Thirteen years: Who wants to live forever

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

Who wants to live forever

Continued from… Phone calls upset Isaac

When Annie walked into Isaac’s room the next afternoon, she was startled. Isaac was pale and unlike the previous two days, he wasn’t in his dressing gown on top of the covers. He had the covers pulled up to his chin.

“How are you feeling?” Annie was concerned.
“I’m cold, Annie. And I think my stomach’ss aching again,” Isaac said.
“You think?”
“No,” he tried to smile, but it was more of a grimace, “I know.”
“Have you told the nursing staff yet?”
“No, I don’t want to bother them,” Isaac answered.

“Isaac! You should stop that! They’re here to help you. They want to help you! But they can’t help you if they don’t know you’re not feeling well,” she sternly said and walked out of the room towards the nurses’ office.

The head nurse immediately followed her to Isaac’s room. Annie stood against the wall, watching the motions. The nurse rang the bell, and another nurse joined her. Together, they worked on Isaac. While one took his temperature, the other took his blood pressure. In the meantime, they asked him different questions. They wanted to know when he started feeling unwell, and where he felt the pain.

The head nurse disappeared from the room. When she returned, she held a vial and a syringe. With the thin hollow needle in the syringe, she took some liquid from the vial and injected Isaac with it. Isaac fell asleep soon after.

The head nurse beckoned Annie to follow her, and yet again, they sat down in the family lounge. A cold hand of fear gripped Annie’s heart.

“Is Isaac getting worse again?” Annie asked before the nurse could speak.
“He’s still the same as the last time we spoke. His fever is not gone, and that’s why he’s still being fed intravenously. We thought the drip could go off today or tomorrow, but this morning Isaac had a setback. The doctor had informed Isaac we wouldn’t start him on the HIV cocktail again, as most of the medicine is alcohol based. Isaac’s pancreas can’t handle any alcohol. Not now. Isaac will have to wait until he’s back in South Africa and there they’ll have to search for an alcohol-free medicine to give Isaac. Isaac is worried about not taking his medicine and the news this morning did him no good. Stress is something he doesn’t need, as it just worsens his condition,” the nurse explained.

“Then there’s also the stress about the hospital bill,” Annie mumbled. When the nurse asked her what she meant, she explained about the telephone call from South Africa the previous day. Just there, Annie decided to call another ex-colleague of her when she got home. Kathy was also a friend of Isaac, and she wanted Kathy to tell everyone not to call Isaac about the hospital bill again. This would just delay his recovery.

Deep in thought, Annie stayed in the family room when the nurse left.

Where would all of this end? Would Isaac get better? Was there something she could have done to have prevented him from getting sick? Did she not plan too much for the time he would be here? There was so much that she wanted him to see. Was it the right thing to do to have the Dream a Wish Show bring him here? What if he didn’t get better? What if he died here?

Tears trickled down her cheeks. When she became aware of it, she angrily wiped them off. She shouldn’t lose her faith now. If she gave up hope, Isaac would feel it and he would stop fighting. She would fight with him right up to the end, whether it came now or in ten years. She wouldn’t quit fighting until he quit.

Feeling stronger, Annie returned to Isaac’s room. He was still sleeping.

For two days, Isaac slept most of the time.

Then, when Annie walked into his room the next afternoon, she immediately noticed the change of mood. Isaac looked better, but seemed angry.

She wondered if something had happened that morning. Maybe he had some more bad news? Maybe someone called from the army again? She had already arranged that all new information should go through her, but what if someone ignored her request? She decided not to ask whether something had happened. She would wait until Isaac was ready to tell her.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, as she did every afternoon.
“Okay,” Isaac mumbled.
“Do you still feel pain?”

It was clear he wasn’t in a mood to talk. Annie busied herself with the magazines she had brought, but decided she wanted a coffee so went to get it from the family lounge. When she came back, Isaac had switched the television to a music channel. A song of Queen – Who wants to live forever – was playing.

“I want this song played at my funeral,” Isaac said.

Annie’s head jerked in his direction.

“It’s a nice song, Isaac, but you shouldn’t think of funerals now,” Annie said kindly.
“I’m not thinking of funerals. I’m just saying I want this song played at my funeral,” Isaac snapped.

Annie kept quiet. She didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t worry, Annie. I’m not thinking about dying. I want to live,” Isaac said, but Annie heard the unvarnished sarcasm in his voice.
“That’s good, my friend, that’s good. Keep the positive thoughts going,” she urged.
“Don’t you worry,” Isaac spat, “I will. Do you really think that I want to die? Do you think it is nice to walk around with a time bomb in your body? Every time I feel pain somewhere or if I get a cold, I wonder whether it is the beginning of the end. When I end up in the hospital like this, I wonder if I would ever get out. When I’m at home and feel okay, I wonder when I will get ill. I wonder how long it’s going to take for me to die. But I don’t want to die. I want to live. I have so much I still want to do. What have I done to deserve this? Why is God so angry with me? I want to live, Annie! I. Want. To. Live.”

Isaac turned his back on her, but not quickly enough. Annie had noticed the tears in his eyes. She stood up and hugged him from behind. She said nothing. Annie just held Isaac, trying to give him her strength. She didn’t know what to say.

The atmosphere in the room was emotionally charged. She didn’t trust her voice. The last thing she wanted was for Isaac to see her crying.

She had to be strong – for him.

To be continued… Isaac tells his story (1)

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

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