The Road Back

Posted on August 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm


Walking pneumonia and meningitis made worse by HIV almost killed Patrick.  “I remember the ‘whoosh’ of the doors in isolation, he recalls. “Like being sealed in a vacuum.”

But Patrick doesn’t like to dwell on the extended period of time he spent in the hospital. “Being well starts in your mind,” he says. “When I was sick, I just looked forward to not being sick anymore.”

Since then, Patrick has gotten better – remarkably better.  Now living on his own in Van Nuys—in a one-bedroom apartment largely subsidized by Alliance for Housing and Healing—Patrick has taken on a life of independence, one step at a time. It’s been a stretch, especially financially. Government benefits help cover the $268 monthly rent, but to still have enough left over for food, medical care, and transportation, Patrick must budget carefully. Luckily, he receives the help he needs managing his money from an Alliance visiting support service staffer who makes house calls. Together, they have worked out a service plan to meet Patrick’s immediate needs.

Paramount is Patrick saving enough for the long bus ride to Beverly Hills to see his physician, Dr. Mark Honzel (who serves on the board of Alliance for Housing and Healing).  For eight years, Dr. Honzel has cheerily welcomed Patrick every month with a big smile and hug.  Together, they work on balancing Patrick’s meds and ensuring that his health remains stable.

IMG_9900Patrick’s strict medication regimen requires that he eat regular, healthy meals.  To assist with the grocery bills, Alliance for Housing and Healing provides a $100 voucher to Ralphs, where Patrick can shop on his own for the fresh produce and other staples of his HIV-specific diet. Mini pot pies cooked in a muffin pan are a ‘Patrick Special.’  He adds almost anything to a base of creamy mushroom soup and bakes it until the top is golden brown.

Patrick was diagnosed with HIV nearly 30 years ago.  “Back then, they called it the Black Plague,” he remembers.  “I lost so many friends and lovers.  I would like to be with someone now.  But I can’t subject myself to that kind of loss and hurt again.”  So, for the most part, Patrick keeps to himself.  There are good days and bad days, he says.  On the better days, he thinks about venturing further, perhaps volunteering.

“Above all, I would like to be helpful,” he says.