Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The holiday season is in full swing.  The first drop of snow for the season sprinkled New York City this week and store fronts are covered with evergreen-scented wreaths.  People flood Rockefeller Center to get their chance at ice skating in front of this years' Christmas tree display.  Even I put my own tree up while watching Frank Capra's, It's a Wonderful Life, in the hopes of getting immersed in the spirit of the holidays.  Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful and I think a large portion of it has to do with my exhaustion from this past year.

This week I was due for my quarterly blood drawings as well as refilling prescriptions.  With my "special" type of insurance those procedures involves more than one middle man on several different floors of this one particular building.  First, I have a wasted appointment, with my primary doctor, on the 6th Floor.  Simply because I physically sat in a room with the doctor permits him to write a referral to have me see my HIV specialist.  While waiting for my referral to schedule an appointment with the specialist (whose practice is 40 minutes away from this building) I sit in the lobby.  The receptionist is on the phone with the receptionist at the specialist's office who plans to fax over to my primary doctor the specific blood tests that will need to be drawn that day.  Twenty minutes later we receive the fax and I take the elevator to the Cellar Level where my blood will be drawn.  The lady stabs one of the largest veins in my left arm, removing six vials of blood and causing me to bleed profusely from the outside.  The bleeding finally stops when the medical assistant says to me, "every time you come here make sure you apply plenty of pressure."  I understand she was doing her job but that comment really upset me.  I wanted to say to her, "thanks for reminding me there is no cure to HIV and I have to succumb to this agony every three months." I guess I should be grateful that I am healthy and able to draw blood.

I take the elevator back to the 6th floor where the receptionist hands me the referral.  This piece of paper is my ticket to see the specialist who will (hopefully) tell me, "Everything looks great.  See you in a few months."  Lucky me that in a few months I get to do the entire procedure of riding elevators trying not to bleed on the tile, yet again.  Of course I must make the appointment first with my primary doctor or I won't be allowed to push the elevator button up to the 6th Floor.  Finally, I take the elevator to the third floor where I make sure my prescriptions are being filled for pickup the next day.  I laugh when I think how all of this could have been avoided if I was approved for ADAP.  I'd be able to see one doctor, go to one pharmacy, and work only one job.  I guess I should be grateful that I have some medical care at all.

I was running late for work the next morning.  I get off the subway a block away from my employment when I realized I'd forgotten my medicine at home.  I couldn't go back and get it and I couldn't tell work the truth.  (I am not open about my status at my day job.)  Missing a dose was like having unprotected sex.  You know it’s dangerous, you know you shouldn't do it.  Yet, I felt liberated, I smelled the fresh air.  It was comforting to pretend to be toxic free for just one morning.  My specialist once informed me what to do in this situation so I didn't panic.  I guess I should be grateful that I have options at all.   

Usually at work I roll up my sleeves exposing my forearms, however this day they needed to be covered.  The stab on my left arm had bled internally causing a huge blue stain on the surface (it was ugly.)  Every three months.  I did this not just so I would stop staring at the results of my past mistakes but just in case anyone at work saw the wound.  Meanwhile, this is a job where I've been here for many months and I still don't have a work badge like the rest of the staff.  Said badges have your profile picture and in my opinion it gives a sense of pride for the company we work for.  I know they appreciate my hard work, but it would be nice to finally be part of the team.  Not to mention their benefits package.  It is my main source of income and I can't be too expressive out of fear of losing my role.  I guess I should be grateful that I have a job at all.

I'm exhausted.  I'm exhausted being punished at work, by society, by the government and by my community that I have HIV.  I'm especially exhausted from punishing myself for being HIV positive.  My frustration caused me to pick at a scab on my thumb.  Naturally, blood begins to drip down my finger.  As I clean the hurt and see the infected blood on the tissue I think to myself, "Take that HIV!"  I know it may not be healthy to think about the HIV cells on the tissue dying because they can no longer spread in numbers, however when I used to bleed I would get freaked out by seeing my blood knowing what's inside it.  That damaged me more than anything.  Suddenly, the most remarkable thing happened to me as I dabbed my thumb.  The blood on the tissue was in the shape of a heart!  (I swear on my life I am not making this up.)  I smiled. 

In that instance I knew I wasn't alone in my office.  Someone, or something, is watching over me- over all of us.  I'm not a spiritual person in the sense that I attend a place of worship, but I am a firm believer that there is meaning to all this.  Perhaps after we die we'll understand why the world was destined to become acquainted with HIV.  Sure, I have my current struggles with exhaustion, work, medical frustrations and hardships, relationships, and life in general.  I have to remind myself that it will all be okay and it will all fall into place and someday, someday, the reason for giving me all of my struggles will be revealed.

Perhaps with that in mind I should take my tree down and put it back up again and get immersed in the Christmas spirit I cherished as a child.

I am so grateful for my life, no matter how hard it can be sometimes.  Merry Christmas life and here’s to a happy and prosperous New Year and many more to come!