I jumped from the bed, holding my arm to catch the blood, but as I grabbed the phone blood made it's way to the floor, drop, drop, followed my every move. I heard my nurse's voice come over the phone, "Kee Kee, this is Rae Lewis-Thornton. Blood is coming out of my picc line. He didn't pause, "Go to the ER right now!" And that was the end of the conversation.
I grabbed the cloth napkin from he counter and wrapped my arm as I made my way back to the bedroom to change clothes. Blood was seeping through the bright yellow napkin and I tried to keep calm as best as I could, but I was scared.
This wasn't the kind of scene you saw often in my neighborhood and I wanted no reason to not be picked up by a taxi, so I swung the other end of my coat back over my bloody arm.
I explained to the taxi cab driver I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. He took the outer Lake Shore drive to avoid Christmas shoppers and in a matter of 4 minutes I was walking into ER. I went to the counter and I knew I needed to be calm. I swung my coat from around my shoulder so that the nurse could see. "My picc line is bleeding like crazy," I said. As my blood began to drip on the floor, I added, "I also have HIV."
Until that moment I had been so calm. I said to him,"I have HIV and I really don't want my blood all over the place." And at that moment I resented having to give this information in the lobby of the hospital ER to the security guard no less. I resented the security guard and the freaking nurse who thought my bloody ass arm was no big deal. But mostly, I resented HIV. How dare it embarrass me, right now at this time and place.
I reached to the side of me and grabbed a ton of Kleenex and pressed them against my bleeding arm and after I did that the nurse, handed me the pad to press against my arm.
After that they rushed me right along. Of course I repeated it two more times before I was taken to the back. Once to the EKG Nurse as she connected be to the machine. My chest was hurting like hell, so they wanted to make sure my heart was ok. As she connected me and blood dripped into the pad, I explained to her, "I have HIV, so be careful of my blood."
There is no other illness on this planet in modern times that carries this kind of shame and stigma. The weight of it all is more than a notion; More than anyone should have to deal with.
Yet I know I have to fight though the shame, if only for the benefit of my health. I cannot lie, give half truths or misleading information because my health is on the front line. They need to know everything. This is especially true when you have an undiagnosed health issue. So I press forward. Do what I must for my sake.
In an instant the shame that I felt seemed silly, compared to a possible blot clot. The first round of tests said that I had a blood clot, and they ordered me a bed. I went straight to Twitter and asked for prayers. Crazy, I could tell over 5000 people exactly what the doctors were saying, but I was nervous about telling a few about my HIV status. Maybe it's that my Twitter followers already know and there are no judgements. OR maybe, I was talking about blood clots and not HIV/AIDS per se, or maybe both.
That seems crazy to me, since I started bleeding two days after the line was placed. Any who, I left the hospital beat up, but at least I was going home and it seemed that I was out of danger. In the end I know each time I say that I have HIV, it helps to break the shackles and challenges the shame that has tainted the ability for an infected person to get proper health care and to live with dignity.