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A Day in the Life of Ron Parron--AIDS Patient

August 16, 1987|LYNN SIMROSS | Times Staff Writer

Ron Parron is a 29-year-old PWA (Person With AIDS). He takes 100 pills a day: 25 of prescription drugs, including AZT, and 75 of homeopathic medicines, among them vitamins, herbs and minerals.

Parron was diagnosed as a PWA on Sept. 20, 1985, what he calls "Black Friday." He appears in relatively good health and says he has gained about 15 pounds in the past two months. Last week, a check of his T-4 helper cells read out at 426, up 27 from two weeks ago. (A normal range of T-4 cells, those that the AIDS virus attacks in the body, is 447 to 1,284.)

"My doctor is horrified at all the things I'm taking, but he knows about it," said Parron, who lives in Long Beach. "And he can't deny that my counts are going up."

Like other PWAs on AZT, Parron must have a complete blood count done every two weeks. AZT, which costs about $10,000 a year, must be taken six times a day at four-hour intervals.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 2, 1987 Home Edition View Part 5 Page 4 Column 2 View Desk 2 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
An article July 16 incorrectly indicated that AIDS patient Ron Parron is associated with Project AHEAD, a program of the Long Beach AIDS Project. Parron is affiliated only with a social group run by the program. Project AHEAD officials say they do not advocate use of or provide information about AIDS treatments that have not been officially approved and may have dangerous side effects.

'Restraining' the Virus

"You can't miss taking it (AZT) by 10 or 15 minutes either way," Parron explained. "What it is doing is holding the virus back, restraining it in your body and you don't dare give it that window so the virus can get in and infect a whole bunch of other cells."

Parron and several of his PWA friends in Long Beach who are on AZT use small pillboxes with timers that can be set at the proper intervals to remind them it's time for their capsule. "They're called LCD countdown timers and they're $14.95 at Radio Shack. The guy there told me he can't keep them in stock, but he doesn't really understand why.

"I've been on AZT six weeks, but I almost died the first week I took it," he said. "I had a 104 degree fever, migraine headaches, nausea. It was terrible. Fifty percent of the people who take it have a real severe reaction to it."

Along with the AZT, Parron also takes acyclovir, which he believes is helping him avoid the severe anemia that often affects AZT patients.

Homeopathic Approach

Opening a spice cabinet in his kitchen, Parron showed a visitor shelves filled with homeopathic medicines. Among the 40 different kinds of herbs, vitamins and minerals he takes are garlic capsules; beta carotene; licorice root; a special blend of Vitamin C; Lysine; Pau d'Arco, a capsule made from Brazilian tree bark; a form of AL 721, an egg lecithin; and shiitake mushroom extract capsules, thought to have antiviral properties.

"One capsule of the shiitake mushrooms is equal to eating 480 grams of raw shiitake mushrooms," he said. "It's $10 a bottle and lasts 15 days. I'd say I spend about $200 a month on all the vitamins and minerals I take."

Since being diagnosed with AIDS, Parron also has had to take an anti-depressant, tranquilizers and sleeping pills because his doctor says he has "depressive anxiety."

Parron said that his prescription drugs, which he keeps in bottles on the kitchen windowsill, cost $900 a week.

"Last year, I was so depressed I was going to commit suicide--I had all the pills and even wrote the letter--but at the last minute, I called someone," said Parron, who came to California in 1983 from Orlando, Fla. He now works with Long Beach's Project Ahead in crisis interaction with PWAs who are threatening suicide.

Insurance Running Out

Parron, formerly a national account executive with Raygal Design Assn. in Irvine, is worried what will happen to him in October when his medical insurance runs out. To date, his insurer, United Insurance Co. of America, has paid out $86,000 for his medical bills.

"When it's gone, I will have to go on MediCal," Parron said. "And they won't pay for 50% of the drugs I have to take. I don't know what I will do then."

Parron said that a month after he was diagnosed with AIDS, he ended up in the hospital with pneumocystis (a form of pneumonia that attacks AIDS patients) and was in and out of the hospital for nine months.

A specialist in kitchen equipment and restaurant design, he has not been able to work since. He lost his home at the beach and his car was repossessed. He now lives on Social Security, and gets weekly food rations from the food bank at Christ Chapel, a gay church in Long Beach that he attends.

"My company took a real pioneering attitude when I was diagnosed," Parron said. "They put me on medical leave for a year and let me stay on the insurance at their discounted rate--they paid the premium and I paid them back monthly. We did have a fight with the insurance company, though. They were trying to say that I had a pre-existing condition. But they all do that to PWAs.

"Then, after that year of coverage with the company, according to law in California, you can get an extension of benefits and the insurance carrier has to pick up your coverage."

Parron said that there were a few individual employees at his firm who were upset when they learned he had AIDS, "but the company was very good about that also, and tried to inform people. There still were those who wouldn't let me use their telephone."

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