Your generous support helps clients like Jim cope with the challenges of long -term illness and growing old with HIV/AIDS.
What it really boils down to is that I know that the people at Casey House have my back, no matter what condition I’m in. And as I get older with this disease, I find that I need that more and more.
–Jim, Casey House Home Care Client
Sixty-seven year old Jim has had several major downturns that triggered AIDS in the course of 23 years of being HIV positive. Each time, with careful treatment and rest, he has been able to regain his health and knock the AIDS back down. But he says that he can only do it with help from what he calls his “team of angels,” the friends who assist him with day-to-day chores. He also relies on clinical support from Casey House, whose work with community clients such as Jim is funded by our donors.
Central to Jim’s team are his friends Matilda and her brother Roly, who live in the same co-op building as Jim. When he is ill, they cook for him, bringing him pots of soup or tubs of Jello. And then when Jim is feeling up to it, he reciprocates with a dinner of homemade meatloaf and “smashed” potatoes. Their family-by-choice is a system that works.
Always quick with a joke or wry observation, Jim has also cultivated a number of friendships in the neighbourhood, particularly at a local Church Street coffee shop. He starts to list the names of people in his network of angels who shop, cook and tidy for him, or just lend a listening ear. The list is long and clearly cherished. “My friends – they like me and my sense of humour, I guess,” he observes. “So they get something back from me, even if it’s just a laugh. And when I’m feeling up to it, I give them more, like cooking for them when I can.”
The angels have had to swoop in to help a lot recently, as Jim has struggled with an intestinal bacterial infection that persisted for months. He’s finally beaten that infection with the help of Casey House, but he still lives with a great deal of pain due to neuralgia, with nerve pain that travels from his buttocks down to one of his feet.
However, if he paces himself, Jim is feeling well enough today to begin to plan a wine and cheese gathering for his angels over the holiday season, to thank them for their kindness. Having once prided himself on his regular dinner parties, Jim says this will be his first time hosting a party in seven years. He’s looking forward to the chance to thank his angels, including the Casey House team.
“Knowing Casey House is always there when I need help, it’s just wonderful,” says Jim. “At any time of day, I can phone and talk to the on-call nurse for advice. This brings a lot of comfort and stability, even when I’m falling apart in the middle of the night. Jennifer, the community nurse who visits every week, is very knowledgeable and gives me sound advice about my medical issues. She also will come with me to medical appointments, which is a huge help because I can’t seem to retain medical information from the specialists when I’m feeling stressed. And my social worker Liz has been there for me since I was first admitted to Casey House five years ago and she has seen me through many physical and emotional ups and downs. She’s always been extremely professional, with good knowledge and advice.
“What it really boils down to is that I know that the people at Casey House have my back, no matter what condition I’m in. And as I get older with this disease, I find that I need that more and more.”
Jim pauses to reflect. “And then there’s the matter of dying,” he adds. “I can tell you I have thought a great deal about it. I have a terrible fear of dying alone. When it gets down to it, I know that at the end you are truly alone. Nobody can really experience that with you. But knowing that people are nearby, that my team of angels will be here to help, gives me enormous comfort.”
But that’s not happening any time soon. Jim still has lots of living to do, with jokes to tell, friendships to cultivate, and dinner parties to plan. The angels, and Casey House, are making sure of that.