A few months ago my brother went into cardiac arrest. He’s only 44 years old.
As it happens, an electronic box that was placed in his back went on the brink. The box uses electric shocks to help control the pain he suffers from falling off a roof and injuring his spine.
What does this have to do with World’s AIDS Day 2011, right? I’m getting there. When this happened, my brother was out of state and they couldn’t do the surgery because it was too dangerous. After he returned home, his regular doctor scheduled blood work for him and scheduled a time for his surgery. It was scheduled fairly quickly, since it became a life or death situation. After the blood work came back from the laboratory, he received a phone call and notice that his surgery date had been cancelled.
Now, a little history. My brother and I have pretty much hated one another since I was five, and he was 10 shooting my Barbie dolls with his BB gun. Our relationship only got worse over time. One might think ‘oh poor him,’ with the spine injury, until you understand that he was drunk and high on who knows what, dancing on top of someone’s third story roof when he fell. Through the years, he became a worthless excuse of human life. He has endured a life full of drugs, assault & battery, stealing, in and out of jail; he’s just the bottom of the barrel, laughing at any and all responsibilities. Being a victim of his drugged abuse, I have always had little to no sympathy for him. In fact, if it wasn’t for the love of my mother, I wouldn’t care if he was suddenly wiped off the face of the Earth.
His injury has rendered him fairly harmless, so when visiting my mother I tend to ignore his very existence. (Yes, he’s 44 years old, still living with mommy, and that has nothing to do with his injury). So this brings us to his blood work. He mentioned they would have to reschedule the surgery due to something, but never told anyone what that was about. So nothing more was said about it, and life continued as normal.
One day while my children and I were visiting, he brought out this baby squirrel that had run into his open window. He had made it a pet and was showing it to my kids. It got scared and bit him. Blood went flying and my children were in the midst of it all. My brother just let it go, and it ran back to its bed and hid. He wrapped his shirt around his hand and went back to his room. My kids didn’t get any blood on them, and once they realized their idiot uncle was fine they were laughing about it.
Right after that, my mother got injured and had to move in with me for a couple of weeks. I went back to her house to pick up her clothes, blood pressure meds, and some books. When I got her meds I came across my brother’s meds. I wasn’t really trying to be nosy, but there were so many of them. I flat out asked him about what could be wrong with him. He went all around the subject but admitted to nothing. Whether he admits to it or pretends it doesn’t exist, the meds were what they were, and from what I knew they were for treating HIV.
Why wouldn’t he tell me? I realize we don’t really like one another, but in all seriousness it isn’t something that shouldn’t be shared with family. He may be in denial or somehow ashamed, but these are my children that he was bleeding around. I don’t even know how to cope with that. Had he said ‘oh stay back’ or anything at all, I’d have had more respect for him, but then he has never cared about anyone but himself. I really tried to understand him, but I don’t know enough about HIV or AIDS to form any conclusions. At this point, I don’t even know 100% that is what is wrong with him. All I was going by is what the medications said on the visible label and extremely limited medical knowledge. I may be nosy, but I’m not so much that I would dig into his stuff for the answer.
I asked my mom about it because I wanted to be sure before I jumped to conclusions. She just said he has some virus affecting his system but couldn’t remember the name of it. So I asked her if it was Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and she said yeah that was it.
So now the brother that I have spent a life time hating is on borrowed time, and from what I do know, it won’t end well. I always figured I’d get a call in the middle of the night saying he died in a car crash or overdosed in some back room. The idea of him suffering from a disease never even entered the thought process. All the hate and pain he personally put me through seems to have been found by karma. Maybe for some, it may seem odd that I can’t find any enjoyment in knowing he will go through this alone. But I guess malice isn’t within me.
So what is there to do? Forgiveness doesn’t come easy, and more hate was compounded when he could have endangered my children. I don’t care what kind of denial he is in. These are my children. I haven’t allowed my children to go there since I found out. I know it’s partially fear and ignorance in what I don’t know about HIV, but that’s not all of it. Truth is, I don’t trust him to do what is right to ensure they are safe. I’m left with emotions I can’t identify and some I can’t justify.
I care that my mother will end up being the only one to deal with him. I also worry what will happen if she simply can’t at some point. I know I would never take on that responsibility myself. I don’t even know at what point and time during this disease he would need help or caring for. I don’t know anything about care, concerns, life expectancy, or even the basics of what is safe and not safe for anyone dealing with a family member who has HIV or AIDS. My own ignorance on the topic scares me.
Despite my lack of feeling for my brother, I still need answers. I need to learn and understand what HIV is, and how it affects a person. I may never be able to deal with my brother, and that is entirely his own fault, but I won’t be in a situation where it will be fear that determines what I do for him, for my children, and for a future that cannot be predicted. So 2011 marks my first World AIDS Day that I truly care. This will be my time to educate myself and my family on this terrible disease.
World AIDS Day 2011 has personal meaning now, as it is no longer a disease other people have to deal with. It has hit close to home. Now I’m left wondering why it took such a tragedy for me as an individual to take the necessary steps and learn about this deadly virus. Sure we all hear about it. Some of us may even know of someone who has it. But there are those who live it, and those that care for others suffering from this disease. Don’t wait for it to come close before you understand it. Take a stand and join me on World AIDS Day 2011 to educate ourselves and to help change our future.
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