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The A.R.M.S. Clinic

30 May

In my last post, I shared about why we drive 4 hours to our child’s HIV clinic.  We know a long drive seems unusual but for now, it is working for our family.  They have been sooo worth the drive.  The ARMS clinic has exceeded all of our expectations.  

The A.R.M.S. clinic stands for AIDS Related Medical Services.  They are located in the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX.  Dr. Theresa Barton is the medical director of the clinic.  She and her staff have been outstanding.  Between our visits, I have able to email Dr. Barton.  She has been so quick to respond to our questions or concerns.  We have never experienced a doctor’s office that cares this much for their patients and families.

We have visited their office twice in the 5 months we have been home, and will go back in June.  During our visits we meet with several of the staff: Dr. Barton for the exam, a pharmacist to go over any questions or concerns about medications, and last time we were able to meet with a nutritionist to go over some diet/weight gain issues.  Our visits have been about 2 hours long each time. 

The ARMS clinic also has a social worker as part of their team.  During our visits, she checks in with us to see if she can help in any way.  She says that some families need her services more when the HIV child hits the teen years.  She meets with families and gives them any help or support they may need.  The social worker also has monthly support meetings for families, and the clinic hosts and attends two camps each year-one for families and one for teens.  

They have a heart for the HIV child and their families (our local PID doctor’s office did not).   After our experience with our local PID office, the ARMS clinic was a true answer to prayer.   We have been so pleased with their care.  They have been truly amazing.

Want to read more about the ARMS clinic?  Click here.

Have questions about the ARMS clinic? 
Please leave a comment or email me at preciousandpositive@yahoo.com

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Finding A Clinic-Deciding to Drive

26 May

After we accepted our daughter’s referral back in September 2009, we started working on the paperwork to bring her home.  At that time the U.S. Embassy required the I-601 waiver.  That waiver is no longer required as of January 4, 2010.  We had to collect several supporting documents like proof of insurance, a letter from a pediatric infectious disease doctor, a letter from the local health department, and so on.

That’s when we began to understand a little more about our community’s feelings toward HIV adoptions.  These things have influenced our decision to keep our daughter’s HIV private – for now.

I contacted the closest Pediatric Infectious Disease (PID) doctor’s office.  It is about an hour away.  I asked about meeting with one of the doctors concerning our I-601 waiver.  I was shocked when the secretary said, “The doctors will not help with any adoption paperwork.”  I went on to explain further, thinking she didn’t understand.  The secretary replied sharply,  “No, I know what you are asking.  People have called about this before…The doctors will NOT help with any paperwork to get THESE children into the country.  If you get them into the country, they will treat them, but they won’t help you get them into the country.”  End of discussion.

When I got off the phone, I had a good cry.  This was the first time I really saw how some people view HIV adoption.  They weren’t willing to sign a piece of paper which was necessary to bring our daughter home.  I emailed another family in my state about this doctor’s office and she said they and one other family had the same experience.  She said their family drives to a clinic specializing in HIV children three hours away from their town.  I couldn’t imagine doing that, but she went on to explain the kind of service they received and how they felt like their HIV child was treated with love and respect.  She said it was worth the drive for them.

This is when I learned that PDI doctors see patients for a lot of other things…like staff infections, chronic ear infections, hard-to-cure infections, and they also would treat HIV.  However, in the U.S.  there are rarely pediatric HIV patients unless they have been adopted.  So the office I had called may or may not have ever treated a HIV child.

 I also learned some clinics specialize in treating children with HIV and I found one in Dallas, Texas.  So we drive 4 hours to go to this clinic, but also spend time with family who live in Dallas.  You only have to see your specialist about 4-5 times a year so we felt like this was workable for our family. 

My experience with the closest doctor’s office showed me that not everyone will get warm and fuzzy feelings about Americans adopting HIV orphans.  I went on to have difficulty getting the required paperwork from my local health department as well.  They said they had never heard of such a thing (HIV adoption). They would not help with our paperwork.  I had to make many calls to finally get someone at the state level who was willing to help. While working on the I-601 paperwork,  I felt like people acted like it was the craziest thing that they had ever  heard of.    I had to remind myself that it is ok if some people don’t approve of our adoption.

The Dallas clinic we found is just for HIV children and they said that 80% of their families are adoptive families.  They have been absolutely amazing to work with.  The first time I called the clinic to see if they would help us with the I-601 papers that were like sure, no problem.  Their nurse practitioner called me back and talked with me for 2 hours answering any questions I had about HIV.  They also invited us to tour their clinic and meet the staff which we did before we brought our daughter home.  In my next post I will write more about our Dallas clinic and our HIV doctor.