When she first became a Chase Brexton Health Care patient in 1987, Dayna Waheedah was waiting to die. Today, after 30 years of Chase Brexton’s support, she’s grateful to be alive.
Waheeda was first diagnosed with AIDS in 1981, when the little-understood disease was a virtual death sentence. After a few years, she grew sick enough to need hospitalization. There, a doctor confided in her that he was HIV positive and directed her to Chase Brexton for ongoing care.
Even as she sought AZT treatment from Chase Brexton to manage her disease, Waheeda says she felt very little hope of living much longer.
“It was a place I went to just kind of pass the time to wait until I died,” she recalls. “I remember that there would be funerals after funerals after funerals. So if you had HIV back then, you really expected to die.”
In fact, Dayna says she was so certain that she would not see her 25th birthday, that she abused alcohol and drugs and ran up credit card charges. But slowly, something changed.
“I began to become a little bit more grateful. I didn’t die,’” she says. “I found people here who were kind and caring and compassionate. They made me feel like it was worth me living, and they gave me hope.”
Dayna witnessed the height of the AIDS crisis, a time when Chase Brexton providers raced to save lives with limited resources. Even when those providers lacked desks, she says, they never lacked dedication to their patients.
“I remember the dietician [at that time], her desk was a refrigerator,” Dayna recalls. “She had her stuff on top of this refrigerator, that was her desk. It was like, ‘is she working off of a refrigerator?’ But that reminds me of the intensity and the love and the willingness just to make it happen for us.”
Today, at age 59, Dayna continues to visit Chase Brexton for primary care, social work services, transgender health care, and mental health care. With the support of her care team, Dayna has coped with the traumas of her past, and transitioned last year.
“They’ve allowed me to be who I am…allowing me and encouraging to be the beautiful Dayna Waheedah, because I am beautiful,” she says. “I have a lot more hope today. I’m a very loving, caring, kind person. I deserve to be respected today. I demand to be respected.”