May 21, 1989 -
September 13, 2001
State College, Pennsylvania
Small Bowel Obstruction
"Not infected, but AFFECTED by his courage and sweetness"
Andy came to me when he was three weeks old. He joined his brother, Matthew who was then 14 months old. They are biological brothers. I adopted them as infants. Matthew came first at age 3 months and Andy followed the next year shortly after he was born. Andy was a beautiful baby. I had no idea of what was to come when he came home.
Andy got sick a lot. By the time he was ten months old I was aware that something was seriously wrong. Since the boy's birth mother was a drug user we tested for HIV and Andy's test came back positive. I was devastated but applied myself to learn all I could about HIV and AIDS. In those days there wasn't much you could do in the way of treatment so Andy was sick all the time. We fed him and held him and loved him and slowly he gained strength and did well. He learned to walk and play and smile and I was happy. When he turned six, I met Otho and we moved to Pennsylvania from New York. At that time, Andy was very ill. He was thin, in pain most of the time, and the prognosis was not good. We took him to the new doctor in Pennsylvania and the good news was there were new drugs to try.
We started him on the new cocktail in November of 1996 and it was like a miracle. He gained a lot of weight, he grew, his pain was gone, he was walking again and was even well enough by the time he was eight to start school for the first time. He was happy, playing, laughing and loving life. He started school part time and learned to read, spell, count and add. He learned colors, and loved music...he was blossoming beyond our wildest dreams. He was diagnosed as mildly autistic, but it never stopped him...he loved other children and was encouraging to everyone he met. He loved babies and chatted to them whenever he saw one.
We decided he was doing so well that we wanted to be foster parents to another child. We applied at our local agency and took training classes and handed in all the necessary paper work. Suddenly, we were told we could not do foster care due to Andy's HIV status. We could not believe it...they said our precious Andy was a direct threat to other children. We asked them to reconsider and they held firm.
I had done foster care all my adult life in New York and could not believe this . I had raised a total of 10 adopted children and none of them ever were infected by Andy...they were AFFECTED by his courage and sweetness...but never in any danger. We decided to challenge this decision and we persuaded the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to take our case. They in turn found a private law firm to help us. We lost the case in federal district court. But we appealed and we won in the federal appeals court. We have finally, after four long years reached a settlement and they have repealed their infectious disease policy and will pay us compensatory damages and train their staff and foster parents in HIV/AIDS sensitivity training as well as universal precautions. I believe that because this case was won on a federal level it will make a huge difference in the way people with AIDS are treated. I am proud and happy for this wonderful legacy for our Andy.
When Andy came home to us we had no idea that he had AIDS so he went with no treatment for almost a year. Part of Andy's legacy was the passage of the Baby Aids Law in New York. Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn fought hard to get it passed and I fought with her bringing Andy to Albany, New York and talking to many state senators and assembly men and women. The law once passed made sure that all babies born were tested for hiv and if positive their mother is notified so that they can receive early life lenghening and life enhancing medications.
In addition to all of this Andy was an inspiration to everyone at his school. The staff and other children all loved him. He always had a smile for everyone. One teachers aid went back to school and got her special education teachers license because of her work with Andy. She is now teaching autistic children at our high school. Andy will always be remembered in our town for his sweet nature and his love for everyone he met. I have never known anyone that could find so many reasons to be happy.
He was truly an expert video gamer and could beat even the "normal" kids much their surprise. His favorite store was Wal-Mart and the people that worked in the electronics department knew him by name. Andy was well known all around our community and many people had a different view of handicapped children in general and people with AIDS in particular after getting to know Andy.
his mama, Carol, his daddy, Otho and his brother, Matthew, 13