After a Car Crash, an HIV Diagnosis That Changed a Life
Part of the Series Day One With HIV
My first day? I remember it like it was yesterday. It's been 10 years today -- May 1st. I was involved in a wreck in 2004. I had a drunk driver slam into my driver's door at 75 mph. I was sitting at a stop light waiting for the turn arrow, talking to my mother on the phone. She heard the impact and me screaming. She left work and made her way to the accident. She held my hand until they had me free. It took the EMT four hours to cut me out of the car. Had I not been driving an old car I would have been killed on impact. The frame under the car was touching each other and between them was the drive shaft, smashed flat. The car was pushed half a block sideways and rolled into a ditch. I thankfully don't remember anything. I do remember waking up in the ER with everyone yelling and moving quickly around my bed. My mother was still holding my hand and praying. I couldn't talk because they had an air tube down my throat. I was hooked up to about every machine they could get on me. I had lost a lot of blood and needed surgery to repair my broken ribs that had punched my left lung. I was in surgery 16 hours.
I don't remember much about the next few weeks. The day I was told I was HIV positive, I was still in the hospital and recovering. The young doctor walked in and sat my mother down beside my bed, and told us that it was not a good report he was about to tell us. One of the seven pints of blood was mislabeled in the storage area and contained HIV. It was for another person that was having surgery. It was their blood. Someone had grabbed it by mistake. He had a tear in his eyes.
I was devastated, totally numb when I heard this. I had lost many friends to HIV and knew how sick they were before they died. All I could see was myself like that. Mother was crying so hard she made herself sick. I could do nothing but lay there and cry. What would I tell my family? How do you tell someone that you're positive? How long did I have before I died? How could someone be so careless to misdirect or mislabel something so important? Would I live to see my nieces and nephews grow up? Would my family reject me? On and on, endless questions. Million of questions raced through my head.
I was like a zombie for a few days. I didn't want to eat, see anyone, be touched or even live. That's when I met a volunteer who was also positive. She answered a lot of my questions, smiled and told me it would alright. That was 10 years ago. We have been through a lot of ups and downs, lost a few friends along the way, rejected by some family, beat up by others. I even had a few bumps and bruises, made new friends and started living again. She became one of my best, closest friends. We have shared many laughs, cries and several ups and downs together. "It's all in how YOU look at your life. NOT what you have or don't have," is what she always tells me. You know, she is right. Life is what you make of it, not what disease you carry just how you handle it with life.
Yes, I have HIV. But it will be a cold day on the Sun that it has ME!
Want to share your own "Day One With HIV" story of finding out your diagnosis? Write out your story (1,000 words or fewer, please!), or film a YouTube video, and email it to email@example.com. In the coming months, we'll be posting readers' "Day One" stories here in our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed. Read other stories in this series.