As a mama to what I'm sure is a baby boy (a baby boy who kicked me for the first time last night- did I mention that !! : ):) , I am touched by something that happened at Grady today. While I was in the elevator, I saw a man who looked familiar and could not place him. I ignored the inner filter telling me to mind my own business, and I'm glad I did. The man I saw was dressed to the nines. He wore a hat and carried a briefcase. He walked without a limp, without any tremors, without any evidence of illness. He wore cologne, and something about an older gentleman wearing cologne makes me smile. His cheeks were full and his smile, well, healthy. He could have been a guest or family member or even one of the devil consultants walking the hospital. But I knew I knew him. I knew him...before.
And when he told me his name, complete with big, healthy smile, I nearly fell over. We'll call him Ronnie. I just looked at my very thick file on him and see that I last saw him in November 2008. 15 months ago Ronnie could not walk. He could not talk. His mother was helping nurses change his diapers. He had an ostomy, his bodily fluids collecting on a pouch on his abdomen. He could only motion with his eyes what he wanted. His AIDS was so advanced that his cheeks were sunken in and his eyes fading. We waited many months for a spot in a less-than-stellar nursing home. During that time, I came to know and love his mother. Ms. B called me every morning to tell me she was 'on her way up' to see 'her boy.' The nurses and I could set our clocks by her, despite her 45 minute morning drive. We knew she would come every day, but she called anyway. She needed us to know that this patient, this boy, this man, was her baby boy. She needed everyone to understand that he had a story before he got AIDS and that he WOULD have a story during his fight with this disease. And I do believe he received better care because none of us wanted to see what that precious lady would do if any one of us let up on our game.
So, 15 months ago, I sent Ronnie and his mama to a nursing home. Every week she would call me and give me updates. She needed to know that someone besides her was cheering for her son. I listened to her and was happy to help her in her quest that her son be known. She fought for him like I've never seen anyone fight. She fought with him when he wanted to give up and fought with us when we suggested end of life care. I believe her words were "like hell you will" (refer him to hospice). And while some families are just unable to see the truth of their loved one's diagnosis, we were all inclined to believe her. She knew her boy.
Well, she knew her boy and one day, I hope I will fight and advocate for my child the way she does. Because she was right! He is now working for the CDC and has regained much of the dignity HIV took from him. He laughed and said, "the last time you saw me, I was in diapers." Well, yes Ronnie, you were in diapers, but that didn't change for one second the man you are, the man you were before and the man you are now. And today, when I see a patient who looks like the end is near, I will listen more closely when they tell me there is more fight left in them. I will listen more intently to their family who know this is not quite the end. I am so glad this mama fought for her boy. And I know, the first chance I get to fight for my boy, that I will. Because this world is oh so much better with Ronnie in it for a little while longer.