Mar 8, 2002
Dear Dr Bob,
Let me first tell you how deeply impressed I am by you. I have never met you but for the last six months you have been amost a friend to me. The non-clinical humorous way you reply to the probabely 100's of questions a day helped me through these horrible 6 months. I experienced myself by reading all these happy ending stories of the worried well that I felt better for an hour of two. And than I started worrying all over again. I will describe in short my story but with all the details of symptoms.
Beginning of september a wild bachelor party ended in the Amsterdam Red Light district. I am a 31 year old married male and for the first (and I can guarantee you for the last time) time in my life I walked in. If you have ever been in Amsterdam, you will understand that the barrier for visiting a sex worker is extremely low. Anyway, after five minutes I realise that it will never workt out and by pulling out I also realise that my condom slipped off. The moment itself I was too drunk to realise the consequences of it. It was only the day after the nightmare began (and I am not talking here about the terrible hangover I experienced, by the way lousy beer Heineken). After the 1st week I had allready my first (and not the last) fever, muscle and joint pain after two weeks. After 6 weeks a sore throat and my first negative Elisa test. Whoo, reliefed for two days and three hours because than my lymph nodes started to swell. First neck, three hours later armpits followed by the groin. I hadn't had sex with my wife during these six weeks and she started to get suspicious. I explained her that I was under extreme stress of the job and that it was affecting my libido. She checked this on the internet and funny enough it's true. So back to the doctor with the swollen lymph nodes but he was telling me that they need to be the size of a golf ball. Nothing to worry about. Reliefed for 4 hours again. In the evening my wife had invited some of her friends. One of them is a doctor and after a few glassess of wine my wife tells him. He is checking me and tells my wife that I have a viral infection. My evening ruined completely and scared to death for the remaining 6 weeks. What I felt during those 6 weeks is impossible to tell but I try to summarize: coated tongue, lymph nodes swollen for six weeks, fever for about 5 days, rash in my face, painfull breathing, sore throat, nights sweats for 6 nights (I came to a point that I slept with open windows while it was snowing to avoid night sweats). After 12 weeks and almost getting suicidal I went for the test and guess what. Negative. I couldn't believe it (strange that you come to a point where you think to know more about disseases than your own doctor) and called the labo to ask them what kind of tests they used. It sounded ok. I started to feel better again for one month and then I got pleurisy. It was so painfull that my doctor drove me to the hospital. There they asked while they were doing all kind of tests if I was HIV possitive. I freaked out completely. I said I dind't know and they did a check negative again.So you would think after 4 months still negative, forget about it and move on. Wrong, after those three months without sex, I had during one month sex with my wife allmost every day. She missed her periods and after being 15 days too late, she checked if she was pregnant. She wasn't so I checked the internet and guess what.A lot of women with HIV infection have this problem. Bingo. Didn't only infect myself but also my wife. Now, I was lost completely. Couln't concentrate anymore. Nothing was important anymore. I woke up and I went to sleep with HIV and sometimes I even dreamt of HIV. After 5 months I was a mental wreck and did another test. Negative again. It's getting boring I know. So reliefed that I booked in my enthousiasm a romantic ski holiday in Tirol (Austria). In the car to Austria my lymph nodes started to swell at a level that I never experienced before. They really hurted. At a petrol station, I stopped and went to the toilet. A rash on my chest. This was the acid test, it's definite. I am HIV possitive. During the ski holiday I was thinking of all kind of ways of killing myself in order to look like an accident. Afterwards, I am ashamed of it but at some moment I was hoping that the ski lift would drop down. You can imagine that it was not such a romantic ski holiday. After a two weeks I had finally accepted that you can live a "pretty normal" life and that I was going to enjoy the remaining twenty, thirty years of my life. So walked in by the doctor after 26 weeks to do my last test. Yep. NEGATIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was so full of joy that I went to the nearest pub and drank 5 Trappist beers and some draft. I started dancing on the table and fell of it. Broke my leg and you know what I don't give a damn. I am negative!!!! For me this has been a real lesson. First of all I learned that your mind can do with your body what it wants. I am sure if I had read on the internet that a symptom of HIV is getting blue hair that I would wake up one day with it. Secondly that my wife means everything to me and that I am convinced that nothing will tear us apart. And third how wonderfull life is. So all worried wells out there (and I know you are all reading and trying to compare every symptom I had with the ones you are experiencing) don't lose hope. Only the test will tell and not you by touching your nodes 65 times a day.
For Dr Bob, keep up the wonderfull work you are doing. Maybe you receive hundred of letters a day but I am convinced that you have in the 10.000 readers a day. Shouldn't all these readers nominate this wonderfull man by mailing the Noble Prize Commitee.
PS: I hope you put my story on the internet alltough I am not Italian. Not "alla prosima volta"
A crazy Belgian
Response from Dr. Frascino
Hello Crazy Belgian!
The image of you toppling off that table in the pub and not giving a damn is just hysterical! You managed to ski the slopes of Tirol without a problem, but broke a leg at the local pub?!?!
Thanks so much for sharing your story, your woohoo, your broken bones, and your wise words to all the worried wells. The folks in Amsterdam may not agree with your assessment of Heineken beer, but I do hope worried wells around the globe will read your story and realize, despite their worst nightmares, they indeed could (and most likely are) be negative too.
As for posting your story, how could I resist! I think it could be made into an award-winning movie!!! Drama, intrigue, happy ending - yes, this film could have it all!
Stay well, stay crazy, and no more dancing on pub tables! Oh, and by the way, I think you owe your wife another romantic getaway sometime soon.
One more reason to be optimistic!
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