Joshua, A New Friend

 Today in downtown San Antonio as I was walking down Houston street and just past the Majestic Theatre I came across Joshua Goodman. He was a young homeless man asking for a few dollars to buy a sandwich at Subway just down the street. I gave $3 that I had in my wallet and Joshua was very grateful. As I continued on my walk I stopped and turned back to him and I said, “There’s no way $3 will buy you a sandwich at Subway.” So I asked him if I could buy him a sandwich at Subway. He couldn’t believe the offer, but he took me up on the offer and we walked to Subway.

There was a long line being about noontime, Josh put his backpack and sleeping bag at a corner table and joined me in line. He seemed excited about getting a meal and I was finally happy to buy it for him. In line, we started to talk. Josh told me he had been homeless for about 4 months and I asked him where he was staying and he told me the street. I said geez, it’s been cold lately has it been tough and he said yeah, freezing at night. My heart just went out to him when he told me all this. Josh ordered his sandwich, I think it was an Italian mix, he ordered chips and soda too. While in line he asked to borrow my phone and right away I handed it to him. He called his mother in Kerrville, TX about two hours up the road. He told her where he was at and sort of an update. Afterwards, I paid up and we headed to our table. There I asked him about a local shelter and right away he said no way, that place is full of thugs, thievery and not a safe place to stay. I wasn’t surprised because I had heard rumors about that place even though a lot of money was invested there.

I asked where he was headed to and Josh told me that he wanted to get to Austin. There he knew of a shelter that can help him find a job and get back on his feet. I asked how he planned to get there and he wasn’t sure. Right away I thought about the Greyhound station just around the corner. I asked what if I buy you a bus ticket to Austin. He was pretty much in shock. Why was this man he just met helping him so much? All I can say I felt called to help him and I was very happy to so. He called his mom back with the good news and she gave him the phone number and address for the shelter in Austin, she too was grateful for my assistance.

So we started to talk more about both our lives. He told me he did some time in Dominguez State Prison southeast of San Antonio. Josh said he served 6 months there for burglary. I was surprised he served time there and not Bexar Count Jail for that crime, but I know Texas justice can be tough.

Then Josh told me about his former girlfriend and how he missed being in a relationship. Right away, I told him I was gay and he said quickly, “I know.” We had a good laugh about that. I told him about my boyfriend Carlos and a bit about our lives. Joshua wanted to know what I did and I told him I had been in advertising and now filmmaking which really intrigued him. I told him I’m way older, 55 years old, he told me that’s not old, I was happy to hear that coming from a 25-year-old.

We shared about our lives for some time and it really felt like I had a new brother in my life. Joshua finished his lunch and so we headed for the Greyhound station about a 15-minute walk away. Of course, we continued to talk all the way there. We arrived at the bus station and now they have an ATM-looking machine to buy tickets. So I bought him a ticket to Austin and we walked to the lobby area.

My heart was pounding because we were going to say goodbye, maybe forever and I was sad. It was close to his bus’ departure and we just looked at each other. We quickly embraced. I whispered in his ear, “I’ll be praying for you.” We pulled back and waved goodbye.

I turned around and left the station and under my breath, I was praying for my new friend Joshua.

Now What?

The reason for this writing is so that others no matter what you may be going through there is always hope. If it is illness, the loss of a job, divorce or separation or the loss of a loved one. As the great Apostle, St Paul once wrote, “For in this hope we were saved.” We must trust in this hope even if your situation may become dire. There is always hope. Recently I went through some very difficult medical times and I certainly believe for some reason, still unknown to me, Jesus Christ brought me through this crisis.

One day back in November of 2014 I visited my primary doctor, Dr. Kenneth Lyssy here in San Antonio, TX. I don’t recall why I visited him, but while I was there he noticed some light spots on my skin. Right away, he suggested I get tested for HIV. That day my boyfriend Carlos and I headed to the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, where we knew they would test for free and have immediate results. It was pretty quiet when we arrived that day and we were able to get tested right away.

I went into a private room and a young woman introduced herself. I was easily old enough to be her father. She explained the process to me and I understood. She then pricked my finger to draw some blood and placed it in a dish. After a minute or so she turned to me and explained the markings in the dish. She said you see here, this shows you’re positive for HIV. My mind started racing. I wasn’t afraid, just thinking what are my next steps. I have friends that have AIDS and are surviving quite well, so I was not too afraid.

My boyfriend Carlos was next and he came out telling me he was negative. I was happy and knew he’d be okay because he and I have a chaste relationship so there would be no way I could pass anything to him except maybe a cold or something like that.

So I made an appointment with one of the counselors at the AIDS Foundation and later that week I met with him. Many private questions about my past sex life, but I was okay with that. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I knew I had been very promiscuous at one time in my life. You know the bar scene, the restroom scene, parks, clubs, bathhouses, etc. Unfortunately, I had been there and done it many times. The councilor made a recommendation for me to go to Centro Med in San Antonio that specializes in HIV/AIDS cases. He told me from there they can make recommendations and even start me on medications or meds as they call them.

I then made an appointment with Centro Med in San Antonio and met with a wonderful Physician Assistant by the name of Amanda Miller. She was terrific and very kind to me. I guess she knows it’s a difficult time for people like me just discovering they may be in some kind of death sentence. So she drew about 8 vials of blood and sent me on my way. We set up an appointment for the following week.

During this time I was feeling slightly weak, but no major symptoms. My symptoms were almost completely hidden from me. On my birthday November 15, 2014, my family was concerned for my health and friends too. I wasn’t able to eat much, but I really did not feel bad, just tired. I didn’t know at the time how bad things were for me. My clock was literally ticking down and I had no idea.

So Carlos and I went to visit Amanda Miller again and when we met, she seemed very, very concerned. All she told us was we need to get to University Hospital right now. Go to the emergency room and let them take care of you. I was shocked by her concern, but we did as we were told. Right away Carlos got me into the car and we were off for University Hospital as fast as we could go.

We arrived and I barely remember this time, so some of this information is coming from Carlos, who was there the entire time. We went through the emergency procedures to get checked in and I think I was the worst patient there because they took me in right away to one of the emergency rooms. Immediately they saw I was extremely dehydrated, so they hooked up and placed an IV into me right away to get me hydrated. Then a young redheaded male doctor came in and started to evaluate me and figure what to get me started on. I was pretty much in and out at this time and all I could do was trust him. It turns out to my luck that University Hospital in San Antonio, TX is one of the best hospitals in the world to treat HIV or AIDS, I was fortunate for sure.

About a week later I was moved up to the fourth floor at University Hospital and there I met Dr. Gregory Amsted for the first time. Just an amazing man. An older doctor, but you can tell he’s been around. Later I discovered he was an expert in infectious diseases, just what I needed. He just started calling out orders to the doctors under him and the nursing staff and right away they started to administer medication, I have no idea what they were giving me, I would vomit some of them so they would make a change to get me to tolerate the meds, as they call them.

The first week was pretty much a blur to me, I just remember doctors and nurses coming by to discuss my status with me. During that time I had to make an important decision and that was to assign medical power of attorney to someone just in case I lost consciousness and procedures would have to move on without my knowledge. My boyfriend Carlos wanted to be that person, but my sister Leticia already worked for a hospital so she knew all the ins and outs of that world. So I gave her that authority. At first, it was difficult for her because she had to ask me questions about dying. The major one, of course, was how much do you want the doctors to attempt recovery in the case that your vital signs drop toward death. I told her just once that’s all I would want. I found out later that day she cried with my parents about having to manage me that way. But she was a trooper and always has been and eventually took the lead quite well. (More to come.)