“When I started Body Positive Wellness Center I had to use a walker. When I finished the core program I felt rejuvenated.”
Rob had to change doctors; he had been feeling run down and had symptoms of a bad case of the flu for over a month. After getting a routine blood test, he found that he was HIV positive. “I was shocked when I got the news. I was not expecting it at all.”
Being HIV positive for seven years has taken a toll on Rob’s body. He developed liver and mobility problems that affected his quality of life. In addition, Rob’s T-cell count dropped to 200. Although he never developed an opportunistic infection, Rob did end up in the hospital for a month and was essentially home-bound for a year. During this time he lost 100 lbs. and his muscles atrophied.
“I knew I really needed to go to Body Positive. I had friends who went through the program who benefited from it. I found Nancy, the physical therapist, to be extremely helpful. She worked with me for two months and really helped with my mobility problem. I graduated from the program in July and felt better than I had in a long time.” Rob wanted to keep exercising, so he joined the Houston Gym and he still works out on a regular basis. His current T-cell count is 700.
Rob stated, “I shut down after I was diagnosed. HIV has changed my life in so many ways; I felt that no one would ever love me again.” Not only was Rob facing his illness, but other family members were facing serious illnesses of their own. “All of this brought our family closer together; we really bonded during this
time. I am thankful to have the support of my family and my significant other.”
“Since completing the Body Positive program I am much stronger and I have more energy to be active and social again. I want to give Nancy huge accolades. She really has healing hands and did more for me than anyone.”
Consuela, a 47-year-old HIV positive woman, came to Montrose Clinic’s Body Positive Wellness Center last summer. As she began her HIV wellness regimen, her only goal was to be able to lift and carry her grandchildren. Shy, nervous, and overweight, the thought of completing the twelve-week wellness program seemed overwhelming, but she was determined. As Consuela started to lose weight, gain strength, and increase her endurance, the staff watched in amazement. As she neared the end of her program she was stronger, healthier, and happier: she was able to out-lift, out-run, and out-talk most of her fellow clients. It’s been a pleasure watching her bloom; she’s come out of her silent shell and hopes to pursue other challenges such as marathons in Florida and Puerto Rico. Once she had successfully completed the twelve-week program she continued on as a graduate at the wellness center. Consuela has also voiced an interest in becoming a volunteer. She wants to be able to reach out to other women living with HIV.
“I went numb when they told me. I was new to Houston, unemployed, had zero support system, and was just given the biggest news of my life.”
Brent moved to Houston in May of 2001 and shortly after arriving decided to get tested for HIV. This brought him to Montrose Clinic. Brent returned two weeks later to get his results. Unfortunately, his results came back positive. Brent was basically in a daze for the next week. He found himself staring at the TV unable to do anything but chain smoke. “I felt like I was just hit with a death sentence.”
Within a few weeks Brent got a weekend job working at a leather bar and started hanging out with the clientele and partying a great deal. Lots of drinking and drug use filled up his weekends for the next six months. “I would go to the doctor and make all my medical appointments during the week and then party hard on the weekend. During this time I felt ashamed of what I was going through, I didn’t tell anyone. Finally, at Christmas it hit me that I needed to make a change to save my life.”
Through this time, Montrose Clinic was there, giving Brent support and helping him learn how to live with HIV. He attended the NextStep© Class for individuals newly diagnosed with HIV and met with the medical care coordinators. “They empowered me to take care of my health and my life, and thankfully, it worked. Montrose Clinic became my extended family.
With the Clinic’s help, I was able to get a referral to get my teeth fixed and to go through the Body Positive Wellness Center’s 12 week fitness and wellness program.” Brent had lost a significant amount of weight and the staff at Body Positive helped him to regain muscle mass. “Going there to exercise became the highlight of my day. I graduated from Body Positive in January of 2002.”
Through Body Positive he heard about a job opening at the Clinic and applied. “The minute I met the Director of Education I new I wanted to work there. I not only got hired, but now feel I have a life back. During this time I also met my partner who has giving me support and love.
Going to work for the Montrose Clinic has given me the opportunity to give back what they had given me: my life.”
Mary, a 30 year-old woman, came to Montrose Clinic for a STD exam after leaving her long-time boyfriend (she discovered he was cheating on her with multiple partners of both sexes). She had never had any type of medical care in the past—not even a check-up. During her exam, symptoms of an STD were found. She indicated they had been there for a while and that her boyfriend had the same symptoms, but told her they were normal. The nurse encouraged Mary to get a Pap smear, and Mary responded with a blank look. She had no idea what a Pap smear was or why she needed to get one. The nurse spent the next hour educating Mary on basic anatomy and the need for well-woman care. Mary was not only treated for her STD that day, but she received a long-overdue Pap smear and a much-needed education in preventive health care.