AIDS Quilt tells stories of survival and loss
Patricia Nalls has gone through the kind of family tragedy that no one should ever have to experience. At the age of 29, she lost her husband.
Six months later, she lost her daughter.
Lenny Nalls, a Vietnam veteran, had used intravenous drugs years before he married Patricia. And when he got sick, and died in 1987, AIDS was just too new and too scary to mention.
“We told everyone he died of TB,” she says. “Some people it was just TB, some people it was cancer.”
But Nalls says losing her 3-year-old daughter Tiffany just six months later was the worst.
“To stand by your baby's bedside and watch her just looking at you, with those big brown eyes, and not being able to help her - that has stayed in my mind forever,” she says.
The couple's two older children, Alana and Shawn, were not born with AIDS and are fine. But it still takes a toll.
“It's still part of my life, because my mom, my dad and my sister … we still live with it every day,” Alana says.
Patricia, unfortunately, got AIDS from her husband. She says she was very sick and down to 80 pounds. She was on disability.
But thanks to better drugs, she has survived 26 years and found purpose in her pain, starting a women's collective which offers help and hope for D.C. area women and girls through HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy.
The pain her family has felt is reflected in Nalls' panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It's one of the more than 35,000 6-by-3 - the size of a grave - panels that will go on display over the next several days on the National Mall.
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