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Living With HIV/AIDS
On April 3, 1987, the day after my 14th birthday, I was walking away from a fight when this girl who was much older than me tried to fight me. I ignored her and continued walking. Then suddenly she ran up behind me and kicked me on the back of the head, with a wooden leg detached from a crib. He pulled my head forward and broke my neck. At the time, I was about three months pregnant, but since that meant I was only in my first trimester, the doctors couldn’t perform the operation right away.
Then, in June 1987, when I was five months pregnant, the doctors were finally able to perform the operation to fix my broken neck; however, I lost too much blood during the operation, which put me at risk of losing my baby. So they gave me a blood transfusion, they gave me two pints of blood. The following month when I returned for my six month prenatal checkup and was asked to be tested for HIV. The doctors had discovered that one of the pints of blood I had been given was contaminated with the HIV virus. So I agreed to be tested. Two weeks later, while I was in church, an incredible force took hold of me to come up to the altar and the pastor prayed for me and my unborn child. Around the same time, at home, my mother received a call inviting us to come and discuss my test results. When my mother told me about the call, I knew that I had tested positive for HIV. I don’t know how I knew, I just did. Otherwise, why would the doctor call for the test results on a Sunday?
The next morning we went to the maternity ward to discuss the test results and of course I had tested positive for the HIV virus. My mother was devastated. I, on the other hand, immediately accepted. I was told that I probably wouldn’t live to be 18. Then the doctor tried to convince me to have an abortion; however, I did not believe in abortions, so I declined. After all, I was already in my sixth month of pregnancy and had started to feel my baby kicking. I wouldn’t have had an abortion under any circumstances so they left me alone in my decision to keep my baby. Yet I was told that my baby could also be born with HIV. But I put my faith in God that he would have mercy and spare my baby from this devastating disease.
At that time, my mother had to quit her job to take care of me. We lost our home and when I was seven months pregnant we became homeless. Around the same time, my baby’s father had gone to work in Kentucky, on his way back to Nashville; he was killed in a car accident. So now I was seven months pregnant and homeless and going to be a single mom. Then at 6:00 a.m. on November 21 I went into labor, I did 58 hours of labor but finally at 4:20 p.m. on November 23, 1987 I gave birth to my daughter. She weighed 6 pounds 12 ounces. She had curly black hair and the most beautiful hazel eyes. I named her Deondra Mae Snyder. She seemed like a healthy baby full of life and charisma. When she was born, only my antibodies were positive for HIV. However, when my daughter turned 18 months old, she too tested positive for the HIV virus. At that time, the doctors put my daughter on an AIDS drug called AZT.
Then, when she was four years old, she had her first opportunistic infection, she was diagnosed with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), which is a deadly type of AIDS-related pneumonia, even for an adult. The survival rate for this type of pneumonia was slim to none; however, by the grace of God, she survived. Doctors found she had become resistant to AZT, so they said they could put her on experimental drugs, but we had to go to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland to receive the treatment. . So in 1991 I started taking my daughter to NIH in Bethesda. While she was there, doctors started my daughter on a three-drug combination called a cocktail of DDI, DDC, and saquinavir. Unfortunately, as soon as new drugs became available, she became resistant to them. Nevertheless, we kept fighting, trying treatment after treatment.
Then in 1994, when I was 21, I too had a bad case of PCP in both lungs and nearly died. I was in the hospital for three months during which time my right lung collapsed, I developed a blood clot in my PIC line (a kind of IV that can be used for several weeks to several months) and I had a nervous breakdown. At that time, I was diagnosed with overt AIDS. At that time, I was determined to live with AIDS, not die from it. Over the years I’ve had many bouts of illness and nearly died, but I’m a survivor.
Over the years, my daughter became sicker and sicker. Then, on January 26, 2000, my daughter lost her battle with AIDS. The angel of death had come and taken my little girl away from me. She was only 12 when she died. After his death, I fell into a deep depression and even tried to kill myself a few times. Then I realized that my daughter would want me to live. So I received advice on how to deal with the pain and grief I was feeling. Eventually, I got better and started living my life again.
Then in December 2009, God had mercy on me and I started taking a new drug called Atripla. When I started taking Atripla my CD4 count was low at 22 and my viral load was very high at 1.5 million. I responded very well to the Atripla and my counts went up quickly and my viral load went down quickly. Today, almost three years later, my CD4 count is 649, the highest it has ever been, and my viral load is undetectable. I finally found my miracle drug and I am beating this disease one day at a time. I am now attending Nashville State Community College where I am pursuing an Associate’s degree in Office Administration with a Medical Vocational Concentration. I have a 3.0 to 3.4 GPA average. I have also become a writer for several websites, which has allowed me to share my stories in the hope that it will encourage others. I just want to say that AIDS doesn’t have to be a death sentence, there is life after an AIDS diagnosis. If I can share one piece of advice, it would be to fight this disease head on, keep a positive attitude, and believe in your higher power.
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