It was the spring of 2007 when things began to go wrong. I say wrong in that there were the first signs of the economy faltering and working for a universal company, it wasn’t long before I began to notice that the company too was in problems.
My employer announced three waves of job redundancies, although I thought that being in management my job should be safe. The first wave hit and the jobs were exported to Romania/Poland; the second wave hit and the jobs went to India.
Around this time I began to experience health problems; I had been diagnosed with HIV for 10 years with no ill health – not even a cold. Drug regimes had changed numerous times, but nothing had kept me from work. At this time I was due to visit St James’ Hospital. I knew that another change of drug regime was on the cards, as in a previous session I was told that a change was necessary due to the toll the medication was having on my liver and kidneys.
The change in medication took place and a day or two later I found myself in that ‘place’ where those with HIV don’t want to visit with a change of medicines. Ten days of hell, pains, sickness, an upset stomach and worst of all, diarrhoea. This extended time off was having a serious impact on my job. Deadlines were being missed; travel schedules had to be rearranged and I was due to visit some countries where HIV admission was prohibited. What was I do? After careful thought and discussion with my healthcare provider, I decided to come clean with my employer. After all, HIV the disease was not what it was 20 years ago, we told ourselves. Within hours of disclosure, all travel was suspended and I was desk bound. In theory, I no longer had a job.
The third wave of redundancies was announced the next day. My name was on that list. Whether it is for economical reasons or some other reason, I was on the list, which I was so sure I would avoid when all others at my grade remained within the company.
I left employment on the 27th October, after eight years of faithful service. I was told during the exit interview that because I had accepted redundancy I could not reapply for any job within the company, its affiliates or subsidiaries. My heart sank.
It was at this point I reached a low in my life. After a number of months the money was running out and I could not gain any assistance from the Department of Social Welfare until all redundancy payments had been exhausted and I was able to prove that I had no assets in Ireland or overseas. In the end having no money and not being able to pay the rent, I was asked to leave my home, with no notice.
My health at this point really took a real down turn and I ended up in St. James’ Hospital for two months and then Cherry Orchard for another two months. This was the first time that I became involved with ACET.
I made a few calls and could only receive an answering machine, but then one day a young man arrived at the hospital to see how he could be of assistance: he was called Nick [an ACET care worker]. Nick called as often as he could and helped me look for accommodation. We went to sort out benefits and allowances and he continued to be someone to whom I could turn when I needed someone to talk to.
During that Christmas period, Nick introduced me to a number of other ACET staff: Vivienne, Lynn, both Richards, and Colm [an ACET volunteer]. I began visiting Vivienne and now we tend to see each other on a frequent basis, over a cup of coffee. I now see Vivienne as a friend who is always there should I need advice and support.
I meet Colm on a regular basis for coffee and this is of great help to me. During the redundancy period all my friends were foreign nationals and they were not long in heading home. Making new friends is, and can be, an effort and so for a long time I began to rely on ACET for support. Christmas comes around and I receive a much-appreciated Christmas hamper; they took me away for weekends to help you relax and try to forget problems at home.
My life has taken a sudden turn around now after four years in the wilderness. I will never forget how much help and support ACET have given to me over the years, and
I hope to continue helping them where I can, even if it’s putting letters in envelopes.
Thank you ACET. Looking forward to the next 20 years. Dedicated to Vivienne and all other staff and volunteers of ACET.
Many thanks, Will.