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Home / Health / Documentary & # 39; 5B & # 39; illuminates the nation's first AIDS hospital division: Recordings

Documentary & # 39; 5B & # 39; illuminates the nation's first AIDS hospital division: Recordings



Demonstrators at a candlelight vigil in San Francisco, California, draw attention to the continuing battle against AIDS on May 29, 1989. The city was home to the country's first AIDS special station. The unit, which opened in 1

983, is the subject of the documentary 5B.

Jason M. Grow / AP


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Jason M. Grow / AP

Demonstrators at a candlelight vigil in San Francisco, California, draw attention to the ongoing battle against AIDS on May 29, 1989. The city was home to the country's first AIDS special station. The unit, which opened in 1983, is the subject of the documentary 5B.

Jason M. Grow / AP

Today, antiretroviral drugs enable people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to live a long, productive life. However, at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the disease was considered a death sentence. Nobody knew exactly what caused it or how it spread. Some doctors and nurses refused to treat patients with this disease. others protected themselves by wearing body suits.

Cliff Morrison, a nurse at the San Francisco General Hospital, was appalled by what he saw: "I would go to the patients' rooms, and they realized they had no bath," he says. "They were not cared for."

In 1983, Morrison organized a team of health care providers to open Ward 5B, an inpatient special AIDS ward at the San Francisco General Hospital. The department's medical team encouraged patients to make their rooms feel at home, allowing families and partners to visit them whenever they could. They comforted the patients by touching them and even sneaked pets.

5B was the first device of its kind in the nation – and it became a model for the treatment of AIDS, both in the US and overseas. Now, a new documentary titled 5B tells the story of the doctors and nurses who took care of the patients at the ward.

Dr. Paul Volberding was a doctor at Ward 5B and co-founded an AIDS clinic in the hospital, which was one of the first in the country. He emphasizes how seriously ill the patients in the department were.

"These were people who really, sometimes literally, died when they came to the hospital, so it was really important what we could do to make them more comfortable," he says.

Working on 5B was emotionally exhausting and death was a perpetual reality. Nevertheless, Volberding describes his time there as a "blessing".

" Caring for the patients was really special and very different than in the rest of the hospital, "he says. It has always been an absolute privilege to do this job.

Morrison adds, "I have had some really wonderful experiences with people in their death, and they have taught me a lot. It really puts into perspective the fact that life is in a continuum and death is only part of that continuum. I've seen people have beautiful deaths, and that was wonderful.

Highlights of the Interview

Like all who came to the hospital with the virus in the early 1980s, Volberding

: I do not think most people today Understanding how devastating AIDS was back then … It's just impossible to understand that HIV, if left untreated, essentially kills 100 percent of people. It's much worse than Ebola, much worse than smallpox, so everyone died Patient who was sick enough to come to us to look for medical care would die from this disease and people knew that there was a lot of education to give, but they knew that this was a really bad situation

How they did not know if what they saw was contagious when the first patients with the rare cancer appeared, Kaposis sarcoma, which ended up being one of the symptoms of the as yet unknown AIDS virus [19659025] "It has always been a privilege to do this work," says Dr. Paul Volberding on treating patients with 5B.

Courtesy of Paul Volberding


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Courtesy of Paul Volberding

"It has always been a privilege to do this work," says Dr. Paul Volberding on treating patients with 5B.

Courtesy of Paul Volberding

Volberding: I was not afraid to catch anything from the patients because I did not expect this in caring for cancer patients. I did not expect to be worried about anything, and it was not really. But the care patients received was quite patchy in the hospital. I think that was one of the things that led Cliff and the others to really put the care unit together.

Morrison: In my experience, in what had already been seen and what I heard from the specialists around us with the information that came out, was that I was not in danger of caring for humans by touching people , And everyone around us said, "Oh, you're just cavalier, that's really not what you should do, and you're giving the wrong message." And our answer has always been: "We give the right message." I think we had a lot of hysteria, misinformation and outright discrimination early on.

To expand the hospital's family and visitor policy for Station 5B

Morrison: We immediately noticed that we were really dealing with questions about family and visits because the health care was very rigid and really stuck to this whole idea [regarding] that there could only be immediate times for the family. Most of our patients did not have a family. … At all these regular meetings and meetings that we held, we talked almost immediately about having to let our patients tell them who their family is, and somehow we need to move away from that whole idea from traditional family and biological family.

Volberding: I think the patients were so ill – and they needed support so much – that the idea of ​​spending hours and keeping people away did not make sense.

Morrison: There were times when they were alone in their rooms and always needed something. They were very worried. It not only made them more comfortable, it also made our lives easier to have people spend most of their time in the rooms.

About the bond that existed among 5B employees

Volberding: It was a family. The doctors, the staff, the clinic and the inpatient department – we all worked so closely together because they were our patients. As doctors, these were our patients. And we were at the ward every day to see our patients and it was a very special group of people again.

How the Homophobia of Time Affected Patient Care

Terrified by the way AIDS patients were treated by the hospital staff, and Sister Cliff Morrison decided to set up a separate department within the San Francisco General Hospital, in which the compassionate care should be in the foreground.

Verizon Media


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Verizon Media

Terrified by the way AIDS patients were treated by hospital staff, Sister Cliff Morrison decided to set up a department within the San Francisco General Hospital that focused on compassionate care.

Verizon Media

Morrison: I think that was the most obvious reality of the situation. Even in San Francisco – then considered a gay mecca – gay people had very established careers, homes, and families, yet everything began to split. And it was really about homophobia. There were people in the hospital who should have known better. … There was a group of nurses who basically said that what we were doing was crazy and that we were putting them all at risk. It went before the labor authority – but that was all homophobia.

On the Development of AIDS Treatment

Volberding: In 1987, we began to take medicines that we take something. … and then, in 1996, the so-called triple therapy was developed and that really was a turning point in the epidemic. We could suddenly see how some of our patients actually feel better – not only slower, but also better.

And some of these people still live today. The effort since & # 39; 96 was to take these effective medicines and make them less toxic and more comfortable. Nowadays, we typically treat this with "single tab" regimens – a pill that is taken once a day and contains two, three or even four medications – all in the same pill. Many of my patients do not have any side effects from the medications they take. The change since the beginning, the development of the drugs and the fact that this is really a chronic condition, is in my opinion one of the most amazing stories we have ever heard in medicine.

Amy Salit and Mooj Zadie produced and edited the audio of this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Deborah Franklin have adapted it for the web.


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