UMTV: Mother-Son AIDS Journey
While AIDS continues to kill at an alarming rate, many people are living with the disease thanks to advances in medicine and treatment. Allysa Adams spoke with a family whose United Methodist church reached out to them when they got the surprising and dramatic diagnosis, and whose journey with AIDS brought them closer to God.
(Locator: Phoenix, Arizona)
With quiet encouragement&ellipsis;
(Heidi talking to Isaac as he skateboards) "Oh. Go get it."
&ellipsis;and gentle cheering&ellipsis;
(Heidi talking to Isaac) "Jump it."
&ellipsis;Heidi Simon urges her son to be the best that he can, with no limits&ellipsis;
(Heidi talking to Isaac) "Yea good job."
&ellipsis;despite the fact that 11-year-old Isaac has AIDS.
(Heidi talking to Isaac) "Legs hurting? Alright."
Of course she worries, but only a little. You see Heidi has a gift many of us can't grasp&ellipsis; a knowledge that she's not alone.
Heidi Simon, Single mom, living with AIDS: "I think if everybody knew what we knew about God being there with us there wouldn't be any problems in this world."
Heidi's journey to this realization started 20 years ago when her college fiancé got very sick, very fast, and died.
Heidi Simon: "The next morning the doctor came into the room and they told me that he had AIDS. I tested immediately and it came back negative."
She mourned her loss for a long time.
Heidi Simon: "I kind of put my blinders on and I finished college and I got married and had the four munchkins that I have now."
She also found a church.
Heidi Simon: "We found our home church at Northampton United Methodist Church in Cuyahoga Falls and had Isaac. I was just overwhelmed by the family and the connections that we made within the church."
Those connections were crucial when Isaac got sick. At three months he stopped thriving and no one knew why.
Heidi didn't suspect that disease she left in the back corner. After all, she was healthy; her three other children were healthy. And then the doctor called.
Heidi Simon: "She told me that my son had AIDS. I called my pastor first. We spent the next three months at the hospital. Isaac was in and out of three comas he had 7 or 8 different surgeries."
Now her church family became her family.
Heidi Simon: "They were right there with us. Our senior pastor was there with me every night, praying with me."
At one point they didn't think the little boy with the angelic grin would make it and as Heidi and her pastor prayed over Isaac, she came to that realization. She wasn't alone.
Heidi Simon: "All of the sudden I just had this huge sense of peace that if Isaac was taken from us at that point then there was a purpose for that and it was going to be okay and that the Lord was still going to take care of us."
Isaac is an average sports playing&ellipsis;
Isaac Ramirez: "My favorite sport is archery."
&ellipsis;young man. Only his gait gives a hint at his disease.
Isaac Ramirez: "I have spastic paraparesis."
It's a side effect of AIDS. And it requires surgeries.
Isaac Ramirez, 11-year-old, living with AIDS: "My leg will hurt really bad, like my calf and right here, it will start to hurt really bad much faster than it normally would."
(Heidi popping open pill container)
And of course there are the daily medications that help keep his disease stifled. Isaac says the side effects aren't all bad.
Isaac Ramirez: "I have really good, vivid dreams."
Heidi too has to manage her disease. With Isaac's diagnosis came her own. And the guilt that she passed this on to her son. She says her church's early action guided her through the pain.
Heidi Simon: "The stress of knowing that I infected my son and it's not necessarily a clean, it wasn't cancer or something like that&ellipsis; I gave my son AIDS. And for the church to wrap their arms around me like that was a true sign that God was all over it."
AIDS, Says Heidi, can be a lonely disease. But her United Methodist church made sure she never felt alone.
Heidi Simon: "I think it's important that the church embraces this because it's always been a dirty disease. It's always been you know the prostitutes and the drug users. And we forget when we're within the church walls and we're all dressed up in our Sunday best, that there are people out there still that God loves."
Heidi and Isaac give talks around the country about their journey with AIDS and Heidi always asks her audience the same question.
Heidi Simon: "Have you seen the face of AIDS before and does it look like this? Does it have dimples and long eyelashes?"
Does it look like a mother and son full of love and full of grace?
Heidi's children are now 18, 16, 15 and 11. All of her children are champion swimmers and athletes. Isaac in particular likes to swim freestyle in competition. Read more about Heidi and Isaac's story. And to learn more about the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, visit 2020AIDSFreeWorld.org or call 303-877-1955.
Posted: November 28, 2012