Recently, I was struck by his patience with a woman at the clinic whom he refers to as “one who is lost.” Of course, Jim is not referring about whether she is going to heaven or hell as some of my faith community colleagues might be thinking.
Instead, when he says she is a “lost soul,” he is simply stating a fact that she is dealing with multiple issues (in addition to HIV) that make it almost impossible for her to do well physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Too many things are going on at the same time.
Her life is in transition, she moves often, and is addicted to pain medicine. The first thing she looks for when moving into a new town is a doctor who will write pain med prescriptions for her. Her pain is the kind of pain that is like a thin fishing line that has become entangled so tight that it is impossible to tell where it begins or ends. All she knows is she is hurting.
At the same time, she ignores her HIV care for long periods of time. It has been a few years since she has taken her medicine or seen anyone for her care. Like many of our patients, she starts and stops taking her HIV meds which gives the virus an opportunity to build resistance and those meds are no longer effective. Plan B has been tried. She must be at Plan “D” or “E” by now.
She wrestles with other untreated demons including clinical depression, a long string of marriages that ended in divorce, overwhelming poverty, few connections to family, and more.
She has truly lost her way. Jim is right. She IS lost.
And now the question is, “Can she find herself? Can she find her way? Can she be found?”
And so she returns to the clinic after 3 years this time and says, “I’m ready again for your care.” We open our arms, give her a hug, and welcome her back.
Maybe this time, one who is lost will be found.
Jim rolls up his sleeves and goes back to work.
Thank God for people like Jim Raper and places like The 1917 Clinic at UAB where the lost have an opportunity to be found.