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Sep 16, 1998

Workshop looks at how we deal with death

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Many of us know someone who is HIV positive or is suffering from AIDS, but not all of us have had the painful experience of caring and preparing for the death of a loved one who has this invariably fatal disease. It’s a sensitive issue, that for the first time is being publicly addressed in Belize. A one day workshop, hosted by the Belize Family Life Association, today focussed on the counseling of HIV and AIDS patients… and how to deal with our own mortality.

According to Marilyn Arnett, the workshop’s facilitator, death and dying are issues that people don’t feel comfortable discussing, although they are dealing with the subject almost everyday.

Marilyn Arnett, Facilitator, AIDS Workshop

“When we have people who have HIV or AIDS it is very important that the community or the people who are around them, learn about the feelings and the emotions that they are experiencing.”

There are five different stages an AIDS patient experiences when he or she falls ill. Dr. Roy Lopez, a Psychiatrist in the Ministry of Health, says AIDS patients go through a terrible time, especially when they reach the second stage of their illness.

Dr. Roy Lopez, Psychiatrist

“First, the initial stage is denial: the patient denies that he is sick; that he is dying. Then he gets angry; that’s the second stage. The third stage would be bargaining: he wants to talk to his maker, to give him another chance. And then the fourth step would be depression: the person goes into severe depression. Then the final stage is where he accepts he is dying.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Over the past ten years, two hundred and thirty people have died due to AIDS, and so far in 1998, sixteen people have passed away.”

Marie Ysaguirre, Mother

“Even three years and nine months later, just his, my knowledge that he died with that faith, that he is going on to something better, just that keeps me going.”

On December seventh, 1995, Marie Ysaguirre buried her twenty-five year old son, Ian, after a long battle with the disease. Ysaguirre, who shared a personal testimony with the participants, said it was Ian himself who prepared the family for his death.

Marie Ysaguirre

“I can remember the day before he died, when I went to visit him in the hospital, he had this glow on his face. He was so happy and I said, “You feeling better today?” And he said, “Mommy I spent my whole morning with my father.” And I said ah, your father is in the States. He said, “No, mommy, I don’t mean daddy, I mean my Father, Yaweh,” because that was his faith. And I said, yes and he said he was so kind, so loving and the place is so beautiful.

And just that expression on his face, gave me the strength to walk out of that room. And I went to the office and I got the girls to make out the order of service, went to the undertaker; I got everything prepared. So when the next day I went back to the hospital and found out that he had died, during the course of the night, like it didn’t come as a shock to me and just his expression keeps me going a lot of times.”

Q: “As facilitator of this workshop, have you been impressed with the interaction you have been seeing?”

Marilyn Arnett

“Oh yes, it is wonderful. People are coming out with personal stories, personal history. They are expressing the desire that they have always wanted to have a workshop of this nature and so they are talking about things that have been hidden within them for such a long period of time and it is a release for them.”

The workshop as well covered a number of issues, that face terminally ill patients. Questions like: What will happen to their property, savings, possessions? Relationships with a spouse, lover or partner? And if they have children, what arrangements can they make for their future care and education? To understand these concerns will help all of us to better deal with the inevitable event faced by every living thing.

Presently, it is believed that there are over six hundred cases of HIV and AIDS in Belize. The youngest is a six year old girl.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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