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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Patricia Logan shares a heartfelt memory of her Nursing experiences with AIDS patients

Author and good friend, Patricia Logan, has joined me today to share a memory of her days nursing AIDS patients in the 1990's.

I suppose I became active in the gay community in 1993 when a dear friend succumbed to AIDS. My friend Clay, who I’d known since childhood, finally passed away, painfully, filled with the only drug that was approved at the time, AZT. He died in pain but he was not alone. He was held by friends, sisters, a brother, a mother and a father and his lover and life partner of five years. 

   Clay’s death led me to my next career, nursing of immune suppressed patients. It was rough. I walked naively right out of nursing school into an environment where “those people”, the intimidating nurses of ISU, with their flamboyant gestures, bright hair and multiple piercings and great great love, were hard core and committed to what they did. I’d started out my career in nursing thinking I’d go into anything other than this but here I was, doing my rotation in the immune suppressed unit and getting to know how these people did their jobs.
   I must tell you, at first impression, I was highly intimidated and coming onto the unit as a student fried my brain. I was literally, the top in my class followed by two other queens who made me feel like a fool here, the white, married mother. What was I doing, ministering to “their own”? 
   These guys were my study partners and my good friends but because they were gay men, they were readily accepted on the floor because at the time, 90% of the nurses that worked with AIDS patients were gay of both genders. In short, many nurses refused to take care of these patients, so deathly afraid and misinformed about body fluids and what could spread the disease. Remember, this was more than ten years after people began contracting the disease and the world was still living in fear of AIDS and HIV positive patients. 
   As an outsider, I was looked upon by several lesbian nurses in that “scary way” and made to be terrified until my gay friends stood their ground for me. In the end, sa’ll good. I dealt with it, because of Clay and because I had a genuine love for people and my patients.

   On January 17, 1994, Los Angeles had one of largest earthquakes in our history. The lover to my friend Clay and co-nursing student called me crying. He was afraid and alone and freaking out. It was a time in all of our lives when things went kind of haywire; for god’s sake, buildings in our neighborhood had come down crushing people. A total of more than 50 people died in that quake and that was in a highly modern, earthquake reinforced city, prone to the earth movers.

   My teachers decided that none of us were in the mood to learn about human anatomy that week so they did us all a great favor. They showed us a movie on video called “And the Band Played On” produced by HBO which I’d never heard of, at the time. It showcased the story of the beginnings of the “gay cancer” AIDS, the closing of the bathhouses, and the airline steward aboard a flight from Europe who they hypothesized had “started it all”. 
   This movie stunned this student, a middle class white mother of 3, then in her thirties, and I thought even then, how can they pin it down to one guy? Was he the dude who went into the wilds of Africa and fucked the monkeys? We were reading and listening to all kinds of speculation on the television at the time about the origins of HIV. I didn’t get the connection between the African apes then and don’t get it now, but that’s what we were taught.

   These memories come back around this time of year, because of Clay’s death. In those days, we had AZT, the TENS unit and heavy pain meds. We had chucks and diapers and wet wipes and pads and love and hugs and tears. That’s all we had. No knowledge. Nothing coming out of Washington, and we knew that they knew and didn’t let us know… bastards… we knew… and we hugged and we loved and we buried… those we loved and then we sewed their names into a quilt.

   I spoke to a dear FB friend about it. With his permission and without his full name, I relate his story. Tony moved to San Francisco in the late 80’s and began watching his “family” pass away. It wasn’t a matter, when he opened the daily posts, as to “when they would die” but “who had died” the next day. He had to move away because it so overwhelmed him that he couldn’t, literally, couldn’t deal with the DAILY DEATH TOLL. How could anyone? God bless you Tony! I couldn’t have either! It was hard enough, just reading it. 

   At the time, we all were sleeping around, I was a young single white female living in LA and fucking my way through college, not thinking that I was high risk, cause I just wasn’t. My unprotected partners had nothing better to worry about than their orgasm, protected by my birth control pills. God! How na├»ve we all were in those stupid, stupid days!

   My patients died alone, we were their only friends, the nurses who held their hands.  My eyes were opened. I spent many a night, soaking my pillow with tears as I remembered a patients passing, alone, all alone. I interfered in many a fight between family members and partners who at the time, were refused visitation to men who they had spent years with, were in love with… It frankly sickened me. 

   Men died in the most horrid of fashions, blinded with pus-filled eyes as their livers shut down while their “brothers and sisters” fought with their lovers outside their hospital room doors. It’s really a miracle I survived those years… those horrible years… It led me to the end of my nursing career because I lost my humanity among those brightly lit and beautifully artwork filled corridors of White Memorial.

   I went to Pride Week last June in San Francisco. I walked hand in hand and heart and heart with my Tony as well as my author pal, Amanda. We held hands along the parade route. We’re both straight/bi and we just figured everyone would think we were gay anyway! I remembered Clay and feel what he felt, what my gay nurse friends felt, and what my Tony feels every single damn day, how he lives with the “cocktail” which allows him to survive another day, remembering twenty five years of lovers and friends lost to this terrible disease. 
   My prayers are with those who live with this scourge and its antiretroviral accompaniment every single day. Praise to my Tony and to those who still live with this miserable malady, years after we were so uninformed and perhaps deliberately misinformed. We did our best to hold their countless hands as they passed into the other world, often alone and without any other family but nurses like us, who loved and loved and still love.

Thank you for sharing this emotional recollection. Patti writes M/M erotic romance that is as heartfelt as her days as a nurse. 

Here are some of her books.
Find Patti's blog HERE



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