June 9, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 23
search only SGN online
Thursday, Feb 27, 2020



Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
"Pneumonia?!" I repeated the word again as if it were Sanskrit or some other mega-foreign word. A machine hanging over me like a guillotine beeped every couple of seconds. Faces came and went around me, adjusting this, inserting that, and tending to me with such speed that I couldn't keep up.

The doctor didn't respond as she looked at her computer screen and the nurse lifted my flimsy hospital robe, sticking little adhesive patches all over my body in an intricate pattern around my chest and down my stomach, then connecting the wires to a machine on wheels. In my first two hours at the hospital, she'd seen more of me than guys I've dated see in a few months.

"You'll need to take it easy for a few days," the doctor said in a soothing, mechanical voice. It was as if she had a button for each phrase she had worn over the years and could say them without thinking; comments dispensed like medication in perfect doses. She was unfeeling, bordering on coldness, like all the ER staff that had come and gone; drones in a great, well-exercised machine. They all seemed to be armored in a necessary detachment to the humanity of their work. I understood, but it didn't make it easier.

"Do you have a last will and testament? Are you an organ donor?" Her questions terrified me more than anything. Above us, a camera peered down on the bed I lay shaking on. I didn't. I'm a very healthy 27-year-old Gay man who happens to have HIV, I wanted to tell her.

I came into the hospital because of an allergic reaction to a medication I'd never taken. My heart pace started to race, my eyes went funny, and Izzy raced me to the emergency room, doubling his usual harrowing drive to get me there in record time. Every time he cursed at this or that driver, it was a little nod to our friendship that gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. "FUCKER!" he screamed - warm fuzzy. "Asshole! Learn to drive!!" - warm fuzzy.

Until this week, pneumonia has always been, to me, one of those things that I never gave much thought to. It was that critical element in AIDS novels of old - the "stories about the power of the human spirit" kind of prop - that existed as part of other people's reality. It symbolized everything I never had to worry about getting because, even if I had HIV, I've still been young enough to feel and act invincible.

"When will I be able to go home?" I asked in denial, thinking surely at least in time for dinner, or at worst, breakfast.

"You're staying here," she said, throwing a blanket over the IV inserted in my arm and disappearing. Soon the drones around me went about their business, too, and my only company was the beeping of the guillotine machine. Beep, beep, beep. The sound, made comforting by the new medication in my veins, was soothing and put me to sleep.

When I awoke, I knew something had changed. It was a new chapter in my own story, the start of a new view of myself. All the "far offs" and invincibility of being young vanished, and like the cold steel in both arms and sticking out the tops of my hands, I faced a new part of my own reality.

When I left the hospital for four days of ordered home care, there was no more denial. I committed to getting a will and finding out if positive people can donate organs. I'm a healthy man who happens to have HIV and pneumonia - a little less healthy, perhaps, a little more wise, for sure; but definitely emerging to a new view of my own invincibility.

Beau Burriola is a local writer, navigating well-traveled waters. E-mail him at or
visit Beau at

International Readers
We want to learn about you and have you tell us about Gay Life where you live.
Please click here

Seattle Gay Blog
It's new!
A blog created
by the SGN staff
so you can be heard

Free/Anonymous HIV& STD Testing

working for the freedom to
marry since 1995

copyright Seattle Gay News - DigitalTeamWorks 2006