"The doctor wasted no time in letting us know what was up. In fact he said it so quickly that my partner misunderstood his words and thought he said she had a positive pregnancy test. She was not pregnant."
A testing story …
I bet we could put a book together about people’s journeys through testing whether the end result was a negative or a positive; the arduous journey of the test itself can be and in some cases is a part of the overall trauma. There was no rapid point of care testing when I was tested so we had to wait for well over a month for my results and also those of our children
On Friday December 7th 1990 at 430 in the afternoon my partner received a registered letter from the Red Cross explaining in very little detail that they were not going to be able to use the blood she had donated just two weeks previous. The letter didn’t say why and although it did offer some clues as to what the reason was, this ill-timed registered letter left us in a panic.
The letter suggested that we first send the enclosed self-addressed stamped card back to the Red Cross with the name of our family doctor then the Red Cross would in turn send the medical information they had about the blood issue to our family doctor who would then contact us and set up an appointment to meet and talk about whatever it was that this registered letter was referring to.
Are you kidding me?
We did not have the patience to wait the weekend and tried to contact emergency departments throughout the city to see if they could help decipher our registered mystery; but no. Monday morning we called our doctor in a panic and insisted we meet that day and get to the bottom of this … and we did.
Activism, even before we knew we would then become activists.
The doctor wasted no time in letting us know what was up. In fact he said it so quickly that my partner misunderstood his words and thought he said she had a positive pregnancy test. She was not pregnant. What followed, the clarification of his words, is to this day a slow motion memory of confusion, tears and disbelief. The meeting then took a turn that we did not recognize at the time as stigmatizing but in hindsight the doctor called us out.
“How did this happen”?
"After our meeting that fateful Monday where he had nothing really to share with us or to help or comfort us or even for that matter inform us he had his nurse take my blood and that was it."
We had what we suspected was the answer to his uneducated question and we shared those thoughts with him.
“We are going to need to test you” … he said to me … “and your children”.
We understood the need to test me but were shocked to hear that the children would in any way be mixed up in this mess … our mess … and what was now for us at that moment, our shame.
“You could have infected your children”. This genius with the bedside manner of a llama blurted out to us.
You must remember that this was 1990 and I am unclear whether there was pre and post-test counseling taught to folks just yet. If there was such a thing our doctor wasn’t aware of the intricacies of it all. According to our family doctor the only other patient he had ever had with “this” had died.
After our meeting that fateful Monday where he had nothing really to share with us or to help or comfort us or even for that matter inform us he had his nurse take my blood and that was it.
The walk home that late December afternoon was cold and quiet.
The next day the children; Jennifer 9, Robby 2, and Tommy 1, were tested at the lab of our local hospital and the waiting began …
To be continued...
This post originally appeared on poztalk, the blog of London, Ontario's Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, here.