Prior to Sanctum, Ian had not engaged in the healthcare system, with the exception of emergency hospital admissions.
Leaving AMA (Against Medical Advice) from ICU hours, after being mechanically ventilated, was his reality on more than one occasion. Years of addiction, homelessness and instability kept him from engaging in any successful medical management of his HIV.
At the age of 27, Ian was homeless and actively addicted. Ian had no medical or social supports to help him navigate through the growing complexities of his declining health. He had a CD4 count of 40, an HIV viral load of nearly 500,000, and was not taking any antiretroviral treatment. His 100 pound skeleton-like frame had been ravaged by both untreated HIV and a chronic lung condition. His medical referral termed him as, “end stage HIV.”
While Sanctum’s mandate fit every aspect of his health needs, there was doubt that he would remain at Sanctum long enough to enjoy the benefits that engagement and stability could bring. He came to Sanctum with much hesitation, stating that he wasn’t staying. But Ian did stay. Jokingly one day, he told the staff that he didn’t know what was wrong with him. When questioned what he meant by that he said, “Because I haven’t left yet.”
Ian had to go back to the hospital for a week during his stay at Sanctum. Upon his return, he immediately hugged the nurse, saying “Thank you for taking care of me.” After being asked later that day how he was doing, he said, "Good.
“I’m happy to be here. It’s the first place I haven’t wanted to run from in my life.”
When Ian was asked why he thought that was, he said,
“I’m still trying to figure that out, but I think it’s ‘cause you guys care about me.”
He stayed and exceeded all of his and the staff's expectations. Once he figured out that Sanctum was there with him, that he could be himself in whatever state that was, that no matter what he had a warm bed, three meals a day, and that friends and staff that cared about him and never judged him, both his physical and mental health soared in a positive direction.
Ian’s initial goals when he moved into Sanctum were to get dentures and to get his health back on track. In three short months, he did so much more. He got his dental work done, secured a family doctor, an HIV specialist and an HIV case manager. He started on ARVs, which has allowed him to achieve a nearly undetectable HIV viral load and a CD4 count of 170. He entered into outpatient treatment and stopped using drugs, secured permanent housing and got his children back from foster care.
He engaged in activities with staff: baking and assisting with meal prep. He became a leader amongst his peers. He came to Sanctum very much alone and left with what he called “his family.” He has gained much and learned from his short time with Sanctum, and in his short time he has left an indelible mark in the hearts of those who were so fortunate to work with him. He taught us how love, caring and acceptance can help even the most fragile become strong.
Ian is now employed at Sanctum as a Peer Mentor, providing support and guidance to residents of Sanctum.