Matilda on my mind, not a country western song but a frame of mind for me today. Matilda is a 31 year old lady who came into the hospital early Saturday morning. As she laid shaking in bed with a temperature of 105 she told me she was "fine". She had obviously been ill for many months as she was extremely wasted and weighed about 80 pounds. I did not need to do blood work to know she had HIV. She was suffering from multiple opportunistic infections including pneumonia and diarrhea. She basically had a nonfunctioning immune system. She was extremely anemic and blood transfusions were given.
On Sunday and Monday rounds she repeated her "I am fine" response when asked how she was. Her temperature continued to fluctuate between 102 and 105. During the early hours this morning her body could fight no more and she passed away.
Today I found myself thinking about her, wondering how she had managed to survive at home as long as she had. Surely she must have known that something was seriously wrong for some time. Did she suspect HIV? Was she in a state of denial? Was she fearful of the Stigma of HIV? In Matilda's case I will never know the answers. I suspect there are hundreds of thousands of other Matildas out there. I hope and pray that they will come in for diagnosis and treatment sooner than Matilda did.
I know that Matilda is free of pain and suffering today. Let us all pray for the other Matildas and their families.