Thirteen Years: From Despair Right Back To Hope Again

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

From Despair Right Back To Hope Again

Continued from… Flying Back To The Netherlands

Except for a brief note to tell him they had arrived home safely, Annie only sat down to write Isaac a long e-mail three days after they had left Cape Town. She wanted to know how he was doing, especially inquiring about the pain in his legs and his cold. In her e-mail she also told Isaac about their holiday plans for the next year: they were already planning to visit Isaac again in February 2000, only seven months from then.

Because they had heard nothing from Isaac since they had left South Africa, Annie sent another e-mail the next day. She was concerned because of Isaac not being well on the last two days of their visit.

They only received a short e-mail from Isaac the next day:

Date: Fri, 1 Jul 1999 10:16:54

Hi there my dear friends,

I did not forget about you. I’m a bit sick. My nose is blocked (not runny) and my stomach is aching again. I am using two morphine patches now. It helps against the pain, meaning that I don’t feel the pain constantly.

I am going to take a shower and then I am going to a colleague to deliver some packages that I have in the back of my car.

Thank you for your e-mail. As soon as I am back, I will reply to that.

Take care for now.

Both Jacques and Annie wrote Isaac e-mails, wanting to know how he was. They never received a reply.

On the Monday, only eight days after they had left South Africa, Isaac had been admitted to the hospital with acute pancreatitis again.

Jeanne informed them, but only after Annie had sent her an urgent request asking how Isaac was.

The next day, Annie sent Isaac their first fax, to support him as they always did. She urged Isaac to fight, to concentrate on the strength she was sending him from abroad. In her fax, she asked Jeanne and Kathy to hold Isaac tight when he had cold fever, so he could get some heat from them. This is something Annie had always done for Isaac when he was in the hospital in Rotterdam.

Annie tried to keep a light mood in the faxes she sent to Isaac. She didn’t want him to know how concerned she was about him. The messages she received from Jeanne and Kathy informed her Isaac might not make it out of the hospital this time. The doctors feared for his life. All they could do for him was to control the pain.

Nothing else.

Four days after they had admitted him to the hospital, Isaac’s doctor — Doctor Bailey — asked Isaac’s mother to come to Cape Town. She arrived during his first weekend in the hospital. Isaac was weak, but lucid. Kathy brought Annie’s faxes to him and she read it to him. Annie also frequently phoned Kathy and was told Isaac had to laugh at some jokes Annie had tried to work into her words.

Annie was thankful and sad when Kathy told her Isaac’s mom had been summoned to her son’s side.

On his tenth day in the hospital, Annie phoned Kathy again. Isaac had been on Annie’s mind since the moment she had opened her eyes that morning — even more so than he was in her mind every day.

“Hi Kathy,” Annie said when she heard the woman on the other side of the line.

“Hi Annie,” Kathy said, sounding down.

“How is Isaac doing today?”

“He’s very weak, Annie. And in pain. They keep him sedated most of the time, as the constant pain really wears him out,” Kathy reported.

“What do the doctors think?” Annie asked, but she didn’t really want to know the answer.

“They don’t think he’s going to make it,” Kathy gave the dreaded answer, “but he’s really fighting, as he always does.”

“Kathy, do you think he’s fighting because he wants to or because he thinks he has to fight?” Annie asked.

“What do you mean?” Kathy was confused.

“Oh Kathy, I don’t know how to say it,” Annie sighed, “You know, all of us only want what’s best for Isaac. We all only want him to get better. But then, today I stopped to ask myself if that is what Isaac wants too.”

There was only silence on the other side of the line.

“Kathy, are you still there?”

“Yes, I am,” Kathy said, tears sounding through in her voice.

“Please don’t get angry with me, but I really ask myself if Isaac might not be too tired to fight. Maybe we should let him go. If he wants to go, we have to let him,” Annie tried to explain.

“I understand what you mean,” Kathy said.

“Kathy, I’m scared,” Annie said, “not for me, but for Isaac. Why do wonderful people like him have to be punished like this?”

Annie now too was fighting her tears.

Kathy only sighed.

“Kathy, promise me you will look after yourself? Our friend needs you now, so you have to be strong. You have to support him for all of us,” Annie urged.

“I’m okay, Annie,” Kathy assured her.

“We just have to share Isaac’s faith in Him above. Isaac is in His hands now,” Annie concluded the long-distance phone call.

The next week, Annie, her mother and her daughter were in Nijmegen. Annie didn’t want to leave home. Now Isaac was so ill, but her mother and Jacques had convinced her life went on. Only when they said Isaac wouldn’t have wanted her to stay home, she agreed to go through with their plan to walk the eighty-third edition of the International Four Days Marches in Nijmegen.

On their second walking day, exactly a week after her phone call to Kathy, Annie received good news. Her husband had received an e-mail from Jeanne, telling them that Isaac was doing a lot better.

I just wanted to send you a few lines to tell you how Isaac is doing. Believe you me, one hundred and eighty percent better than this time last week. He is sitting on his bed and has also walked, even though he is still very weak. You know, when he worries about his looks, he’s feeling better.

He asked Charlotte, his neighbor, to arrange for the hairdresser to come to cut and color his hair. He also pestered me for a nail clipper, because his nails were too long for his liking. Believe me; it’s wonderful to see the change. He doesn’t even have morphine patches anymore and no drip. Nothing for the pain. The best of all is he’s eating again, but the doctors are taking it one step at a time.

I wasn’t at work today, but I will be the messenger again as of tomorrow. Next week, I have to go to Pretoria for a course. Unfortunately, both Kathy and I will be away next week, but I feel better now Isaac is doing better and I know the doctors will not let him go home too soon.

This news gave the three hikers wings on their feet. The last two days of their hiking experience flew by. On the last day of this experience, Jacques, Kevin and Priscilla stood next to the road on the last stretch of the walk.

Annie, Grace and Mindy weren’t only happy they had finished the four-day walk, but they were also ecstatic about the news coming from Cape Town was still good.

On Monday, back at her work, Annie sent Isaac faxes again, telling him just how wonderful it was he had fought so hard and felt better again.

To be continued… Amazing Grace

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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