do this, period. If he goes, just take me with him. I have never known a love like this. Please give him a few more months, even a few more years. Bring back my love…my life…and I will do anything"

I have never been the type of person that negotiates with God. In fact I don't believe that God is in the business of negotiations. But I was willing to try anything. If someone told me to go to the Amazon Rain Forrest and pick fresh CamuCamu to be rubbed on Ric's belly while standing on my head at a 45 degree angle, I wouldn't have blinked and immediately booked my trip to the jungle.

Just as my prayer was closing, Ric opened his eyes.

"Where am I?" he asked, his speech slurred.

"You're at UMC. We had you transferred here so Dr. M could be your attending physician. How are you feeling?"

"I told you we have a home on the island. We don't need to stay at this hotel. I don't like this hotel. It smells like a hospital. Is this my iPod?". Ric was pulling at the tube connected to the IV that pierced his left hand.

"No, babe. That's your IV. Be careful. Don't pull it out. If you pull it out they will put it back in and that's no fun"

"Don't lie to me, Jon-Marc. They don't put IVs in at a hotel. This is an iPod and it doesn't work. You need to quit lying. God hates liars. Do you want God to hate you?"

With that, Ric yanked his iPod out of his arm and blood began to soak his sheets.

Two weeks, two IVs pulled prematurely, countless accusations that I was a liar and still believing fantasy.

Little did I know that I would long for the days when Ric pulled iPods out of his arm and screamed "Liar, liar, pants on fire". Things were about to get really messy, really quick.

Part XIX here


alan said...

I would never have dreamt that what I thought was a romance for the ages could change so drastically...in my mind and my heart I thought the two of you had something so wonderful and special, something that approached a fable.

Thinking of you...


Br. Christopher Nicholas said...

I am in awe of your sacrificial love in the midst of so much tragedy, heartbreak and possible deception. I send this was love, prayers and a big hug. I wish we could talk. I hope you have people close to you surrounding you with support and practical help. Please let me know how I might help.

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