My apologies for taking so long to communicate to you events following the release after my unforeseen 72-day incarceration at San Francisco County Jail.
As you probably recall, I along with my colleague Michael Petrelis, participated in a phone, fax, and e-mail zap to draw attention to antigay statistical scapegoating of gay men by public health authorities and consequent calls for quarantine of people with HIV/AIDS and homosexuals that do not wear condoms.
For this act of direct action we were served with civil restraining orders and required to appear in civil court, which we did. At the conclusion of this civil hearing, on our way out the door and in the presence of our attorneys, Michael and I were ambushed and arrested by police officers, inspectors, and representatives of the District Attorney's office.
Media photographers and TV news crews had been alerted in advance by the D.A.'s office to capture the shocking arrest of "San Francisco's AIDS Stalkers" as we were "captured" out in the hall. Michael and I were then vilified in the media by our very own "progressive" District Attorney Terence Hallinan who told the media we were dangerous "terrorists." Articles in The San Francisco Chronicle unfairly accused us of issuing bomb threats and representatives of The Chronicle claimed we threw bricks through the windows of their offices and reporters homes -- allegations that were entirely false.
These misrepresentations of actual property damage and threats of violence with explosives were presented to the Court as facts despite no supporting evidence. Our bail was kept at a phenomenal $1.1 million until Judge Perker Meeks examined the case and found no evidence of bomb threats or bricks. Consequently, our bail was reduced to a still exorbitant $220,000 but, luckily, we were able to secure our freedom with a bail bond.
In describing events while in custody and following my release, I can only speak for myself and not my colleague Michael Petrelis, who has his own experiences to share.
Without going into too much detail, I can say my imprisonment was sudden, grueling, and extraordinarily stressful -- more so than my body could endure, as I later discovered.
While in jail I could eat very little of the food I was served due to allergies I suffer to milk, oranges, and peanut butter. Each day, I slowly starved and lost weight as my repeated requests for a high-protein/dairy-free diet were ignored throughout the duration of my time in custody. Amazingly, I couldn't even obtain a daily Ensure protein drink or a supplemental snack to help maintain my weight despite being diagnosed as "HIV-positive" by the jail's medical personnel.
Needless to say, sleeping was difficult to impossible. Loud sounds of clanking cell doors and jangling keys, the snores of scores of inmates, sudden fights and screaming guards translated into 72 days of seriously disturbed sleeping patterns complete with little rest and loads of nightmares. Add to this the poor ventilation, the harsh toxic cleaning chemicals we were forced to use, zero access to outdoor air and sun, and lack of facilities for exercise and the rapid breakdown of my body became increasingly evident.
Thrush took over my mouth and throat. I was plagued by repeated painful eye infections and weird skin outbreaks. I rapidly lost weight and became weak. Of course, being classified as "HIV-positive" meant I was repeatedly pressured into submitting to every imaginable blood test, pill, and available vaccination. I refused all attempts by medics to rope me into the "AIDS standard of care" but it was difficult and contributed greatly to my stress. The prospect of being forced into the medical ward and violated in some way always loomed large in my mind.
Thankfully, on February 8 at 9:30 p.m. I was finally released from the jailhouse hell that had lasted two-and-a-half-months. I had spent behind bars my birthday, Christmas, New Year's, and the five-year anniversary of meeting my partner.
Upon my release things seemed pretty good as I was operating on adrenaline. I was eager to return to my previous busy life but then four days later everything crashed.
On February 12, while walking down Polk Street, I collapsed and had to be rushed to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with malnutrition, dehydration, and severe anemia. I was rehydrated and discharged that day. For the next month I endured batteries of blood tests to determine the extent of the damage done to my immune system due to my time in custody. The deterioration was devastating.
Prior to being arrested I was vital and thriving with T-cells in the 600s and CD8s in the 800s along with no detectable "viral load" (for those who put stock in such blood tests.) Immediately after my release my T-cells had plummeted to 14, my CD8s dropped to 200, and my "viral load" had skyrocketed to 450,000. While I personally don't put much faith in these blood-borne numbers, the physical symptoms of my immune system destruction were also obvious and undeniable. A month later, on March 12, I began to have serious difficulty breathing. Late at night I was once again rushed to the emergency room. X-rays were taken and I was diagnosed with PCP pneumonia. I was so weak I needed assistance standing and walking. It was so hard to breathe I lost all color and my hands and feet were completely numb due to lack of circulating oxygen. I had to be put on a breathing assistance device and heart monitors.
Desperate to return to health I followed the doctor's orders of taking two double-strength Bactrim three times a day. I consumed the Bactrim for 48 hours and I almost died because of it.
The Bactrim prompted such a severe allergic reaction I became anxious, disoriented, and forced to endure spiking fevers of 105-degrees for days. My body began to shut down and on March 13, for the third time, I was rushed back to the emergency room and finally admitted to the hospital (I have no medical insurance.)
Despite being so disoriented and obviously harmed by Bactrim's effects, I was infused with even more Bactrim as well as additional antibiotics -- expressly against my wishes and those of my caregiver. My condition deteriorated so badly hospital officials threatened to use bed restraints to keep me in the room while my closest friends pondered what appeared to be my imminent death. I was so gravely ill, I too believed my life was over and started the sad process of "letting go."
Then, suddenly, on March 14, while lying in this hospital bed hooked up to all these machines, something compelled me to leave immediately. I awoke to a nurse who had quietly entered the room and begun to inject a large syringe of serum into my intravenous drip -- without my knowledge or permission. It burned my arm so I ordered her to stop immediately. She protested and I screamed at her to TAKE IT OUT! She removed the syringe and I decided this poisonous medical care I was receiving was my real problem. I demanded to be discharged IMMEDIATELY knowing it was my only hope of survival. I called friends and demanded that they "get me the hell out of this deathtrap NOW!" They quickly arrived, helped me out of bed, into my clothes, and quickly out the doors.
Even after that dark day, my health continued to go from bad to worse for a time. Then, miraculously, my condition began to slowly improve thanks to the advice of an incredible physician and naturopath.
But there were still emerging problems. In addition to the candida overgrowth in my mouth, the anemia, and the lung infection impeding my breathing, I developed a terribly severe herpes simplex outbreak. It rapidly spread painful, raw lesions over the entire area of my upper and lower lips. This condition is still not resolved and the pain is excruciating. It's now been four weeks of this nightmare. Eating is agonizing, speaking is almost impossible, and sleeping is frequently interrupted by spontaneous bleeding episodes where I wake up drenched. Basically, I just endure the raw pain as day by day the lesions gradually heal and become ugly, blackened scabs.
But the good news is I am healing -- slowly. My symptoms are resolving with the passing of time and with the help of some incredible friends, doctors, acupuncturists, and body work practitioners -- plus, of course, lots of food, water, and rest. I guess if it takes 72 days to destroy an immune system it takes just as long or longer to put one back together! I have learned so many important lessons over the past two months about life, faith in God, patience, and what's truly important when your health is in jeopardy. It hasn't been pleasant but I suppose lessons of life aren't necessarily meant to be. Most importantly, I've finally learned to trust my body to tell me what it needs. And although it almost killed me, I got a glimpse inside the AIDS machine that treats all HIV-positive people as though they are already marked for death. The "well-meaning" fools that keep the machine humming pump their victims full of poisonous drugs like Bactrim that end their lives and they never feel guilty about it. After all, "they're just doing their job," their treatments are the standard of care and the patient was dying of AIDS anyway.
All I can say is "NEVER AGAIN!" I will never again out of fear and hysteria of ailing health be prompted by megalomaniacal doctors to sacrifice my body to their monstrous machine. Instead, I choose to survive! In closing, I want to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the hundreds of supporters who helped Michael Petrelis and I make it through our ordeal. Your letters, cards, drawings, books, and kind words of encouragement kept us going on the right path of our journey. I also especially want to thank those very special people that gave their time, energy, and love to bring me back from the brink of death. You all know who you are and I don't know how I'll ever repay you. I love you with all my heart and truly owe you my life.
Mr. Pasquerelli's “Never Again” above appears to have not lasted that long as per the announcement below released by his colleagues.
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