Monday, June 22, 2009

A kiddie sized life expectancy

I went to an AIDS hospital yesterday to do a product delivery with a friend.

We met in the kids room, because it was empty. It was hard. It seemed and felt like the preschools I used to volunteer in back home. Kiddie sized chairs, kiddie sized beds, kiddie sized sippy-cups. Toys everywhere, drawings on the walls. It was nice. Then I got to looking around at the posters on the walls and it hit me. All these kids are HIV positive. None of them will, based on my child's understanding of AIDS, live to see their high school graduation. It was really tough, I really almost lost it. The poster about how to work with HIV kids as a medical professional was hard. To paraphrase "Don't treat the kids as a doomed, lost cause- even though they are. They are still kids, they are still people." "Don't shy away from death or let them pretend they aren't sick. If they don't acknowledge how serious things are they won't take their meds, and they will die."

The hardest though, were the little handwritten cards on the wall. In the terrible, sideways writing of those who are going letter by letter because they can't read yet:

"I'd like to thank the doctors for keeping me alive. I thank them for every second I breathe because I know could be dead like Mommy."

"I realize that I will not live to have children, but I know God loves me. I thank Him for everyday I wake up, even when I feel sick."

"I will take my ARV's in the right dose, everyday. I know that if I don't, I will die."

Hard, hard stuff. I guess I'm supposed to say something about how it makes me count my blessings in the US. If anything it just makes me feel bad that despite all this- and knowing better, I still would probably be too scared to give these kids a hug or even a pat on the head.

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