My ex died of AIDS – but that’s not what killed him (SPH)

Most deaths are more mysterious than we admit. The cause of cancer in an elderly man may be rooted in the experiences of a schoolboy. Reasons for disaster go back and back, merging in the distance with a thousand factors until it’s impossible to say how things began. And yet, I keep asking myself: How did Noah die?

I know what’s written on the medical report: a blood infection. He experienced flu-like symptoms at first – fever and chills. By the time he finally allowed himself to be taken to the hospital, Noah’s immune system was overwhelmed and his organs began to fail. A “cascading failure,” with each loss spiralling the body down toward septic shock. It’s the body’s response to the infection, its flailing attempt at immunosuppression, that does the real damage. They call it an “excessive response.”

Noah was 33 years old when he was diagnosed with HIV and 39 when he died. But when I ask, “How did Noah die?” it’s not enough to say he died of AIDS – strictly speaking, that doesn’t give me a good reason for his death. Noah lived near (and died in) Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, the very building where a landmark HIV drug cocktail was pioneered in the 1990s.

Michael Harris reports.

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