Thirteen years: Anger and fear

AIDS was… an illness in stages, a very long flight of steps that led assuredly to death, but whose every step represented a unique apprenticeship. It was a disease that gave death time to live and its victims time to die, time to discover time, and in the end to discover life.

~ Hervé Guibert

Anger and fear

Continued from… Admitted to hospital

“Ma’am! Ma’am!” Annie heard when she walked pass the nurse station on her way to Isaac’s room. She turned around and walked back to the open door, where she almost bumped into the head nurse.

“Oh sorry, ’ma’am, I thought that you didn’t hear me calling you,” the nurse apologized, “I need to speak to you. Please take a seat?”

Annie sat down. In the conversation that followed, the nurse informed her the doctor had decided not to give Isaac his HIV medicine just yet. For now, Isaac was too ill and his pancreas wouldn’t be able to handle the medicine. Isaac was scheduled for a CAT-scan the next morning, to determine how far the infection in his pancreas had spread. They also needed to know how severe the infection was before they would decide how to continue treatment.

After her conversation with the nurse – in which she had little to say – Annie walked over to Isaac’s room. She softly pushed against the half-opened door and peeked around it. He had his back turned to her.

Softly she walked into the room, not wanting to wake him if he should be asleep. He wasn’t.
“They don’t want to give me my meds, Annie,” he said, accusation in his voice.

He was angry.
“Isaac, they first need to determine whether your pancreas can handle the medicine. You don’t want to get sicker than you already are, do you?”
“Of course my pancreas can handle the medicine,” he spat, “it always did!”
“I know my friend, I know. Just let the doctors do what they have to do. They only want what’s best for you,” Annie tried to placate him.

It didn’t help.
“If they want what’s best for me, they should give me my meds,” Isaac said, fire in his eyes.

For a couple of seconds, Annie just looked at him, not knowing what to say.
“I brought you some magazines to read,” Annie changed the subject.

Some of Isaac’s anger seemed to leave him during the afternoon, but the underlying tension never totally disappeared.


Isaac’s mood was even worse the next day after he had heard the results of the CAT-scan. The infection in his pancreas was so bad the doctors had decided to stop his HIV medicine entirely. His pancreas had developed intolerance to alcohol.

All HIV medicine available at that moment had an alcohol base. The doctors had promised Isaac to search for other HIV inhibitors he could take, and which wouldn’t damage his pancreas further.

“I can’t go without my meds, Annie. Who do they think they are to keep my meds from me? I need it. You know what happened when I had to stop with it before. The virus in my blood takes over. Without my meds I’m going to die!” Isaac said vehemently.

She cringed at the fear in his eyes.

“My dear friend, they know what they’re doing. They’re not keeping your meds form you just to spite you. They too know the risks and at this moment, their main concern is for you to get better. Your meds are only making you sicker. How are you feeling today?”

Annie tried to soothe him with her voice and words.

“I feel better. The pain isn’t so bad anymore,” Isaac said.
“Have you eaten?”
“Yes,” Isaac looked out the window, away from Annie.
“How much?”
“Enough.”
“And how much is enough?” Annie pushed.
“Dammit Annie. You sound just like my mom. I’ve eaten enough. I feel okay. I don’t think I’ll have to stay in the hospital for much longer. So now stop moaning, please.”

Late that afternoon, when the nursing staff brought Isaac’s dinner, Annie realized he hadn’t been eating at all.
“Are you going to eat something now?” the nurse asked, “you haven’t eaten anything today.”

Guilt made Isaac glance at Annie, who’d been sitting in the corner of the room reading while Isaac slept that afternoon.
“I will try,” Isaac promised the nurse.

Annie tried not to openly watch Isaac when he pulled the plate closer. There was only two pieces of bread on his plate, and next to the plate, a cup of tea. Out of the corner of her eye, Annie saw Isaac cut off a tiny piece of bread and put it in his mouth. It took about ten minutes for him to swallow it. He pushed the plate away from him, drank half a cup of tea in tiny sips, and fell back against his pillow – exhausted.

“You’ve eaten almost nothing, Isaac,” Annie said in a kind voice.
“I know. It hurts too much, and I feel nauseous when I eat,” Isaac said without opening his eyes.
“Did you tell the nurse this?”
“No, I do not want to bother them by constantly complaining.”
“Oh my friend, please. They’re here to help you and you are definitely not constantly complaining. They call you the most polite patient they ever had in this ward. You have to tell them how you feel, otherwise they can’t help you,” Annie pleaded.

Just at that moment, the nurse walked back into the room.
“You’ve eaten nothing, Isaac,” the nurse said.
“I know,” Isaac said with a feeble smile towards Annie, “it hurts too much and I feel sick when I eat.”
“Then I’m going to call the doctor. Maybe he can give you something to help you eat. You need to eat to regain your strength. Otherwise you’ll only get weaker and that isn’t what we want, right?” the nurse smiled kindly and left the room.

To be continued… A catheter and a shave

Note: This series is a rework of a self-published book (2009), rewritten for this blog, and in loving memory of a dear friend who suffered from and passed because of AIDS. Keep in mind this story happens in the late eighties and throughout the nineties. Names of characters have been changed to protect their privacy.

© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay

5 thoughts on “Thirteen years: Anger and fear

  1. I really feel for Isaac, it must have been terrifying to have his life-prolonging medication stopped. To walk that tight rope between relative health and almost immediate decline. Let’s hope some food does him good. N xx

    1. He was so afraid when they took his meds away. I think only someone who was in the same position would’ve really understood the fear xox

  2. I can’t even imagine how hard it was to watch your friend suffer like this. And he must have been so scared and confused, being treated by doctors who were responding to his worsening condition. Sending you hugs, my friend <3

    1. Also being in a hospital in a country where he could only partially understand the language, and make clear what he wanted/felt, etc.

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