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Michael Asmus Personal Narrative


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Michael Asmus Personal Narrative

  1. 1. Michael AsmusMobius English 7Dear Michelle, I found this while going through Michael’s possessions. It seems that he wrote it in thelast few days before AIDS took his life. I thought you might be interested. It’s almost over. The pain will be gone soon. I’m not sure ifI’m nervous or just relieved. The counselor that my parents found forme suggested that I write about my experiences of the past few years,that it might help me accept the end when it comes. I might as well. Idon’t have much else to do these days. It started with a dentist in Florida. I was on summervacation there eight years ago, and I chipped one of my front teethwhile playing in the water with two of my friends, Alex and June. As Ihad a few weeks of vacation left, my parents decided that I should getthe tooth fixed by a local dentist. One of my father’s friends inFlorida suggested Dr. David J. Acer. My mother agreed, and we made anappointment. My dad drove me to the dentist’s office a few days later.The office was fairly close, but the drive was still unpleasantbecause it went through a heavily industrialized area. The air smelledlike burning sewage, and there was no way to shut it out because thecloth top of the old Volkswagen convertible we were borrowing wasmissing. The trip took about twenty minutes. When we arrived, thereceptionist told us that Dr. Acer would be out soon. He came out andintroduced himself a few minutes later. He was a tall, good lookingman. He seemed nice, if a bit distant. He discussed fishing with mydad for a while before actually getting around to the subject at hand.My father described the problem, and I showed Dr. Acer the tooth. Hebrought me back to his operating room (if that’s what it’s called)after a cursory examination. He got to work immediately. The operationdid not hurt nearly as much as I had expected, but then again, I hadbeen given medicine to make my mouth numb. The Dr. Acer was finished
  2. 2. fixing the tooth after about a half hour. Looking satisfied, he gaveme a mirror, so that I could look at my newly repaired tooth. Itlooked like it had never been broken, save for a nearly invisible lineat the edge of the break. I thanked him, and we all said goodbye, andmy father took me home. For a while, I was happy. It took three weeks for the first symptoms to appear. Ibegan to suffer from symptoms of acute infection, specifically afever, a rash, muscle pain, and persistent headaches. These symptomswere, as usual for HIV/AIDS, misdiagnosed, mainly because they werelooked at individually rather than as a disease package. They onlypersisted for about two weeks, before what I later learned was thesecond stage of infection started. This stage, called “chronicinfection,” is mainly characterized by swollen lymph nodes. It wasuncomfortable for me, but certainly not deadly. At this point, myparents decided that something was definitely wrong with me, and theytook me to get checked again. This time the results were accurate. Allof us were totally shocked when the diagnosis came back. My dad justwent silent, and my mom actually started crying. I just stared at thedoctor. I couldn’t believe it. The idea simply would not register inmy mind. I was sure that I had not done anything that would give methe disease, and I thought that they must have been mistaken. Myfather asked if they were sure. The doctor said that unless it was acompletely unknown disease, he was absolutely sure that I had HIV. Mymom asked if we could have some privacy, and the doctor left the room.My parents then started desperately questioning me about how I couldpossibly have gotten the disease. My mom was crying and trying to talkat the same time, and my dad was very intense and seemed almost angry.They were both talking at once, then my dad was yelling, then lookingaway, and then my mom was pleading. I have no memory of what they weresaying. I was still staring at the door in shock. After about twominutes, my dad actually slapped me. Hard. “Look at me!” he yelled. Then I was staring at him, holding my cheek, with my mouth open.I remember shaking my head. The rest of the day passed by with me
  3. 3. still in a daze. I don’t remember much else, but I know that myparents chose my treatment combination before we left the hospital. Isort of withdrew into myself for a week, barely talking to anyone andzoning out when no one was actually asking me a question. It wasn’tthat my mind was racing too fast to pay attention to the outsideworld; it was just frozen in a state of disbelief. It took me about a week after I came back to the present toconvince my parents that I had not secretly had unprotected sex withsomeone. They could not really deal with me having the disease, andinstead convinced themselves and everyone they knew that I had a braintumor, not HIV. I went along with it. It was easier to explain thatway. At this point I had no idea how much time I had left, and I triedto make the best of whatever time was available. I started going onnature walks with my mom, and biking with some of my friends. I wenton family trips to Hawaii, Italy, and France, despite the fact that Inever had time to learn the languages in the latter two. Knowing thatthe average life expectancy for a person with newly-diagnosed HIV istwenty-four years, I went to college after I finished high school,deciding that eighteen years with a college degree under my belt wouldbe better than twenty-two without it. It turns out that I’m one of theunlucky ones. I didn’t get nearly that long. Seven years ago, I found out on the internet that there was adentist in Florida who had HIV/AIDS and infected some of his patientswith it. I was curious when I heard this, because I had never found agood reason how I had been infected with the disease. It turned outthat the dentist on the news was Dr. David Acer, the very same dentistI had gone to in Florida. Acer had died of AIDS earlier that year. Ilearned that the other victims had been tested and found that they hadthe same strain of the virus that Acer had, so I went to the hospitaland had them test me. The results placed me as a sixth victim. Despitethe realization that my contracting the disease was not my fault, myparents continued to pass off the disease as a brain tumor. I got out of college two years ago, and I found a good jobin sales in a company in downtown San Rafael. It paid well, and I
  4. 4. actually enjoyed it. I’d been coping pretty well with my illness,taking my medicine regularly. I felt like I would live a long time.At least, I felt that way until I suddenly contracted some kind ofcold. It didn’t seem all that serious, but I started getting worriedafter it persisted for five days. I went to the doctor, and foundout that my disease had moved on to AIDS. The doctor there gave meabout two years, if I was lucky. That was six months ago. I’m in thehospital now, with TB, PML, a bunch of other diseases I can’t spell orpronounce, and probably a few that I don’t even know about. I haven’tbeen able to be close to my family for a few weeks because of the TB.They’ll probably have to disinfect this laptop if they ever plan totake it out of my room. Actually, they’ll probably disinfect anythingI even print with it, just in case I somehow transmitted the diseasethrough the internet. Computer virus. Heh. I wonder if HIV/AIDS canmutate into one of those... Anyway, the doctors say that I have a week, at best, now. Iwouldn’t give myself that long. All these diseases... I think that Imight go insane from medication and isolation before they finallymanage to kill me. Either that, or I’ll spend my last few days with mymind so high in the clouds that I won’t be able to see. I took offmost of my pain meds so that I would be able to write this coherently,but I don’t think I’ll be able to go much longer. Actually, I think Imight have passed the edge of coherency a while ago... I’m going tosleep now. Maybe I’ll write more tomorrow. Assuming I wake up... Ihope I get to see my mom again. Michael was twenty-three years old when he died. His life ended in Marin GeneralHospital, where he was born. Best regards, Michael Vakarian