By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Cindy and Eddie have been regular clients of Other Options Friends Food Pantry in Oklahoma City for three years. Both diagnosed with AIDS in 2010, they rely on the services of Other Options to help them get by.
With a focus on those affected by HIV and AIDS, Other Options, Inc. provides food, resources, services, and education to at-risk individuals and families.
“I had what they called PCP pneumonia (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) and I was in the hospital pretty close to death,” Cindy said. While there, Cindy was diagnosed with AIDS.
After her release from the hospital, Cindy was assigned a caseworker by the Department of Human Services (DHS). She supplied much need information, including a referral to Other Options.
“Other Options has really helped us a lot with food and when we moved they helped us get some furniture,” Cindy said. “They’ve always been there even if I just needed someone to talk to.”
The Oklahoma City couple recently relocated to Eddie’s hometown in Western Oklahoma.
“When we were in Oklahoma City Other Options always brought Thanksgiving dinner to our house,” Cindy said. “Now we go once a month to get food and we try to schedule it around the time we go see one of our doctors.”
The couple will make as many as four trips a month to the OU Medical Center for treatment. They’ll pick up a turkey dinner with all the fixings this month when they visit the Food Pantry.
“There still is a big stigma,” Cindy says. “As far as living life day to day, we do the best that we can. We have had so much help from Other Options, our case manager, Rebecca Buswell, the pharmacy and our doctors – everybody has just been wonderful.”
Together, Eddie and Cindy are survivors. Mary Arbuckle, Executive Director of Other Options, Inc. said, “They are the most wonderful, thankful couple I have ever met.”
Eddie was tested two weeks after Cindy was diagnosed revealing he also had AIDS. “You used to have to wait 3 or 4 days, but now within 20 minutes you know the results.”
After six months, he had reoccurring fevers and within two years Eddie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He took his last chemotherapy treatment on January 12 of this year.
Eddie spoke optimistically about the future saying, “We’re not ‘normal’ now, but we can get around and our health is getting better. There’s hope.”
“This disease brings on a lot of other complications,” he said. “But everyone we’ve come in contact with have all gone above and beyond and have basically saved our lives.”
And there are advances in the medical world.
“Doctors now know the signs and have the medicines,” Eddie said. “The people that we’ve met and the help that we’ve gotten – it makes it bearable. And we’re lucky, we have each other.”
“I take a 3 pill cocktail they call Atripla at a specific time every 24 hours, otherwise the virus can mutate. So we’re on top of that. It’s a day in day out learning process.”
Having worked in construction, apartment maintenance and oil fields,” Eddie said. “I’ve lived and worked in Oklahoma my whole life. I’ve paid my taxes and thank God I did because it came back to benefit me with the medicine and the doctors.”
Eddie is on Medicare and Cindy is on Medicaid. Unable to work, both receive disability benefits.
“We make too much money to quality for food stamps, but that’s where Other Options comes in,” Eddie said. “They help us through the tough times.”
More than 4,900 Oklahomans are living with HIV/AIDS. This does not include those who are infected but do not know their HIV status. An estimated 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
Nobody has ever turned me or my wife away,” Eddie said. “It’s nice to know that people don’t forget about you. Part of the healing process for me is to just be honest. We’re trying to give something back.”