Beneath an Angel's Wings: My Story of Struggle and Longtime Survival, Part Two
August 19, 2011
I stayed there for about six months before another family tragedy occurred: Thomas' nephew Quintez was shot and killed. He was only 15 years old. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This caused me to relapse. Since the apartment was a recovery apartment I had to move. I moved in with Thomas for a couple of weeks until I got another apartment of my own. For the next three years, I lived on my own. I continued to get high when I had the money to do so. Then in July of 2007, I was admitted to the hospital with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). I had a large knot that formed in my neck right below my right ear. The doctor had to cut a hole in my neck to drain the fluids; they also removed part of my earlobe. I was admitted to the hospital, where I spent about a week. When I was released, I had a health nurse come out every day to change the dressing on my neck. A month later, in August of 2007 I was rushed back to the hospital and spent 11 days in the ICU. I was in a coma and on a ventilator. I had a very bad case of pneumonia. I almost died. After I was released Thomas had me move in with him, and that's where I have been ever since.
In December of 2008, I went to my regular checkup with my gynecologists and was told I had some pre-cancer cells in my private area. I needed to have surgery to remove the cells. However, I was also told if I had any cocaine in my system, they would be unable to perform the surgery. So on Jan. 14, 2009, I smoked my last bit of crack and threw away my pipes and have never looked back. I am now going on three years clean and living the life that I always knew I was meant to live. Through the years, I have faced many roadblocks, but I continue to keep a positive attitude and trust in God that I will succeed in life.
Finally, in the summer of 2009, my appeal to the school was granted, and in August of 2009 I started back to school at Nashville State Community College (NSCC), where my major is office administration with a medical professional concentration. I have maintained a 2.6 to 3.2 GPA. I am currently pursuing a career as a medical secretary. I just finished my fifth semester straight, although this was my first semester that I attended full-time.
In February the gynecologist found some more pre-cancer cells that needed to be removed. I had to drop one of my classes because it was too much for me to handle after the surgery. In doing so I lost my financial aid because I did not complete the required number of credit hours. I was required to pass 15 credits. However, I only passed 12 credits because I had dropped that one class. This truly upset me because I really wanted to finish school and receive my degree. I would be the first person in my family to get a college education.
The school informed me that the only way that I could re-establish my financial aid would be to pay for one semester myself. Being that I am on disability and my check is only $674 a month and the cost of the two classes, which is the minimum that I can take to re-establish my financial aid, is $828 plus the cost of the books which is approximately $200, there was no way I could come up with that kind of money on my own. I was due to graduate in December of 2015, and I really wanted to finish school.
I appealed the financial aid committee at my school to have my financial aid reinstated; and on June 29, 2011, my appeal was granted. This means that I will be able to start back to school in the fall of 2011!
Thomas and I will be celebrating 12 years together in August 2011. We are both still clean from drugs and are very happy together. We love each other very much. I thank God above that I have finally found my soul mate. My CD4 counts are now 649, and my viral load is undetectable.
I just want to spread the message that AIDS doesn't have to be a death sentence, that there is life after an AIDS diagnosis. I am currently working on two books -- one is the story of my life, and the other is a collection of poetry that I have written throughout my life. Before my daughter's death, she had asked me to write a story about the struggles that we have overcome and title it Sleeping With the Angels, which I hope to have published within the next five years. The other book is titled True Inspirations.
If there is one piece of advice I could give anyone who has been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, it would be to face this disease head on, keep a positive attitude and believe in your higher power.
I would like to thank anyone who has taken the time to read my story; may God bless you and keep you in all of your days. Please keep on fighting, because I know that we are going to beat this disease and find a cure.
Visit Jessie's blog at JessieSnyder.blogspot.com.