Fasten your seat belts, folks. This article may have a “me-me-me” bend to it. And, that’s because it does. Most of my articles are focused on “us” (you and me). But, this one is my celebration of life. More specifically… A celebration of MY life.
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya…
This post is about My Surviving Anniversary – On January 3, 1987 I was diagnosed as being HIV+. Somewhere between mid 1985 and late 1987, I was transfused with a bad batch of blood. To quote Huey Lewis, “Sometimes, bad is bad.”
Officially, I have been diagnosed with HIV for 27 years. Unofficially, we don’t know when I got it, because I’m a mild hemophiliac and don’t have to get factor VIII or cryoprecipitate (clotting factor) on a regular basis. I have a letter from my doctor, which arrived days after Rock Hudson’s death, dated October 9, 1985, stating that I tested HTLV-III negative. The old test they used couldn’t detect the virus unless it had been in your body for more than three months… This means that I was infected somewhere between (circa) July, 1985 and October, 1987.
Semantics aside, suffice it to say that it’s been more than 27 and fewer than 30 years. Regardless, I have lived more than a quarter of a century past where my doctor predicted. Hoo-Rah!
Circa 1989 I got shingles and then a pneumonia. My CD4 levels were brutally low and when they dipped below 200 I was considered to have ARC (AIDS-related complex). Later, doctors said that if your levels dropped below 200 you had “full-blown” AIDS. I think they did this for medical insurance reasons, yada. Again I was told that my life would end in a very short time. By now, I was used to being told, “You ain’t got much time left, kid.”
Well… I didn’t die. Now I’m one of the longest surviving HIV+ people on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, there are others who have survived and lived as long as me (or even longer). However, when you think about the numbers… More than 25,000,000 have died and only a handful have survived this long… You get the picture.
My wife, Kristine, and I found out about a new and “safe” way for us to have children in circa 2002. It is called ICSI (you can read more about this in my in vitro article) in vitro fertilization. We made several attempts before finally being successful and having our little girl in early 2005. This was a milestone of epic proporations, because we always assumed we’d never have children.
Back in 2007 I celebrated my 40th birthday. The theme was, Forty Years of Life and Twenty Years of Survival. Kristine and I invited 105 of my closest friends and we rented out two adjoining hotel ballrooms. We hired a live band ( The Reagan Years are a 80’s throwback cover band, and they are AWESOME!) We had a catered dinner. And, we had an open bar. This was my knockdown, drag-out, bash! And, it was quite the celebration!
Then in 2010 I published my memoirs, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C. This book details my battle and struggle to thrive.
I feel pretty good, considering I was told I had fewer than two years to live when I was 19 years old… My plan is to live another 30 years. I figure 77 years old is a cool number, so that’s the one I’m going with. However, if death comes knocking on my door sooner, it better have an army with it, because I’m a warrior. Death does not scare me. Not in the least. However, I won’t simply lie down. Count on that!
In the meantime, I have some lofty goals. Here are a few of them (in no particular order):
Thank you for all of the support, friendship, and downright caring that each and every one of you gives me. Hopefully this “me-me-me” article was fun for you guys too. Now let’s get back to the “us” articles!
Love you all,
Vaughn Foster Ripley
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