Lives less ordinary

Every day is a memorable day for Marty Keale.

The executive director of CARES (the Center for AIDS Research, Education and Services) has said that he and his staff approach each day with the knowledge that anything can and may happen. It’s the nature of the job, serving Sacramento-area AIDS/HIV patients at the region’s leading AIDS clinic.

A typical day in the life of Keale as reported in a recent CARES newsletter: First, he is greeted with news that a popular patient has fallen into a diabetic coma. Next, amid all the meetings and managing duties, he gets an e-mail from a friend with instructions about how he wants to die. Finally, he finds himself chatting with a client who tells Keale his heart is about to give out, literally. Before the inevitable, this man wants to thank CARES staffers for their attention.

Happily, there are people like Keale who are willing and able to do this kind of emotionally intense and important work. It was only 15 years ago that most AIDS patients died within half a year of diagnosis. But those days are done. Today, individuals who are HIV-positive (and have access to medical care and can adhere to a treatment regime) can hold AIDS off indefinitely. At CARES, local AIDS/HIV patients can get medical care, clinic services, counseling, dental care and social services.

How did Keale come to have the job at CARES?

It’s because of his son, Stephen. See, Stephen was diagnosed at an early age with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder that requires blood infusions. Like thousands of other hemophiliacs who used donor blood during the early 1980s, the son unknowingly contracted AIDS and hepatitis C. In “A good death,” writer Robert Speer tells the story of the son, his wife, his mother, his sister … and his father, Marty. It does not give much away to report a take-home message: How one faces death is as important as how one faces life.

As for Marty Keale, the work at CARES goes on. He says he chose the job in the first place thanks to Stephen. Yes, the father still serves because of the son.