In the early days of the AIDS crisis,
before the disease had a name, before it had killed 25 million
people, before it had infected the 33 million people currently
living with HIV, before we knew about this deadly virus, Butch
O'Daniel was living in one of the epicenters of the disease: Los
Angeles in the early 1980's.
"People in the gay community were
split on what they thought of the new illness. People were
either in denial; they never thought it would affect them. Or
they were scared because the media didn't really cover much of
the information, people were unsure of what was really going on.
It was really difficult when people started getting sick because
we would literally have three funerals to attend in one week. It
is an extremely isolating feeling, when all of your friends
start to die."
Butch decided to move to Kansas City
because he thought that it would be less stressful than LA. In
1989, he needed to have back surgery, so he asked the doctors to
do an HIV test before he went into surgery, just to be thorough.
Butch remembers waking up from surgery and seeing a pamphlet
about HIV sitting on the table next to his hospital bed. "A
woman from the billing department came into my room," he
recalls, "and she was wearing a mask and rubber gloves. I
don't know why she was the one who came in to tell me that I had
HIV, but she did. She explained that I probably only had two
years to live and that I should make arrangements to pay my
hospital bill before I died. It was very scary."
But he was also angry, "not about
being HIV positive," he says, "but about the way I was
treated at the hospital. I was quarantined and shown little
With some self-advocacy, Butch overcame
that very harsh initial diagnosis, and found a great deal of
support from organizations in Kansas City, particularly the Good
Samaritan Project. "I have received amazing help,"
says Butch. "I have been blessed through this whole
journey. People have really stepped up to assist me."
In 1994, when the Midwestern winters
began to be too difficult for Butch, he moved to Tucson, where
he had been visiting since 1971. "I always kept coming back
to Tucson, because the Catalina Mountains were always on my
Over the years, his health wavered.
"Your life changes completely after your diagnosis and you
need to alter your life accordingly. You don't just take one
pill a day to treat your illness; I take 27 pills a day just to
maintain my current level of health."
In 2006, Butch was at a crossroads.
"I was extremely lonely. I'd lost my ability to drive, my
friends were dying, and I found that with some of my old friends
I didn't have much of a connection with them anymore."
"TIHAN was actually a prescription
from my doctor," explains Butch, "and it saved my
life. I was very sick, and I was in a lot of pain. I had
basically resigned myself to sitting on the couch and waiting to
die. I had lost all of my social skills and really didn't want
to see people. But my doctor called TIHAN and got me assigned to
a CareTeam, and they pulled me out of my depression."
Butch has wonderful things to say about
his CareTeam. "The volunteers on my CareTeam began by
coming over to my house and introduced themselves and offered to
give me rides, because I couldn't drive. I can't tell you how
much of a difference they have made in my life. They've seen me
through several surgeries and helped me get through so much
pain. They really took me under their wing. Just talking with
them and sharing our common interests has helped me renew my
interest in being around people again. We have movie nights. And
we occasionally go out to concerts together. They brought me
back to the land of the living."
Butch says that he is very lucky.
"My biological family lives in California, and TIHAN is my
family in Tucson. I'm not afraid of anything that might happen
to me, because I know that I can talk to my CareTeam...."
Butch has been very impressed with the
staff and volunteers from TIHAN, giving special thanks to Joan,
Will, Cheryl, Barb, Stephanie, Noel, Peggy, and Myron, who
passed away last year. Knowing that TIHAN needs more volunteers
to get involved, Butch doesn't hesitate to respond: "If you
want to volunteer and give your time, you should absolutely do
it. If you're feeling powerless and want to help—just call
TIHAN. They will teach you everything you need to know and
utilize you to make a difference in someone's life—maybe
someone like me."
has given me hope, and that is a priceless gift to me.
Whether you can give $15 or $15,000, it all adds up, and
it adds up to fund important services. I ask you to please
make a contribution to TIHAN today. It really is about
helping change attitudes, and change lives."
To make a contribution to support the
work of TIHAN, please click
here or call (520) 299-6647 to make a credit card
donation by phone. You can also mail your check, made payable to
TIHAN, to 2660 North 1st Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85719-2911.
Thank you for making a
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