Ryan White Voices
Ryan White Voices: A Legacy of Care
Curtis: The Road From Here
Darlene: Lord Protect Me
José: Mucho Orgullo
Darlene: Moving Forward
Living With HIV: Positive Voices
The ACA and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program
Jeanne White-Ginder: Transcript for “He was Loved”
In 1989, he had a hernia that was really bothering him. He went in the hospital to get his hernia operated on like in September or October of ‘89. He was getting ready to go into surgery and they came out and cancelled it. They said, “He has no platelets. There’s no way we can do the surgery.”
As a mom you kind of know that this ain’t right, you know. I mean, cause they would’ve planned that, they would’ve done something. But all of a sudden his body’s not producing platelets, which is not good. I don’t know, you try to look back and you think did I know? You know, no.
I remember, he, um, every morning he would want—showered and got ready like he wanted to got to school, and then he’d be so tired. After the first year, we got invited to do a Oscar party with the Reagans. I told Ryan, I said, “Ryan,” I said, “I don’t think we should go to California.”
He said, “No, I really want to go.”
He said, “If you’ll appear with me, then I wanna be there.”
So we went to California, went to the Oscar party. And we were backstage with the Reagans in the green room for probably a couple hours. Nancy was the sweetest person I could remember. I mean, she came up to me, she said, “He’s not doing well, is he?”
And I said, “No.”
She goes, “I can tell.”
And she held his hand for about two and a half hours, as they visited each table. They visited each table, and Ryan on tow. Ryan was just white, but he did it. That night he just said, “Mom I wanna go home.”
So we flew home.
They put him in the hospital and, uh, for three days, he was in a regular room. And then, um, I don’t know. He just started taking a turn for the worse and the put him in intensive care. And Dr. Kleiman came and told me that they wanted to put him in a coma, he said, so they could get the drugs to work better. They thought if they could slow his body down that. And I wonder now, I don’t think I knew. I don’t know, I just—and I asked Dr. Kleiman, I said ,“Did you know it was the end?”
And he said, “No, because it was Ryan White. Ryan’s come out of stuff like this before.”
It was, it was hard.
As soon as Elton heard, cause we were supposed to—Elton had a birthday party in California after the Oscars, and, uh, we were supposed to see Elton and we didn’t get to see him. And he heard Ryan had to go back, that he wasn’t gonna get to see him. So, Elton flew to Indiana. He was just planning on staying a day or two seeing him, you know. But he ended up staying the whole time, ‘til after the funeral and all that. Just a very good friend, and I think he felt like I needed somebody to handle everything.
But it was, it was just a really rough time with all the media. I don’t think I could’ve probably handled that, because I don’t, like I went, Dr. Kleiman said, “They’re wanting to see you Jeanne, they’re wanting to see that you’re okay.”
I said, “I don’t wanna talk to anybody.”
And he said, “Well, you know, they’re tired of seeing me giving these press conferences everyday.”
So Andrea and I went down to one. We went down and somebody asked me what was the last words Ryan said to me, and I never thought about focusing on those last words. But right before he got put in a coma I said, “You wanna have a pray?”
And he said, “Yes,” and he goes, “Mom, if I got a chance here I wanna go for it.” So, he said, “Let ‘em put me in a coma.”
I repeated that to the media, you know, not thinking about what I should be saying and I didn’t want to talk after that. I didn’t like saying that and so I didn’t want to talk no more. It was, it was like it wasn’t my life. I mean, it was like it was somebody else’s. It was almost like this is, this is not all real; this is not real.
And, uh, the boy next to Ryan coded blue during the night. The hospital went crazy, you know, uh, everybody working on him. I couldn’t go back to see Ryan, because the hallway was really busy for several hours. So the next night Elton went to Farm Aid. And he didn’t want to and I told him yes, I said just get out of this hospital, I said they want you over there.
And so he went over there and he sang this one’s for Ryan. Andrea and her friends went with Elton in the van. And Andrea saw him, he did two songs, and then Andrea saw him take off out the backdoor and she knew Ryan was bad. It was hard, it was really hard. He was always decorating Ryan’s room and just, he said, “I want it when he wakes up to show that he was loved.”
He [Elton John] said, “I want him to know how much people around the world love him.”
It was hard.