05 September 2012

~ When Terminal Illness Teaches You the Meaning of Hope

Although we were strictly an Arabian breeding farm, we did on occasion
adopt a horse in need. The black and white Arab-Pinto in the picture is one.

I began managing a private one-owner
 Arabian Farm that I started at in
north Georgia in 1991.
Over 150 acres of beautifully manicured 
grounds, that takes a whole lot of 
man-power to keep it looking as such!

But this story, this part of it anyway,
it isn't about me.
Or my relationship with the horses,
or a boss {female} who with the flip of a switch
would become the Exorcist!

~ ~ ~ 

It is about a gentle man who worked for us,
part-time, doing everything from concrete work
to fence mending, stall refurbishing...
you name it, he could do it!
Years before he had a serious construction accident. 
And no one would hire him after that,
due to insurance policies.
So he started his own business, and all I had to do 
was call, and he was there at the farm in no time.

Phil was a gentle man who was quiet in nature,
and rarely spoke unless it was necessary.
He was shy.
Very, very shy.
Never been married.
Never had a girlfriend.

All 268lbs of him at 6'4.
He was a big man, obsessed with working out!
The second youngest of 12 children,
he had a twin sister.
By the time Phil was born,
it was his older sister who raised the twins.

The last of the children born in this family
had Down Syndrome.
His sister also raised Dot.
And Phil helped support her.
It was not a close family by any means.

They were very poor mountain people 
who eked out a living doing whatever
manual labor was needed for a neighbor
or a town project.

Phil was honest as the day was long.
And his reputation in north Georgia
preceded him.

I owned an old home not far from the farm.
And old houses need work.
And Phil was the man who took care
of the old pipes, water heaters gone bad,
and porch railings that needed new nails!

At this time, it was Yancey who was living 
with me.
And those two were like oil and water.
I will never forget his slow mountain drawl when
he proclaimed he had never seen a girl 
wear combat boots and drive a motorcycle!
But, that was Yancey.
A true Big City Atlanta Girl.

Each Thanksgiving and Christmas, 
I held the Orphan Dinner.
Most of us who worked on the farm were not 
from the area and going home was impossible
when you have livestock that must be fed, vetted,
stalls cleaned, and turned out for exercise.

So after a day of farm chores, we would head to my house,
and feast on whatever foods showed up on the table!
At times, over Thanksgiving and Christmas,
we served over 50 people! 
It wasn't just farm personnel,
it was anyone who needed a place to go
and not be lonely on that particular holiday!
Friends brought friends who brought friends!

It was that first Christmas that Yancey and Phil became friends.
Just friends.
Sometimes, two very different personalities just click.
Yancey needed someone other than me,
to help her open up.
Phil needed someone to form a friendship with,
who would make him jump on the back of her motorcycle,
and whiz into Atlanta!
After living his whole life in Georgia,
he had never been into the city.
~ ~ ~
In the spring of 1994, Phil asked if I would
accompany him to see his physician.
He had blood work done the week before
and the office had called to ask to see him.
Phil was a man, like so many men,
who hated anything to do with 
physical exams.
He said he just had not been feeling 100%.
The last check-up he had was 12 years before 
after his construction accident.
An accident he should not have lived through.

When we arrived at his physicians office,
they were ready for him.
I sat reading a magazine.
And then Phil asked if I would come in too.
He introduced me as a friend, and the doctor
praised Phil for taking his advice and bringing along
someone to also hear the results.
I immediately thought Cancer.

And then the doctor dropped the bomb-shell.
Phil had AIDS.
Not HIV.
But full-blown AIDS.

When Phil had his accident in the early 1980's,
he was given many blood transfusions and
blood products.
And this was before testing became protocol
on all blood-borne substances that were be used
to help save lives.
Most blood-service organizations began testing
for HIV antibodies in the spring of 1985.
Phil had contracted HIV during his hospital stay.
How he continued to stay healthy was
beyond the reasoning of his doctor.
For now it was 1994.
And his symptoms were just showing.
His T-Cell count was so low, his doctor couldn't
believe not only was he still working, 
but was not bed-ridden.

 What is a CD4 Count Or T-cell count and Why is it Important?
Most trips to your HIV specialist will include a CD4 count along with your other labs. Your CD4 count or T-cell count as it is sometimes called gives your doctor a look at your immune system. What is your CD4 count and why is it important?
Your immune system contains different types of cells that help protect the body from infection. One of these types of specialized cells are called the CD4 or T-cells. HIV attacks these types of cells and uses them to make more copies of HIV. And in doing so, HIV weakens the immune system, making it unable to protect the body from illness and infection.  
We left that visit with a host of meds and 
a referral to a local north Georgia HIV/AIDS clinic that Phil
would visit in conjunction with his regular M.D.
It was a long ride home.

And there was one thing on my particular mind
that I didn't want to say out loud.

And then Phil did.
How would we tell the girl
who had lost her family to abuse,
countless friends to over-doses and suicides...
That her new best buddy would soon die of AIDS?
To be continued.

If you have not read the story of 
Yancey, please do so.

So much of this post has to do with 
my little soul sister.

I am tired and worn out reliving this time
in my life.

But I promise, I will finish it promptly.



TexWisGirl said...

phil sounds like a gentle giant of a man. this must have been so difficult for all of you.

Bianca said...

A gentle giant indeed like TexWisGirl said. Remind me of that great guy who died a few days ago, Michael Clarke Duncan, the great actor in The Green Mile.

Good souls always go to soon.... Even if they turn 150 years and die, it's always to soon.....

looking forward to the rest of the story.

Karen said...

oooh, Misha.... never the ones who deserve it, is it? ....

Rural Revival said...

You've seen too much for so little time. It just ain't fair.

Donna said...

So sad :( I know Phil and Yancey are friends in Heaven.
He sounds like a wonderful man.
It is precious that you all came together for holidays.
Can't wait to read the rest of the story.

Hartwood Roses said...

I can hear your love for the two of them in each and every one of your words. No wonder it wears you out.

Kayla @ TheEclecticElement said...

This is exactly why I refuse to give blood. Of course I don't have anything as severe as Aids, but Lyme Disease is proven to be transmitted through blood, yet those of us who are legitimately diagnosed with LD still can give blood.

I've always wanted to be a blood donor, but I can't bring myself to do it if it risks other people's health.

It's so sad to hear about your friend Phil. Even in circumstances like this, I have to stick to my ideology 'everything happens for a reason,' even though it doesn't seem fair.

Marilyn said...

Powerful writing and told in such a caring way. Bless you for being a dear friend.♥♫

Donna said...

What a wonderful soul of a man. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

Gaelyn said...

Very moving and provocative writing that touches the heart and soul.

Elizabeth Edwards said...

the wind has been knocked out of me ... the story of "Yancey" & all that happened with you & her ... guess that is tough & i'm looking for the word to sound right & comforting. that is wild. have you heard the song "ironic" by Alanis Morissette ... love ya, Misha ... that is rough. one of the questions of many i wish to ask the BIG OLD MAN himself when i get to heaven. but then i'm told i need to trust in him & believe. he knows best ...but it is so confusing. bright side here... she had you in her life & you were truly blessed to know her & love her. gosh, i hope that does not sound cheesy. big hugs. (:

Flat Creek Farm said...

Oh, Misha. Sounds like Phil was quite a special fella. This story hits close to home. After the birth of our son in that wonderful year of 1982, I was given two units of blood. Of course, it was during that time frame when AIDS was only in the beginning stages... and we didn't really know how risky all of it was. I went through many many years - did not get tested because I was too afraid to know. In the mid-90's I finally was tested after going through months of crazy symptoms and fatigue (tests were negative, thank God). Even after that and all the years which have passed, it still scares me to even think about it. Bless you, Misha! You have suffered the loss of some wonderful people in your life. But, I know.. you will never ever forget, and hold them close in your heart ♥ hugs!! -Tammy

Lynne said...

First time I am reading this . . .
Beautiful soul Phil must have been . . .
Beautiful in your soul as well Misha!
And Yancey . . . oh my yes, beautiful, eccentric, driven and soul filled!