atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3472: Yeah, it was about 20 years ago now.

20 years ago I got a phone call at an ungodly hour--right about now--telling me my friend DB Eilers had passed away.

DB was a hemophiliac. Fortunately he had the type of hemophilia which could be easily treated by periodic infusions of clotting factor, and in fact he could do the infusions himself at home. It was freeze-dried, so all he had to do was reconstitute it with sterile water and then give himself an IV. I watched him do it once; it took about fifteen, twenty minutes. He had to have the factor; otherwise a small bruise was potentially fatal. A simple infusion of one of the several components in human blood was enough to save him from bleeding to death from a subcutaneous hematoma, and instead of dying in childhood he was able to hold down a job and live a normal life. The clotting factor he periodically gave himself was keeping him from being disabled.

It was also killing him.

See, in the early 1980s, gay men started dying of weird diseases, really oddball stuff that medical science rarely saw. Little by little a pattern emerged and the condition was given a name: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS. But no one knew what was causing the weird condition; they only knew that very few people outside of the homosexual community contracted the disease. There was no way to test for it since no one knew what to look for...and like good citizens plenty of gay men who appeared perfectly healthy were donating blood. And some of that blood was separated into its components, like plasma, red cells...and clotting factor.

And no one knew that some of the blood was tainted with HIV. HIV hadn't been discovered, nor named, because no one knew that AIDS had a perilously long incubation period.

Still, the CDC&P wanted to try to stop the spread of the disease. Figuring there was some contagion being spread--as epidimiology had demonstrated that frequenting gay sex clubs and bath houses was the major risk factor--they tried to shut those places down. The disease was running through those places like wildfire, and the best way to stop the spread of it was to shut them down.

The homosexual community was furious. They didn't believe that AIDS even existed; they thought it was the invention of the Reagan government to persecute them, so they sued and protested. The clubs and bath houses stayed open. Millions of gay men were infected with HIV who need not have been.

And some of them kept donating blood. Because they weren't symptomatic, after all, so obviously they hadn't caught AIDS, right?

It's impossible to know just when DB got his first tainted dose of factor. It could have been any time after HIV came to the United States; it could even have been before AIDS had a name. But since the screening test for HIV infection was not invented until 1986, it really doesn't matter, because he surely got more than one dose of tainted blood, and it was quite a while before the blood banks began refusing to take donations from gay men.

And so DB's health began to decline.

None of us really knew (or thought) that he had AIDS before about 1987 or 1988. That was when he told us that he might have it, considering all the details. It didn't really change how we treated him, though we were a bit more careful around his bodily fluids (such as when he'd blow his nose). He was doing well enough at his job at K-mart and never seemed to be doing all that poorly, but then when he got a job at the post office in Crete, around 1989 or 1990, he was out after only a couple of weeks because he'd not told them he was a hemophiliac on his application--and the job was physically demanding enough that he'd started having blood-related problems with his knees and legs. (Bruising, etcetera, which is bad for a hemophiliac even when he is getting regular transfusions.)

He lost the job; but then he went on disability: "Which means I can take the rest of my life off!"

That ended up being about two years.

He gradually got more and more sick, spending time in the hospital here and there.

In June of 1992, he went with me to the annual Solstice party that my friends held out in the wooded area attached to one friend's parents' house. He was sick, and coughing, and not doing too well; a few days later he went to the hospital, for what would be the last time.

I got a call from him in late June and we talked for a while. I think he knew he was dying then, but like the idiot kid I was I didn't pick up on that and instead talked about what we'd do when he got out. My friends and I, who'd made a movie the year before, were working on another one and we really wanted him to help with it since he'd been so helpful with last year's.

But he wasn't doing well, and on July 10th I got the call that he'd passed away.

The rest of the week was a blur. I didn't have to take time off from work or school; the summer meant a real slowdown in on-site computer technician work so I was working about three days a month. Besides, I'd also decided to take a trimester off from college to work and try to have a little fun, since my first girlfriend had broken up with me in early May. The "work" part hadn't worked out but it was all good, because I was a mess.

It was the first time I was a pallbearer. The funeral service was...kind of bad, in that the pastor took a few moments in the eulogy to ask people to come to Jesus, which annoyed some people. Well, the pastor of the church DB was nominally a member of refused to do the service because DB died of AIDS, and at the time AIDS still meant "gay person", and this guy was apparently the best they could get.

DB wasn't even remotely gay. But he got what was called, just ten years earlier, "the gay disease", because a bunch of homosexuals refused to allow the CDC&P to take steps that not only would have slowed the spread of the disease, but also might have saved the lives of thousands of gay men.

...because they thought Ronald Reagan was just trying to keep them from having a good time. Yeah.

This is one of the main reasons why I will never be able to approve of the homosexual lifestyle. I'll tolerate it; I won't discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and I wouldn't dream of trying to tell anyone how to live his life. But at the same time I know this could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, if those hyperpartisan leftist lunatics had simply listened to the scientists that only wanted to keep them from contracting a fatal disease.

It's entirely possible that DB would still be dead of AIDS these past 20 years if the CDC&P had been able to shut down the sex clubs and bathhouses where all that anonymous and unprotected gay sex was happening. It's also possible that those thousands--millions--of gay men would also be dead.

But since those eminently simple precautions weren't taken--the kind of precautions a local health board takes when it shuts down a hot dog stand because someone saw a cockroach!--we'll never know just how many lives could have been saved. The leaders of the homosexual movement didn't want the party to end, so they made sure it didn't...and a lot of them died gasping for air in hospital rooms as a (formerly) rare fungal pneumonia spread through their lungs, unchecked.

Kind of how my friend died, 20 years ago.

Rest in peace, DB. We love you, man.

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