possibility. The baby barely whimpered when the blood sample was taken. Annie comforted him with a lullaby that was curiously twisted: “Hush baby, don’t you cry, momma’s gonna be all right.”
The numbers of AIDS patients I was caring for and the overwhelming nature of their problems were beginning to numb me. This was particularly true for my Haitian patients, in whom I saw the same vicious cycle repeated again and again. AIDS led to loss of work, which led to enormous social and economic problems and ultimately to death. Although I could talk to them only through a translator, and although I could do precious little to treat their illness or help with their social problems, they continued to smile and thank me after each visit. In terms of sheer numbers, however, the Haitians were decreasing while the numbers of gays and drug users were exploding. It seemed the epidemic was evolving out of control. Every time we figured out a piece of the puzzle it changed into a whole new puzzle.
Time passed week by week, and the number of patients I cared for continued to grow. I can no longer remember the details of each case. Usually, when someone missed an appointment, it meant they had been hospitalized or, worse, had died. Each Thursday some of the patients who came to the clinic were sick enough to require immediate hospital admission. The housestaff began to dread being on call on Thursdays.
AIDS had intruded into my daily life more than I could have imagined. The phone rang and awoke me from sleep all too frequently, with calls from sick or anxious patients. Real and imagined problems surfaced daily. Even during breakfast, as I sipped my coffee and read the newspaper, I recognized an alarming number of names in the obituaries
Meanwhile, Annie was in the hospital three times with pneumonia. Between admissions she suffered with painful swallowing and existed on a liquid nutrition supplement. Unlike many of the patients, her strength did not erode after each acute illness. When I saw her after she was discharged from the hospital, she would usually