Friday, January 20, 2012

The AIDS Alphabet: L is for Lymphoma...

 The AIDS Alphabet: L is for Lymphoma also, in Kurt Weston's case, for Losing the Light...

Here's an excerpt from Journeys Through Darkness--A Biography of AIDS, which describes what followed after Kurt Weston, fashion photographer, lost most of his eye-sight to CMV retinitis (AIDS related retinitis): following his partner's, Va, advice and attending classes at the Braille Institute, Va's AIDS-related lymphoma, and the beginning of Kurt's journey through the deepest blackness...

Thanks for visiting and hope you'll like the read.
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness--A Biography of AIDS


While the Braille Institute was providing useful information through hands on activities and courses, it also required students to live on the campus. And while Kurt didn’t mind doing that, he really didn’t enjoy his staying there either. To him, the Braille Institute looked more like a senior center. Most of the patients were in their seventies and eighties and most of them had lost their sight to age, to macular degeneration. To Kurt it seemed that they were only there to kill time, while he needed a fast and immediate immersion in studies that would allow him to continue his life despite his visual disability.
Besides, Kurt had different kinds of problems. He was the only one to have lost his sight to CMV. He was the only one who had AIDS. Yet, upon his acceptance, the Braille Institute officials instructed him not to mention his disease or the real cause of his blindness to anybody. “We just think it would be better if you don’t tell anybody about your situation, because, you know, people don’t understand,” they told him.
The advice reminded him of his doctor’s words years earlier, in Chicago, when he was working for Pivot Point and was recently diagnosed with AIDS. The officials at the Braille Institute listed Kurt’s reason for being there as cystoid macular edema, which is a swelling of the macula, and which Kurt had as a result of the side effects to his medication that had damaged his macula, thus his ability to see things in focus with his right eye.
During his short stay at the Braille Institute, Kurt couldn’t really connect to anybody or make any friends, so he tried to stay focused on his studies and relearn, as fast as he could, how to get around in his new world. He attended all the classes that were required of him, studied hard and learned quickly.
One of these classes was a beginners typing course. The instructor suggested that it would be a good course for Kurt who, at the time, was not computer savvy. So the instructor set Kurt at the keyboard and started him on his typing. Moments later, the photographer found himself struggling to stay focused on what he needed to do. He tried his best to go through the course smoothly, but found it terribly boring. Yet, he kept typing the same letter over and over again before moving to the next letter and repeating the process. No matter how much he would try, Kurt was slowly getting bored out of his mind. So he started eavesdropping on conversations going on around him, which seemed to be much more interesting than typing letters ad nauseam.
That’s how he decided that one particular conversation was, indeed, worth his undivided attention. Kurt overheard one of the seniors in the class talking to the instructor about his Department of Rehabilitation counselor, how wonderful she was and what wonderful things he had learnt there. From what he heard, Kurt realized that what the rehab program had to offer was just the perfect kind of low vision classes he needed, and he memorized the counselor’s name and phone number, and made a quick mental note to contact her as soon as he could.