Thanks to tremendous advances in treatment, for many people today a life with HIV/AIDS can be filled with hope and well-being, given rigorous adherence to medication. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. That’s why the specialized care at Casey House is so very necessary to a growing population of people living and aging with the disease in our community.
Casey House was there to support me, but at the same time they gave me back my independence. If I hadn’t been able to come here, I don’t know what I would have done. I think I would have given up.
Peter, Casey House In-Residence Client
For some people, perhaps due to treatment barriers such as mental illness or poverty, or because their bodies react negatively to the very medications that are supposed to help—or simply because of genetic bad luck or the process of aging— life with HIV/AIDS means waging a battle on many fronts, never knowing when the next threat will appear.
“I thought I was doing fine,” recalls Peter*. HIV-positive since 1996, he was taking his medications and living life to the fullest, enjoying rewarding relationships with his partner, friends and family while working hard to advance his career. When he began to feel fatigue, Peter attributed it to a hectic pace and promised his partner to cut back.
Then one day he woke in hospital, having been in a coma for weeks. “My partner and family had been told that I was going to die. Nobody expected me to live,” says Peter. “My liver and kidneys had shut down, I had lost 70 pounds, and I was experiencing concurrent lung infections. I had lymphoma and needed a biopsy and chemotherapy, but this was dangerous because of a stage four infection from a very painful bed sore that exposed the nerve endings in my legs. We all thought my life was almost over.”
Once Peter had healed enough to receive the chemotherapy he so urgently needed, he went to live with his parents to recover. His family had given up his apartment during his months in hospital and so this seemed the only option. But it soon became evident that despite their best efforts and loving care, it was not a good solution. “I was so depressed,” explains Peter. “I had lost my work, my apartment, my health… and now I was living with my parents. I felt like a prisoner in my own life, and it was a life I never chose.”
Still weak and unable to walk, Peter needed nursing care to heal, but also the independence to plan for his changed future. That’s when he came to Casey House. “Casey House was there to support me, but at the same time they gave me back my independence,” says Peter. “If I hadn’t been able to come here, I don’t know what I would have done. I think I would have given up.”
Today, Peter is back to his normal weight and feeling optimistic as he faces yet more chemotherapy. For as long as he needs Casey House, we’ll be here to support Peter, along with the hundreds of other men, women and families who rely on Casey House to see them through the many health care challenges of a life with HIV/AIDS.
*Pseudonym used by request