Last year, I also worked on our anniversary and on top that Brett had just had surgery on his leg so we knew our celebration would be limited. We did however, have plans to order take-out the following night (December 7th) and just snuggle up to a movie. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned that day. I was working at ANHC where we saw a wide population of patients. One such population being patients with HIV/AIDS. This hadn't ever worried me - the people were kind and had a variety of backgrounds and I was careful in my practice when it came to blood/body fluids.
A patient came in the afternoon of December 7th. She had just found out she was HIV+. I could see the sadness in her eyes and not knowing her story I was very mindful of here feelings. She needed several injections that day. As I drew them up I thought about what she might be feeling and how life altering such a diagnosis would be. All of the injections went fine, as always, and suddenly after the final injection... I poked myself with the needle. A million things ran through my mind and at the same time it was blank. She noticed what had happened and looked at me, frightened as well. I didn't want her to feel like a monster so I smiled and wished her a happy remainder of the day.
I then turned around, ran into Dr. Rothoff's office and started crying. All I could say was, "I poked myself." Dr. Rothoff was aware of who I had been with and rushed me into the exam room to squeeze out the blood from the puncture and wash my hands thoroughly. She went to grab my manager and while she was gone I knelt in the exam room and prayed.
My blood was drawn immediately for future comparison. Dr. Rothoff called HIV specialists in California and immediately got me started on antiretrovirals. I love Dr. Rothoff for many reasons, but on this day I especially appreciated how calm and reassuring she was about the statistics and outcomes of similar situations.
I called Brett and cried as I told him what I had just done. He cried too. I told him he needed to find a new wife. He told me I was silly and that he loved me and would stay married to me no matter what the outcome. I tried to keep working, but my boss eventually sent me home.
When I got home, I saw Linds first. Her eyes were filled with tears and I collapsed in her arms. I then went down to the couch where Brett had taken up residence since his injury. Haakon was out of town so Brett had been calling other priesthood holders from the ward to see if anyone could join him in giving me a healing blessing. No one was answering their phones. It was about 2pm and many men were at work still. Suddenly, Haakon's friend Rick showed up at the house. He was on a business trip in Alaska and decided to stop by to say hello to the family. We filled him in on the situation and he and Brett gave me a blessing. It seems funny looking back - Brett was still drugged up on pain killers. He had to prop himself against the couch in order to keep balance on one leg. But despite all of the craziness he put his hands upon my head and gave me a beautiful blessing that my body would be able to fight off the infection and that I would be blessed to be a mother one day. I have never felt such an instant calm. I am so grateful for worthy priesthood holders. The promises in my patriarchal blessing came to my mind about how I would live a long, healthy life and that I would joy in seeing my children raised to maturity. Brett and I went into our bedroom and talked and cried until we were too tired to keep our eyes open any longer.
Random memories from the next few days...
I remember Linds had washed the sheets for before I got home from work. You see, I am allergic to cats, but since Brett was basically bedfast in our basement bedroom, I couldn't very well take away the joy he found in snuggling up with his visitor, Wicket, the Johnson family cat, so there was cat hair everywhere. It was so nice to climb into clean sheets.
I also remember being grateful that Haakon and Linds had spent time in Africa around many people with HIV/AIDS, because of this they were aware of how it is spread and weren't freaked out about me eating at their table or snuggling their kids.
The antiretrovirals make you feel like you have the flu all the time. I was really grateful that I was still able to work. It kept my mind busy. It also forced me to face my newfound fear of injections. I knew if I didn't jump right back in - I may never be able to. I found that I was much more empathetic to my patients and their conditions.
I remember Christmas morning and despite feeling icky, being so excited to wake up to watch the kids open their presents. It was worth it. I sure miss those kiddos.
One night I was staring at the bottle of Truvada and noticed the word "Gilead" on it. I again felt very strongly that everything was going to be okay. I remember years ago singing the song "Did You Think To Pray" in Sacrament meeting and looking up the meaning of Balm of Gilead
--An aromatic gum or spice used for healing wounds (Gen. 43:11; Jer. 8:22; 46:11; 51:8). A bush producing the resin from which the balm was made grew so plentifully in Gilead in Old Testament times that the balm came to be known as the “balm of Gilead” (Gen. 37:25; Ezek. 27:1.)
"Did You Think To Pray" - 3rd Verse
When sore trials came upon you, Did you think to pray?
When your soul was full of sorrow, Balm of Gilead did
you borrow, at the gates today?
...so when life gets dark and dreary, don't forget to pray.
I was tested for HIV at 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 4 months, and 6 months after the exposure and all of the tests came back negative! Hooray! Almost as a strange reminder, I was working at the hospital this past week on December 7th, and had an HIV+ patient who needed an injection. Everything went well! :)