State: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Facility: Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center
Nick is a remarkable young man who has been receiving services at the Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center for 12 years. Born with HIV, Nick has struggled throughout his entire life to overcome both the disease and the stigma of living with the disease. Taking up to 7 medications daily, Nick has to deal with multiple side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, neuropathy and pancreatitis. Despite this, he has remained dedicated to his health and actually sets an example to other children living with the disease that a healthy life is possible.
Always polite and interested in every word that was said during his clinic visits, you could just see the wheels in his thought process turning. I recall hearing from his Mother that he was able to deduce, from a very early age, that he was living with HIV after the topic came up in school. Yet, I never saw him cry or question it. Instead, Nick stepped up to the plate and, with his Mother, looked up, learned and questioned every thing HIV related.
Years later in Middle School, Nick took another step with courage as he disclosed his status to his peers and ultimately his entire school when the topic came up during a class period: He questioned a teacher’s “fact” about HIV/AIDS and then politely corrected this teacher-in front of his classmates. His classmates did not shun him nor did the school forbid him to come back. Due to his charming personality, his compassion towards others, and his desire to reduce the negative stigma of HIV/AIDS he was embraced even more by his friends, peers and teachers.
Now a Senior at Hollywood Hills High School, he is still educating youth and anyone else who will listen about HIV prevention. He has even assisted with the organization of the 2008 and 2009 High School HIV/AIDS Awareness Walk that took place on the Hollywood Boardwalk. At the end of the 2009 Walk, his Tae Kwon Do/martial arts team took to the stage and demonstrated their powerful skills. Nick then took center stage and did an individual martial arts presentation that ended with him disclosing his HIV status and giving us his brief personal story of living with HIV to all who attended this very public walk and demonstration.
Nick has and will always have/had a special place in our hearts at Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC). Whenever we need an HIV+ youth to volunteer to educate other youth and adults, we always call Nick first. If his schedule permits, he will always oblige us. Because other youth and his peers look to him as a role model, Nick was asked to co-facilitate the CDTC “(HIV+) Teen Talk.” He has been instrumental in the development of this forum by getting feedback and topics of interest from the youth that will be attending. He has made announcement flyers and has identified speakers/experts to address and educate the youth on life skills and empowerment topics.
After attending a summer camp, Camp Hope, in Houston for 8 years, he moved on to be a camp counselor the past 2 years. He also participated in a leadership program organized by the camp. This year, Nick has been asked to present at the camp on the topic of disclosure to friends and family members. He is also actively involved in Kids for a Cure, a local group, which raises awareness and financial contribution for children with HIV/AIDS.
Nick’s courage and bravery does not end at school or even at home as he is also the older brother to two very highly energetic special needs boys; one living with ADHD; the other with autism. Nick is an extraordinary teenager because not only is he living with HIV, but he is living with a spirit within him that everyone can learn and benefit from.
The Medical Staff of Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center are very proud of Nick and we enthusiastically nominate him as our “Hero of the Month” for the Kids Wish Network.