Cauldron

I like books.

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I live in a small town and enjoy writing about the inhabitants. I spend most of my time perusing through used book stores looking for that one great book that I don't have; consequently, I have rooms filled with books. I am a book addict.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Allan

I was so young back then and worked labor and delivery, but one night, things were slow and they needed me to go to the floor and start an IV on a young man. They said he had some kind of infection, and that he was on isolation. I was told to gown up, wear goggles, double glove and not to stay long, they thought it was that disease that gay men were getting and they didn’t know how it was spread. I went into his room. No one, not even a mother sat at his bed. He was so small. I smelled urine, even through the mask and so I looked around and hanging on his bed rail was a urinal full with ripe piss, and so I emptied it and he thanked me. He hadn’t been shaved, and he hadn’t been bathed, and his teeth hadn’t been brushed and he was in a dirty bed, not dirty from crap or piss, but clearly the same sheets had been on his bed for days.
“Can you get up?” I ask.
“If you help me. I’m so weak.”
I put a blanket in the chair and he leaned on me and I put him in the chair. His arms were covered with red Kaposi Sarcomas and he had bruises where someone had unsuccessfully tried to start his IV. I changed his sheets and filled a pan with water and washed his back and his arms and cleaned his bottom and he cleaned his private area and I got more water and cleaned his legs and his feet. I shaved him and helped him brush his teeth. Nurses came to the door and warned me about being in the room for so long and I shot them dirty looks. I took off my mask and he smiled and said, “Aren’t you afraid of getting sick?” I was but I felt so sorry for him. Never seeing faces and I didn’t care. So, I helped him back to bed and he told me that he was gay, that he had lived in San Francisco and moved back home when he became ill. That his mother came to see him in the mornings before she went to school and his father couldn’t forgive him for being gay. I started his IV on the first stick. I pushed his call bell and ordered the nurse to bring me fresh ice and sodas and I filled his water picture. I sat at his bedside and we talked and he told me that he was probably going to die and I told him that it was probably something like polio and they would find a cure.
After that, I visited him every day. I brought him flowers and homemade cookies. The other nurses teased me that he was gay, what was I trying to do.
One night, the nurse from the floor called me and said he was acting weird and I went down and he didn’t know me. We called his mother and he didn’t know her and he had to be put in four points. Someone stood at the door always watching him and by the end of the week, his mother called me and said they were saying he was dying and for her to call everyone. So, I went back to the hospital and gowned up and went inside his room and with his mother holding one hand and me the other he died. His name was Allan and he was 24 years old.

7 Comments:

Blogger Mouse said...

oh that's such a well told sad story.

1:07 PM  
Blogger OTRgirl said...

I'm glad you were there for him. Given the fear of AIDS at the time, that was brave. Powerful story and so sad.

1:37 AM  
Blogger zelda1 said...

Thanks guys. I have had the privilidge of seeing and doing some wonderful things, like taking care of folks with aides and cancer and many other diseases that take lives. There is nothing as potent as death to give you a sense of life. I think Allan taught me many things but the fear of the unknown was probably the hardest lesson to learn. People, then, were so afraid of that disease, to the point of being cruel and depraved to those who were dying. Things have changed, not much, but some, and for that I am glad. I don't think we have done enough fast enough.

10:05 AM  
Blogger jo(e) said...

I cried at this.

11:27 AM  
Blogger zelda1 said...

I cry everytime I remember him. He deserves more than just a bit on a blog. I need to write his story.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Askinstoo said...

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9:35 PM  
Blogger KathyF said...

That's so moving. Here they've been doing a series on BBC radio about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Even though I was old enough to remember it, I'd forgotten or didn't know a lot of what happened.

Thank god we've learned so much since then.

8:04 AM  

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