An HIV-Anniversary ER Trip During Sick Season

Brooke Davidoff
Brooke Davidoff

Four years ago on Jan. 8 I was diagnosed; yesterday Myles my three year old and I spent a good two-plus hours in an emergency room waiting room waiting to see what was going on with my husband Keanen.

Keanen has been sick since the day after Christmas (he and Myles are negative). My mother in law was sick on Christmas, she hung out Christmas Eve and we didn't see her Christmas day other than to watch us opening stockings and attempt to eat her breakfast.

We dragged out Myles' present opening all day waiting for her to feel better and come down. He got one present an hour; if he liked the one he opened he had more time in between the next present. It actually worked out well and helped the day to be more exciting for him, less hectic for us. More than half of his gifts were donated from Life Long AIDS Alliance and BABES in Seattle. Being the sap that I am, I cried when I saw what strangers bought for my little boy, just because his mommy has HIV. But that's another blog for another day.

Myles and Keanen went up to her bedroom Christmas evening to bring her a present. I did not.

Since being diagnosed I am horrified of sick people other than Myles. When Keanen gets sick (which is all the time) I avoid him like the plague. I keep Myles away and sometimes I sleep in Myles' room to avoid being breathed on. Keanen wants to be taken care of, and I look at him and think If this knocked you on your ass it could kill me; that's a risk I will not, cannot, take.

So Jan. 8 he's still sick. He seemed to get better, and then he was worse. Fever, coughing, chills and sweating; cough medications make him speedy not un-cough-y. With no medical insurance it's hard to know where you can even go. I drove him to work Tuesday morning; his job does not offer medical insurance nor does he get any paid holiday or sick days off. He's a contracted worker on one of the Microsoft campuses. He had more than a week off for Christmas/New Year's, unpaid. His boss told him to go home early that day and go to the doctor; he texted me just as Myles and I got home.

We got dressed, ate breakfast, packed a bag for a waiting room-filled day. We're good at this, thanks to Papa. I know as soon as we're in a waiting room Myles is hungry. I bring snacks, drinks, crayons and coloring books. We take Nash our doggie potty, we grab a blanket for Keanen and we get back into the car. We picked Keanen up and drove all the way back toward home. The first place we tried was an urgent care just down the street. It was packed, with half of the people wearing face masks. We waited about ten minutes when his name was called to go to the front desk and fill out paperwork.

No insurance -- no treatment. They turned him away and let him know we could only go to an emergency room. So we get back into the car and drive to the closest emergency room. Yeah free parking! We were excited -- sad but true, on one income it's the little things sometimes.

Keanen didn't even get to sit in the waiting room; he was put into a private room immediately. Myles and I found seats and began our wait. It was a nice big room with one TV; we got to watch ESPN football, Super Bowl predictions and playoff matchup babble, with no sound. It felt almost like an airport, from the lighting and weird chairs to the fake plants that made up the décor.

No one came out to get us; a sketchy guy with shifty eyes went into and out of the bathroom we are sitting next to, about ten times in an hour. He did not look sick; he looked like trouble. I tried to avoid eye contact with him, or letting him know I was watching him.

I checked my phone maybe every 30 minutes, the WIFI sucked, if you were not playing on your phone it did not keep you logged in. So you got no messages until you checked your messages and had to log back into the WIFI.

Myles got cranky, wanting to run around with two unattended children in the waiting room; their mother was busy talking on her cell phone. He got mad and cried when I let him know that he could not run around, he had to sit with me on a chair, we were not at preschool or a playground.

I began to realize it had been almost two hours since Keanen checked in; my brain freaked out. The reason I assumed that Myles and I had NOT gotten sick hit me like a brick in the face. He has IT. I have given him HIV, and now he's got pneumonia, he will be admitted, and everyone including myself will blame me.

How do I tell Myles when he's older? Can we even have another baby now? What do I tell all the girls I'm friends with who have negative boyfriends and husbands? I have told them if they are on their meds and undetectable it's safe to have unsafe sex. I did have about a year of being off my meds a few years ago and no, we were not abstinent for that time; my husband is not a condom guy either.

My mind then goes into the room with Keanen lying on a hospital bed, frantic doctors confused about his symptoms; I texted him to have an HIV test. I imagined someone in scrubs coming to the waiting room to get us and bring us into a conference room where I am told that my husband has HIV. He finally texted me that he has bronchitis. They gave him an inhaler, and we needed to sit down with the finance department.

Myles and I went to the check-in desk and finally asked if we could go back, we were given guest passes and went to sit in daddy's room. Finally he was released and we headed to the finance window. We sat with a nice woman who submitted the application I had completed online to get Obamacare.

We left with no bill, and a medical insurance packet she said would be in the mail in the next few days.

It's been weeks since Doctor Day. Quickly we learned ERs are not sanitary like the Cancer Care Alliance. Replaying the waiting room there was no hand sanitizer at the check-in desk, no one walking around wiping down chairs. A barf bin sat on a chair unattended for hours. But, Myles and I have not really been in public other than a grocery store or cancer care waiting room in months.

Myles went home with a stomach bug; soon after I was also contaminated with the plague of winter 2014. The boys took turns throwing up in the middle of the night with me, Dr. Mom, bringing ice water, holding barf bins, changing sheets and bedding, and running showers and baths at 1 a.m. I'm not sure at what age kids learn NOT to throw up on themselves but Myles is not there yet. I finally got the chair in my living room to not reek of barfed-up milk.

We're almost back to normal, and as I'm writing this it's only Jan. 22. Throwing up is over and now we are all stuffed up with sore throats and coughing. I'm still sick with my boys, but it's nice to know it's not because of ME. Now I can wait until next time Keanen is sick to worry about this all over again. He promised to get tested as soon as our insurance goes through; till then I'll keep my fingers crossed. Hopefully we're cured by the Super Bowl.

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Read Brooke's blog, Voice of ONE.