The Guest
Refrigerator Door

Now I' m sharing magnets from my mother's fridge.

My mother has a lot of Delft porcelain, even magnets.

* Discussion *

If you have anything to discuss, go to this link. Feel free to start a new discussion on anything.


I'm a Stranger Here Myself

Bill Bryson

I enjoyed his Australia book so much, I decided to try the one about this country.


Battersea Park Road
to Enlightenment

(this is a book I picked up in London)


Boston Public
Scouting for All
(a PBS special)

That's it for today!



20 June 2001

"I don’t look like them, do I?" my client whispered.

We were sitting in the waiting room at CARES for her monthly meeting with her doctor, to go over her numbers and her blood work, and her medications and decide what needed to be tweaked.

This client, "M," is a crusty old dame. She’ll be 66 later this year and was diagnosed with HIV in 1983 after a blood transfusion she received during a surgical procedure. She’s been around a long time with this disease, but lately hasn’t been doing too well. The AIDS meds cause her blood vessels to break and she has huge streaks and blotches of under-the-skin blood, her feet have been numb for weeks, and she has terrible pain in her legs. She’s also lost 4 lbs in the last month.

"Am I going to get very skinny?" she asked. Her appearance is important to her and she works to keep herself as healthy as possible, under the circumstances. She’s just had a set-back and had been bedridden for several days and is still feeling rocky.

I will admit that the particular group in the waiting room when we arrived were enough to make anyone fearful of what the potential course of the disease might be, even one who has dealt with it for nearly 20 years.

There was a woman I assumed was named Wilma, because it was printed on the side of the cup she was sipping from. She was painfully thin, with a pinched look to her face that almost gave her a chimpanzee look. I recognized the look, and the cup. My friend Bill used to keep a can of Ensure at hand, trying to build his weight back up, in his last couple of years. I was fairly certain this woman was drinking Ensure.

Next to her sat a bald man and a toothless woman. Both were disheveled (and seemed to be together). They were not the picture of robust health either.

Looking somewhat better, though decidedly nervous, was an African American woman who looked like she might be in high school or college. Her eyes darted around the room and her foot tapped obsessively.

We sat there looking through Poz magazine’s special HIV anniversary issue, interviewing some long-term survivors of the disease (some having been diagnosed after M herself).

A man with a bushy mustache, long blonde hair, and the shuffling gait that comes with peripheral neuropathy turned to address the room, to nobody in particular, to tell us all how good a new program on Bravo about coming out of the closet was.

Eventually, M was called for her appointment with Dr. F. She asked if I’d go back and sit with her. This was my first time behind the scenes at CARES. It was interesting to watch the pace, with doctors rushing back and forth trying to fit in as many patients as they could in the short period of time available. They worked harder, even, than our doctors in the ob/gyn office.

The talk was different, though. "He’s vomiting all the time. Could that be because of his Hepatitis?" Everybody was dispatched off to get blood work drawn. Gotta test for those T-cells and viral load.

M and Dr. F have the obvious easy and caring relationship that comes from a long association. They tease each other and they stand together peering at her chart, going over her latest lab results. They discuss how best to handle the latest problems she’s having and she is obviously very much a partner in her care.

Her lab report was good. Her viral load was undetectable and her T-cells were over 400, which is very good. But her thyroid is acting up, and the numbness and pain is caused by the AIDS medications, and the only treatment is to stop the medications entirely and give her Vicodin for a couple of months. This makes her very nervous because she’s been on AIDS medications for nearly 20 years and her HIV has been under control. She’s terrified that cutting off the medication will kick it into high gear again.

Since the thyroid is the only thing to watch at this visit, Dr. F writes an order for a TSH and also has blood drawn to test for T-cells and viral load. We go back to the waiting room to wait for her to be called for the blood draw (which takes over an hour because the phlebotomist is new...and M was only the THIRD person on the list!)

Again, the diversity of this disease hits home as I watch people come in for their appointment. A very nice young man with three rings in each ear jokes with the receptionist, who asks where his "little ones" are. It’s unclear if this is children or pets, since he laughs that they are at home "tearing up the place." He is barrel chested and the picture of robust good health. Nobody would have a clue, to look at him, that he is battling HIV.

A young mother with a careworn look about her, and sad, tired eyes, comes in and is greeted by name. She is well known here.

A disheveled blonde middle-aged woman who, if I were to make sweeping generalities, I would guess probably contracted HIV from an infected needle, stands nervously waiting for the results of her lab tests.

A gay man in his early 30s is ahead of M in the drug line and he fusses and fidgets at the length of time he is having to wait. But we joke about what must be happening behind the scenes and in the end he is charitable about the new phlebotomist and the problems she is encountering.

One of my former clients greets me and we chat for awhile. I feel bad that I can’t remember his name--and even worse when I sneak a peak at the sign–in sheet, see his name, and still can’t quite place him.

M finally has her blood drawn and we head back to her house, hitting rush hour traffic. She is always quiet after these trips to the doctor. I think that even on a good day, being around all the people in the waiting room, and hearing the changes in her routine is a reminder that she is battling a fatal disease. She is winning the war at the present, but to look at the people around her, it has to make her wonder how many more skirmishes she is going to survive.

One Year Ago:
When you care

Some pictures from this journal
can be found at
Club Photo

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Created 6/18/01 by Bev Sykes