A 5-year-old boy has realized his dream of attending school before he dies of AIDS. He began his first day of preschool by telling his classmates about his fatal disease and his "bad blood."
The boy, whose breathing is aided by an oxygen tank, surprised his mother by volunteering the information as his seven classmates introduced themselves, his mother said Monday."He said `This is my oxygen, and I have a disease. My bad blood could kill you,' " said the mother, Shiela, who took her son Jonathan on Monday to the special education class at Patterson Elementary School.
"He didn't wait for anything. And the kids responded really well," the mother said at a news conference outside her condominium in this Denver suburb.
"He broke the ice right off and from then on it was just normal kid stuff," said Shiela, a divorced mother of three other sons.
She has asked that her last name not be published because she fears retaliation against her family.
"They listened and they played with me," Jonathan said of the hour he spent in the classroom. Asked whether his first day was as much fun as he expected, he replied, "Yeah."
Shiela said her son's biggest dream has been to attend school before he dies.
"He used to talk about dying all the time and he said he wanted to die," she said as Jonathan watched ants inching along the sidewalk. "But he hasn't addressed it since he found out he would get to go to school. He hasn't mentioned it in the last couple of weeks."
As his mother talked with reporters, Jonathan showed off a Polaroid picture of himself at school. At one point, he walked away to play on the sidewalk, unhooking the tube that connected him with the oxygen tank.
Jonathan's hopes of going to school were blocked several times in the past year by one delay after another. Earlier this month, a tutor assigned by the school district to teach him at home demanded to be reassigned, threatening to file a lawsuit if forced to continue the tutoring. The request was granted.
School officials decided April 19 to allow Jonathan to attend class.
Jonathan is Colorado's first recorded child victim of the fatal disease, said his mother. The youngster contracted AIDS from tainted blood he received in a transfusion shortly after birth and was diagnosed in June 1985.
"One thing that sticks in my mind, he used to say `Jesus doesn't listen to me. . . . I told him to come and get me, and he didn't.' It really rips your heart out, but I think in a way he's comforting me by telling me it's all right with him. He was diagnosed three years ago, and it's just a matter of time."
Pam Mills, executive director of exceptional students' services for Jefferson County Schools, also attended the news conference and said she was unaware of any parents who had kept their children at home because of Jonathan. There were no protesters or parents outside the school Monday.