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Patrick4Life: Full Moon Wish

Karen Dunn

Full Moon Wish is based on Lyanne Fortin-Foster’s story about growing up with her older brother Patrick, a young hemophiliac who was infected with HIV and who died of AIDS. It is a story of love, courage and compassion. With each full moon, Patrick made a wish: a wish that there would be a cure for HIV and AIDS before he died. With the permission of the family, the author Karen Dunn, has written Full Moon Wish, a children’s book based on Lyanne’s story.

I always looked up to my older brother Patrick. He was older, smarter, and better than me at just about everything. He had what people call “The Midas Touch” or better yet, “The Patrick Touch”. Most brothers and sisters fight – and sometimes even dislike each other – not us.

For the first ten years of my life, everything was just right. It even seemed normal to watch Patrick giving himself needles at the kitchen table. Patrick had a bleeding disorder called hemophilia. This rare condition is passed down from parent to child at birth. Some parents may not even know they are carriers. My mom did not know she would give hemophilia to my brother.

The blood of people with hemophilia does not clot normally and they can bleed for long periods of time, usually into their muscles and joints. To make his blood clot, Patrick had to get a needle into his vein.

Despite having this serious condition, my big brother never wanted – nor did he settle for – a protected life inside our home. He faced every day head on, even if it meant enduring pain from internal bleeding. Patrick skied, skated, and even raced down the toboggan hill. I never gave much thought to his bleeding disorder until I was old enough to learn the truth and details about his condition.

Patrick lived with a secret. I learned that he needed large amounts of blood products to survive. With each needle he put into his body, Patrick was accepting someone else’s blood. Unfortunately – and tragically – it was a time when some people donated blood contaminated with HIV. At age 7, Patrick became HIV-positive, which meant he had a great chance to someday develop the full-blown, life-threatening disease called AIDS.

When I realized that Patrick’s illness would lead to his death, my world came crashing down. I could not imagine my life without him. Why would the blood that he needed to survive take his life away? These life-and-death issues and unanswered questions were too much for a 10 year old who liked to play and have fun with her big brother.

Patrick sensed the shock I felt upon learning his secret and engulfed me in his arms with a “hug of love”, welcoming me as one of his “secret keepers”. My brother had not changed, but I had. I realized that each minute spent with him was very precious.

Full moons became our symbol of hope. Patrick taught me to wish upon every full moon in the hopes that a cure for AIDS would be found before he took his last breath. 

Patrick entered high school and his accomplishments mounted: trophies, awards, and early university acceptance. To the outside world, Patrick had it all. But the secret of living with AIDS continued to cast a dark shadow over his many successes and he knew that this shadow had to be lifted. Patrick decided to make his journey with AIDS public, knowing that many people were afraid of this disease because they did not understand it. He revealed that he had contracted HIV through tainted blood, like many other Canadians. Patrick told his story so that people would realize that HIV and AIDS are preventable.

Although he was very sick, my dear brother, friend and teacher never stopped sharing his gift of love and laughter with everyone. As days turned into weeks, it was soon apparent that our full moon wish would never come true. His medical care intensified while his smile and grace brought us peace.

Patrick never complained about his pain or expressed anger about dying. He didn’t question God about his imminent death; he accepted what was to be. Patrick’s optimistic outlook taught me FAITH, LOVE and ACCEPTANCE.

The day Patrick died was like no other day in my life. My mom woke me up to say goodbye to my brother, forever. It was a cold, rainy, November morning. When I entered his hospital room, tears poured down my face. I said goodbye to his body that day but I will never say goodbye to his spirit.

I wear the precious rosary ring that Patrick left me with pride. It is a simple gold band with ten knots for prayer, one for each year I lived without knowing his secret.

Having a brother like Patrick and watching him die changed me. It has empowered me to dispel the myths about HIV and AIDS. Patrick taught me the importance of talking about HIV and AIDS as a means of prevention. He shared his journey and faced his death with bravery. He paved the way for us to continue his teachings and eradicate HIV and AIDS. Patrick left me with the hope that someday AIDS will no longer take the lives of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends.

With each full moon I still wish for a cure for AIDS. This was Patrick’s wish. It is mine. And I hope that it is now also yours.

Patrick0AIDS, the dream, remains alive through the organization dedicated to his memory, Patrick4Life, and the annual Partici-Patrick project in schools. Through awareness raising, education, and dialogue we will make Patrick’s wish come true one day. Visit http://www.patrick4life.org/.

- Spring 2008