Skip to comments.Truth trumps HIV in affair of the heart
Posted on 06/27/2004 5:40:58 AM PDT by madprof98
A hemophiliac infected as a child, Jay Minish spent his teen years and early 20s fearing love was forever off-limits. But he refused to give up his quest.
A chubby-faced Jay Minish pushed the microphone away after his 30-minute speech about living with the virus that causes AIDS.
"Do you have a girlfriend?" a female student asked.
"Not right now, but I hope to have one real soon," Jay said, flashing his signature grin.
"Are you a virgin?" a sweet-looking blonde asked.
Some of the teenagers burst into nervous giggles. An adult moderator at the Alpharetta high school told Jay he didn't have to answer.
But Jay beamed. He liked the question. It went to the core of his struggle as a twentysomething who worried about spending his life alone.
"God, Almighty. That's probably the best question I ever got," he said, blushing. His palms got sweaty.
He brought the microphone close and said, "Yes, I am a virgin."
Born a hemophiliac, Jay was infected with the human immunodeficiency virus as a child while being treated for the inherited blood disorder.Struggling with both illnesses, he lived his life walking a thin wire. A simple fall could provoke uncontrollable bleeding. A mix-up in HIV medication could be deadly.
But he didn't stop living because he was afraid of dying. Jay, a native of Carrollton, traveled across Georgia and spoke to tens of thousands of students as an AID Atlanta speaker. He called his speeches "therapy."
Dressed in Tommy Hilfiger jeans, he blended with his peers. He enjoyed the benefits of young adulthood: independence, close friends and his own car, a canary yellow Dodge Neon.
But what gnawed at him was what he wanted above everything else: romance.
He was part of the first generation of children to survive HIV into adulthood, because of advances in medication. But surviving posed a new set of challenges. Although these children did not contract HIV through sex, they have a disease usually associated with physical intimacy. And that dichotomy made the simple hope of finding true love seem out of reach.
"The hardest part of living with HIV is not having a girlfriend," Jay said.
Every Wednesday night over pitchers of Bud Light and a basket of fries, Jay, 24, played trivia with friends at Los Locos in Carrollton.
He reveled in the games and the opportunity to meet women. They flocked to him, a well-mannered young man who wore pressed khakis and a crisp white cotton shirt to bars. He smelled fresh, like Zest.
But when they learned he was HIV-positive, they walked away.
"It happens all the time," said his friend Gena Willard. "A woman will walk up to me and say, 'Jay is so great.' But after a date or two, the woman disappears. She doesn't return his calls or says, 'Let's just be friends.' "
On a night last December, a twentysomething blonde flirted during trivia. He smiled back, but brushed her off.
"I just am not up to it tonight," Jay said as he returned to his seat.
He sat next to his buddy John Olsen. Olsen whistled at his girlfriend, Sarah Muller, to get a kiss. Muller kissed her boyfriend once on the lips, twice on the cheeks.
Jay looked away.
But he knew love was possible.
Three years ago, a nursing student chased him across a parking lot to give him her phone number. He called her a couple of days later, and they laughed through their first date over cheese grits at a Waffle House.
But the woman's mother began to fear the virus, and fear him, according to Jay. After two months, he sat with the woman and her mother at their kitchen table. The mother thought the relationship was too dangerous. She begged the couple to separate.
Jay wept in his car and headed home.
Jay's parents always focused on the positive.
Shortly after he learned of his HIV status in the seventh grade, his parents pulled him off the community swim team after several parents complained. Jay's father, Dan Minish, found another way for his son to swim. As a middle schooler, Jay and his father attended Camp Sunburst, a California summer camp for HIV-infected children.
Jay's parents encouraged their only son to play pingpong and manage the high school basketball team. They indulged him with rare baseball cards, beach vacations and fishing excursions. Though divorced, they regularly sat together with him at Braves games.
Jay and his father, a former sports information director at the State University of West Georgia, developed a spirited college rivalry. Jay rooted for the University of Georgia, his father for Georgia Tech. Jay's mother whipped up his favorite snack deviled eggs anytime he asked.
"I never let myself get down because I surround myself by so many positive people my friends and family," Jay said. "My dad has a way of always making me laugh."
But when it came to girls, his parents united in concern for their son were at a loss.
His mother, Terri Todd, knew he was lonely, but what could she possibly say? His father wept openly at the thought. While rejection by girls is a natural part of growing up, Jay never seemed to get a fair shot.
But he was upbeat and thoughtful and had lots of friends. He regularly taped a wrestling show for a friend who worked nights. He obtained a $500 loan last year to help pay for Christmas gifts for his "extended family."
At Applebee's, where he worked as a waiter, he danced in the kitchen to make his co-workers chuckle.
Even Jay's doctors sympathized.
"How are things in thegirl department?" Dr. James Steinberg asked during one of Jay's routine visits to Emory University Hospital.
"Nothing new there," he replied, head bowed.
Steinberg asked whether Jay had checked into online dating sites for HIV-positive singles.
"Yeah, I looked at it once, but it didn't feel right," he said.
"Well, we'd be happy to talk to her if it happens," Steinberg said. "And your fan club here" pointing to a colleague, Dr. Shanta Zimmer "can also give a thumbs up or down."
"OK, OK," he said. "I'll let you know if anything turns up."
Suzanne Brons, a 23-year-old waitress, first eyed Jay while eating at the Applebee's where he worked.
Those engaging green eyes. His wide smile.
They made eye contact. Jay introduced himself. Suzanne loved his gentle voice. He seemed polite.
Suzanne begged her friend Georgia Richards, who also worked at the restaurant, to pass along her number. Richards said she would, but told her that Jay would need to share a secret before "anything happens."
Later that week, Suzanne saw Jay again at the Mansion, an upscale Carrollton restaurant where she worked.
Someone pointed in Jay's direction and whispered, "You see him? He has HIV."
Suzanne wanted to hear it from Jay. She smiled at him and later approached him. He wanted to buy her a drink.
"I can buy my own drinks, thank you very much," she said.
A few days later, Jay and Suzanne had a date. They met at Jay's one-bedroom apartment in Carrolltonto watch the movie "Dumb and Dumberer."
But before Jay slid the video into the player, he turned to Suzanne and gave "the Speech."
"There's something I need to tell you," he said.
He told Suzanne that he was born with hemophilia, a rare disorder in which a person's blood does not clot normally. Sometime during the early 1980s, he was injected with a treatment that was contaminated with HIV. He was diagnosed when he was about 8, but his parents waited a few years before telling him about it.
With his hands clasped on his lap, he said flatly, "This is the part when most girls leave."
Suzanne, a petite blonde with turquoise-colored eyes, did not. She'd dated a legion of losers, men who blew her off, men who were untrustworthy.
"Well, I am not going anywhere," she said.
Jay started the movie. Suzanne slipped her hand into Jay's. As the movie went on, they leaned into each other. They laughed.
Afterward, Suzanne slept in Jay's bed. They held each other tightly. In the middle of the night, Jay awoke and pulled Suzanne's arm around his waist. He had craved a woman's touch. He wanted to be sure she was still there.
For the next three weeks, Suzanne and Jay slept in the same bed every night. They had, according to Suzanne, "a full and complete relationship."
"I think it's safer to be with someone and to know what they have and take precautions instead of being with someone and not knowing," Suzanne said.
They saw each other during work breaks and text-messaged each other with their cellphones.
Jay was romantic. Once he surprised Suzanne with a single red rose, another time with a takeout dinner of country-fried steak and mashed potatoes. He visited four music stores to find a Jimi Hendrix movie after she said she liked his music.
He shared his hope of someday having a son to name after his father.
He sent her a stream of text messages.
I think it is going to work out between us
Home safely? Just making sure
Listen with your heart. Not your mind
'I love you'
On May 15, a Saturday, Jay celebrated his buddy Greg Waldrop's upcoming wedding over beers and conversation. Suzanne was working across town, but his friends knew about her. He seemed to have found the real thing.
Celebrating, Jay was tipsy. At some point during the party, he fell down. Falls and bumps can be quite serious for hemophiliacs, but he got right back up.
"Are you OK?" Waldrop asked.
"I am perfectly fine," Jay said.
Jay slept over at Waldrop's and went home Sunday.
By Monday, Suzanne knew something was wrong, but she thought maybe it was that Jay was ignoring her.
"Jay did not blow people off," she said. "But I am insecure."
On Tuesday afternoon, another friend,Steven Cook, swung by Jay's apartment to maybe watch a game. Jay's Dodge Neon was in the parking lot. Cook knocked on the front door. It was slightly ajar, and swung open.
He heard a box fan in Jay's bedroom, but his friend wasn't there. He turned toward the front door to leave, when he noticed a light in the bathroom.
Jay was lying on the bathroom floor with spots of dried blood around his nose and mouth. He was alive, but barely.
Cook called 911. An ambulance rushed Jay to the emergency department atTanner Medical Center in Carrollton.
Within minutes, a friend notified Suzanne that Jay was in the hospital.
Upon arrival, Suzanne saw Jay's father and stepmother, Cindy, waiting outside the emergency department. Still in her waitress uniform, Suzanne halted at the doors.
She felt close to Jay, but she had known him less than a month. She wasn't sure she should interfere.
Within a couple of hours, more than 100 people high school friends, customers from Applebee's, buddies, co-workers and Suzanne stood outside the hospital, forming a circle and praying for Jay.
There was still hope: Jay had swallowed twice and had moved his body slightly. At nightfall, he was transferred to Atlanta Medical Center.
Suzanne tapped out a message on her cellphone while she was on her way to downtown Atlanta.
I know you will get through this. I care for you. I love you.
At the Atlanta hospital, Suzanne walked into Jay's room. As a handful of friends and family members parted to make room for her, she leaned down and gently placed her arms against Jay's body. She sobbed.
Jay had suffered a massive stroke, probably caused by a brain hemorrhage and complicated by his hemophilia. Doctors said it might have been from the fall, or it might have been spontaneous bleeding, common among hemophiliacs.
Jay's family, one close friend and Suzanne held hands and encircled Jay. They recited the Lord's Prayer. Then Jay was taken off life support.
Suzanne knew the relationship was in its early stages. Jay had never met her family. But she mourns a sweet and brief courtship that might have led to something special.
"I have a different kind of hurt," she said. "My hurt is because of the excitement I had. And because I was really looking forward to our relationship."
About a week after Jay's death, his father opened his son's apartment to friends and asked them to take home anything they wanted as a keepsake.
Suzanne fumbled through his closet until she found the blue oxford shirt he wore during their first date. She also picked up the slip of paper with her phone number that he kept on his bedside table.
And while cleaning Jay's car, his father found a note from a teenager, written after one of his speeches:
"Don't worry, you will find someone for you someday."
What is this? How did he get AIDS? What's the message here?
You nailed it correctly. Our society satisfying sexual desire as the top priority in our society. I was listening to one the other day and thought gee what it must be like to be a kid in these days
Well, guess I am twisted, because I liked the story. He found love just as he was about to die. Bittersweet. Thats all I take from it.
"A hemophiliac infected as a child,"
I'm with you on this one Paradox. That story has me all teary-eyed now.
Teenagers are obsessed with sex. . .anyone who thinks otherwise needs to remember what it feels like to have those hormones rushing around . . . the article says NOTHING about he himself raising the issue, but rather other people. I don't blame him at all for wanting the touch of a woman.
Hugs, kisses and intimacy are a part of life. And wow, do I feel sorry for anyone who can't see that.
"Hugs, kisses and intimacy are a part of life. And wow, do I feel sorry for anyone who can't see that."
I echo your sentiments and those of Paradox.
While the article did say blood transfusion, the line about the canary yellow Neon does plant the seed of doubt that he got it the traditional way (Anal Induced Death Sentence).
Guns Before Butter.
Are you serious? You got that from this line? Why? The canary yellow part?
I read about a young man who, when he discovered he had the HIV virus, immediately went out and began trying to infect as many women as possible. Not for revenge because he got it from a woman-it was from IV drug usafe-but solely because he wanted to make as many people suffer as he would have to . And he was black, and all the women he at least tried to infect were white, so there wasthe element of racial hatred. This was in the very late 1980s or very early 1990s-say, 1988-1992. Quite a contrast with this young man. And the story made me teary eyed, too.
Did you read the article? He is a hemophiliac - he got it through a blood transfusion for that disease....
I agree. It was a sad story. It shows the other side of the sexual revolution. The guy lived practically his whole life in fear, rejection and isolation because he got a tainted blood transfusion. Meanwhile, gay activists demand the "right" to donate AIDS-infected blood and the political correctness fanatics agree that out of "fairness" the AIDS death sentence should be distributed evenly throughout society. But there are fanatics on the right who are upset that the guy in his mid-twenties finally had a girlfriend, just like frumpy lesbian activists on the left surely read the story and also were outraged that a man and a woman enjoyed each other's company. If I were the girl's father, I would not be pleased with the situation. But I think I have sympathy for the young couple (no doubt I must be possessed by satan to have such a sympathy).
What a bunch of curmudgeon posters! This story isnt about sex, aids or even hemophilia, but it is about the human spirits ability to survive against all odds.
This young man was dealt a genetic death sentence at the moment of conception and then was delivered another death sentence because the people who loved him were trying to prolong his life. The article pointed out a responsible and intelligent young man who saw his life from the half full side of the glass.
Think about this: We bump ourselves against a hard object and get a bruise that is nothing more than a nuisance and an ugly discoloration for a few days, but for a hemophiliac that same bump may cause a bleed out that could result in a hospital stay getting multiple blood transfusions or a trip to the morgue.
The fact that sex seems to be the basis of the story says more about the reporter's immaturity than the young man who was mature enough to understand his genetic disorder and his contagious disease and live his life with dignity.
I liked the story!
(Ignore the trigger-happy freepers who are saying this guy was gay because he drove a canary-yellow neon and such nonsense. Some people are just jerks).
AIDS is spread by behavior. In this case, someone else's misbehavior condemned this young man to an early death.
This young man needs to be introduced to young women with the same problem; innocent victims of the behavior of others.
How sad that you see this story this way. My mother contracted Hepatitis C via a blood transfusion during surgery for stomach cancer in 1970, long before Hepatitis C was even recognized. She was diagnosed with the disease 15 years later. Just like this kid, she did nothing that reflected on her morality that caused her to contract this disease.
This is the very touching story of a kid that only wanted a normal life and a complete life. Morality has nothing to do with this story. And no where in this story is there any inkling of an attempt to say immorality is ok. I looked between the lines and didn't see anything there either.
This is a very touching story. Kids like him didn't ask for what they have, nor did they get it because of irresponsible behavior. This kid didn't deserve what he had and it sounds like his passing was a great loss for a great many people.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.