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Life after St. Jude: A Positive Outlook

How St. Jude helped me take control of my health and set a course for helping others.

By Daniel Thompson; Photo by Peter Barta

Daniel Thompson

When I became a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I knew I’d receive excellent medical care, but I never dreamed I’d discover my life’s calling.

St. Jude was a godsend when I found out I was HIV positive. I was blessed to be able to receive my diagnosis and walk out the same day with medication. During all my appointments and follow-up care, the staff treated me as if I were the most important person in the world.

I built strong relationships with everyone in the clinic, especially with my nurse practitioner Carla London. Carla was invested in making sure I was OK and guided me in efforts to take control of my own health. When I transitioned to adult care, she and her colleagues followed me closely for a year, ensuring I got my medications and kept my appointments.

After graduating from college, I accepted a position with a Memphis organization that works to prevent the spread of HIV and empower those affected by HIV/AIDS.

I educate clients, health care providers, students, health fair participants and others about pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP, which is a pill that helps prevent HIV infection. I also help my clients find medical providers, assist with insurance and prescription access, and even accompany them to medical appointments.

It’s a challenging and rewarding job, but I love it when people tell me, “I appreciate you for helping me and for taking the time to get me checked out and taken care of.”

My undergraduate degree was in journalism. I’ve decided that if I pair my communication skills with a nursing degree, I can do more. That’s why I’m planning to return to school and become a family nurse practitioner like Carla. Eventually, I’ll either work in a specialty clinic or have my own — a safe place where people can get testing and holistic treatment without fear or judgment.

Rather than taking clients to the provider, I will be the provider.

Where I am now is another stepping stone — leading me toward an even greater capacity to help others.  


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