I've been dancing around this...not wanting to post about it, but I think I need to. Something happened this month that I never imagined would and it was very frightening for everyone involved. Yonas, who's just eight, was in PE class at his elementary school; they were playing ball when he and another little boy both went to catch the ball at the same time and they ended up colliding heads...
The phone rang and it was Yonas's school on the other end. It's the call that a mother, let alone a mother with a positive child never wants to get. "Ma'm, you need to come to the school and get Yonas. There's been an accident and it looks like he's going to need stitches."
It gets worse. The child that he collided with also needed to go to the hospital. The accident had left both of them with open wounds, Yonas's just above the eye and the other little boy's was the forehead. My heart stopped. I really never imagined something like this would ever happen. Things like this only happen in the movies. I mean, what are the chances? I'll answer. Slim, but not impossible.
Yonas's school, who are (thankfully) aware of his HIV status, handled everything perfectly. After speaking with the principle and councelor we all decided, even though the probability of HIV transmission was very low, that we should tell the other little boy's parents that Yonas was HIV positive. After all, if the situation were reversed, I'd want to know.
The next call I made was to the little boy's mom. What do you say to a mom who's facing a nightmare like this with her child? I tried to reassure her. Told her her both kids had most likely hit the ground before either one had even started bleeding, told her Yonas was undetectable, meaning the virus in his blood is so low that transmission is highly improbable; I gave her phone numbers and tried to put her in touch with the best ID doctors I know, but I don't think any of this brought her much solace.
Although we did all that we could to assure them (and ourselves) you can imagine there was still a lot of concern, on both sides. There were doctor visits and numerous blood drawings for her child. The pediatric doctor the other mom had taken her son to had never dealt with HIV, so she called the CDC who recommended antiviral therapy as a precautionary measure. For peace of mind, the family opted to put their child on a course of heavy antivirals for three months. This seems like a lot, but I can understand needing that added assurance.
My heart goes out to this mom and this family. These medicines aren't easy to take by any means, and although I know with certainty that her child will be fine...still, this did happen and it has left me feeling pretty helpless.
I'm just so thankful for how this family and Yonas's school handled what could have been such a messy situation with the utmost care and regard for everyone involved.
It's only been three years since our family decided to disclose (read POZ story HERE) and I think about what a blessing that's been and how different this situation may have turned out had we still been hiding our status ... I do believe that things happen for a reason.
That woman's little boy will be fine. He will take the antivirals and then get tested twice more to be certain of a negative result, and then they will put this behind them. There will be no mass hysteria or parents up in arms that a child with HIV has been allowed to attend public school and we'll just go on as before with an even greater appreciation in our hearts for our community and the wonderful school system we have here. Ryan White is a young man whose story and life's work lives inside my heart. I think of him often and how what he went through changed a nation. Somewhere, he's looking down on this with reverence, I'm sure.
And Yonas, my spirited little guy? He'll be fine too–although, he has decided that the next time there's a ball in question–the other kid can have it!