North Carolina Newspapers

    Wl)e Cljarlotte
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1996
;9A
Talk self
through
the pain
GWENDOLYN BAINES
Ask
Gwendolyn
Features
Around Charlotte 10A
Church News 13A
Sunday School 12A
Kids Page 14A
The Deltas of Charlotte
present ‘Symphony with
the Divas.’ Page 11A
LIFESTYLES
AIDS strengthens
bond between father
and his affected son
Dear Gwendolyn:
Last year my daughter
died of AIDS. She came
home one night happy and
introduced me to a young
mane she felt she loved.
When I looked at him, I
sensed nothing but trouble
coming. They dated for
almost two years and were
planning to marry after
she finished college. She
would have graduated this
year.
One night she came home
saying that she had a cold.
She had a high fever,
chills, and signs of the flu.
She didn't want to go to
the hospital, but I insisted.
Upon hospitalization, she
was diagnosed with AIDS.
After hearing the news,
she lost all hope. Months
later, she was dead. She
was my only child.
It is hard for me to go on.
Some days I don't quite
think I can.
Florence
Dear Florence:
Sure you can. You state she
was your only child. Even if
you had others, you would still
grieve the same. Losing one
of many still leaves a void.
This is what I want you to
do: Think about joining a sup
port group. Put away all pic
tures of your daughter. Take
all her favorite items and put
them into boxes as well.
Consider giving things to
charity or to another loving
child. If she lived with you,
change the furniture setting.
As time passes, you will be
able to look at the photos, but
right now you need help. The
reality is too painful.
You may feel your daughter
was cheated out of this life,
but stop to give thanks for
having her as long as you did.
I know without asking you
have asked many times, "Why
me? Why my child?" There
are no answers. AIDS is a
dreaded disease. It is wiping
out the nation by the thou
sand. It took your daughter
and it will strike again. Since
you possess so much love,
think about reaching out to
others. Talk to them about
AIDS. It would also convince
you that your daughter's life
did have meaning. Her loss
could be their gain.
Florence, try hard nor to be
sad. Not every day. When the
sun shines, glow with it.
Bring out that loving smile.
Your daughter would want
you to. As much as you hurt,
there is still a life to be lived -
yours!
41^
PHOTO/ JAMES BROWN
Roosevelt Gardner mourns the death of his son, Ronnell, who died of AIDS last summer. He
advises any parent facing this challenge to have faith in God and be loving.
By Andrea R. Richards
THE CHARLOTTE POST
R oosevelt Gardner
never paid much
attention to AIDS. He
knew how the HIV
virus was transmitted
but still didn't give it much
thought because it never
affected him.
Gardner, a former candidate
for Charlotte's city council and
Mecklenburg's board of county
commissioners, said he even
knew some people who died
from AIDS, but he looked at
that as "just another death"
until his 21-year-old son was
diagnosed with the disease in
1994.
"When it comes home and it
happens to you, then you'll
start to really focus in and see
things a little differently,"
Gardner said. His son,
Ronnell, died July 17, 1995,
nine months after being diag
nosed. "Now, when I learn
that someone has it, I am not
as critical as I used to be. I
have compassion that I proba
bly did not have beforehand.
Sometimes it takes those
things, not to make us hum
ble, but to make us more
aware that people do suffer,
and things do happen beyond
AIDS cases in the state, said
Louvenia McMillan of the
Metrolina AIDS Project. As of
Dec. 29, there were 824
AIDS patients in Mecklenburg
County.
The Gardners - Roosevelt
and wife Earnestine - are still
baffled as to exactly how or
when their son became HIV
positive. In hindsight,
'"When things of that magnitude start to hap
pen to you, the only thing you can trust in is
the Lord."
-Roosevelt Gardner
your control."
About 3,700 African
Americans in North Carolina
are living with AIDS. African
Americans represent 22 per
cent of the general population
and 61 percent of all total
PHOTO/ANDRE.”, R. RICHARDS
Roosevelt Gardner wonders if
he overlooked the first signs of
the disease in his son's body.
Ronnell developed pneumonia,
a chronic inflammation of the
lungs, in the winter of 1993.
"We didn't pay much atten
tion to it at the time," he said.
"He was sick. We took him to
the doctor. They gave him
antibiotics. He got well. We
went on, and he went on with
his life."
Ronnell, a graduate of
Harding High School, contin
ued listening to rap music and
playing basketball or football
when he wasn't in class at
Central Piedmont Community
College for the next year.
"He didn't question family
values," Gardner said while
reminiscing about his son,
who was the second of four
siblings. "If his mother or I
asked him to do something, he
See AIDS page 11A
Basic facts about AIDS
Here are a few facts about
AIDS:
AIDS, an acronym for
acquired immune deficiency
syndrome, is a breakdown of
the body's ability to fight off
infection. It is not spread by
casual contact. It is transmit
ted through bodily fluids, such
as blood and semen, usually
through sexual contact or the
sharing of needles by intra
venous drug users. It also can
be passed from a mother to
her unborn child.
' AIDS attacks and com
mandeers immune system
cells, turning them into facto
ries that can produce 1 million
AIDS viruses each.
* People infected with the
AIDS virus can go years
before becoming sick. They're
encouraged to eat nutritious
ly, exercise, sleep and keep to
a routine if possible. Once
their immune system loses the
ability to fight off infection,
they typically contract such
illnesses as pneumocystis
carinii pneumonia.
• AIDS is officially diag
nosed when counts of a type of
infection-fighting blood cell,
called a CD4, drop to 200, and
some of the so-called oppor
tunistic infections have taken
hold.
• A small arsenal of drugs
have been developed to try to
clear some of the virus out of
the body and keep it from
reproducing. In some cases,
they're administered early in
the course of infection to keep
the disease from progressing,
such as the anti-viral drug
AZT that Johnson began tak
ing soon after he retired in
1991. But while doctors are
working on several approach
es to AIDS, there is no cure.
• Since AIDS was identified
in the early 1980s, more than
1 million Americans have
become infected with the
virus; more than a quarter of
them have died.
-The Associated Press
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