Robb’s Life Chapter 30 – A Holiday Rush for the DeLaCerda House

Robb-Delacerda-Dec-5

Jim Hughes (left) and Robb (right) listen as a contractor describes some work that is needed in the shelter.

The race was on in early December, 1995, as Robb and a group of volunteers worked to get a homeless shelter ready for HIV and AIDS clients in the Quad Cities. Robb wanted very badly to have the shelter open by December 15th, but it was obvious that was not going to happen.

Kelli Hughes and her husband, Jim joined the volunteers, tearing off drywall and helping with a variety of tasks. Kelli was HIV positive, and she is still alive and well in 2015, which no one expected when we shot this story.

Robb-Delacerda-Dec-6Robb was working so hard, but when watching this story, it is obvious that he is not feeling well. He isn’t smiling as much, and you can see the distress in his eyes from his illness.

Still, it is hard to believe that he only had four months to live as Christmas was approaching 20 years ago. The house he was so passionate about would be dedicated in his memory and named “Robb’s House.”

As you watch this, please keep in mind that you can honor Robb, help support Robb’s House, and keep his legacy alive by donating to the DeLaCerda House, a wonderful organization providing housing and support for people living with HIV and AIDS. Just visit their website at www.delacerdahouseinc.org and click the “Donate” button on the right side of the page.

 

HIV Diagnosis is No Longer a Death Sentence? Part 2 of the WHBF Series – Robb’s Life 20 Years Later

Dr. Louis Katz

Dr. Louis M. Katz was Robb’s doctor during his final year with AIDS.

Being diagnosed as HIV positive is no longer the death sentence it was 20 years ago, IF you have proper treatment and access to the latest drugs.

It is a shocking thing to hear from the doctor who treated Robb for AIDS, but in the second part of Emily Scarlett’s series updating Robb’s Life 20 years later, Dr. Louis Katz discusses changes in the treatment of HIV since Robb was diagnosed in the Eighties and developed full-blown AIDS in 1994.

“It’s a treatable infection,” Robb’s doctor, Dr. Louis M. Katz, says in this report.

It is surprising for me to hear this, considering that at the time we did Robb’s Life there was no effective treatment that could have extended his life.

My fear is that people will now think there is nothing to fear, but who wants to contract an illness that depends upon access to expensive drugs for the rest of their life? In the past few years, I have become dependent on heart medication and it is not something I recommend. Imagine being 25 and realizing you will be on medication for the rest of your life to prevent your death? It is still a life-altering diagnosis. In many parts of the world, access to drugs is still difficult or impossible. For these reasons, the prevention message is still important.

These are interesting issues to consider as you watch Part 2 of Emily’s series Robb’s Life 20 Years Later — click this link to watch.

There are still homeless HIV and AIDS clients due to the fear and ignorance surrounding this disease. The DeLaCerda House provides shelter and support. Please keep Robb’s legacy alive and donate by going to www.delacerdahouseinc.org and clicking the “Donate” button on the right side of the screen.

 

Part 1 of the WHBF Series – Robb’s Life 20 Years Later

WHBF Robbs Life logo 2Part One of Emily Scarlett’s series updating Robb’s Life 20 years later was broadcast last night on WHBF Local 4 News in Rock Island, Illinois, the station where the series originally ran 20 years ago.

The purposes of bringing the original series back on this blog in “real time” this year is to honor Robb’s legacy, continue his mission to educate people about how to avoid HIV, and to raise funds for the cause that was his focus during the last months of his life — the DeLaCerda House, which provides housing and support for homeless HIV and AIDS clients in the Quad Cities.

Click this link to see part 1 of Emily Scarlett’s series. Part 2 airs tonight at 10 on WHBF, featuring Robb’s doctor, Dr. Louis Katz, who talks about Robb’s impact and the AIDS situation 20 years later.

You can donate to the DeLaCerda House by clicking this link and then clicking the “Donate” button on the right side of the page.

 

Robb’s Life Chapter 28 – Hanging Drywall and Robb’s Final Thanksgiving

Robb at Thanksgiving, 1995.

Robb at Thanksgiving, 1995.

Twenty years ago this week, Robb was racing to renovate the abandoned house in Rock Island into a shelter for homeless HIV and AIDS clients. Along with his father, Lorney, and a friend, Ray Williams, Robb was hanging drywall and doing other work to make the old house inhabitable.

This would be Robb’s final Thanksgiving, and he was amazed that he was still alive and feeling well enough to hang drywall.

I remember shooting this piece very clearly, and when I was editing, I noticed there was a look in Robb’s eyes that had not been there a few months earlier. It was the look of someone who is sick, whose body is struggling. But when he smiled, his eyes sparkled as they always did. It was clear that he was not smiling as often these days.

Renovating the interior of what would be known as "Robb's House."

Renovating the interior of what would be known as “Robb’s House.” Ray Williams is on the left. 

But Robb was focused intensely on providing shelter for homeless HIV and AIDS clients — people who were less fortunate than he — so he was pouring his limited energy into the DeLaCerda House. Twenty years later, his work is still doing a lot of good in our community.

After all these years, you can still help, and that is the reason that we are honoring Robb’s memory during this 20th anniversary year of Robb’s Life. Please help keep Robb’s legacy alive by donating, even just a few dollars, to the DeLaCerda House. Just go to their website at www.delacerdahouseinc.org and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the page.

And don’t miss WHBF-TV’s special news series this week updating Robb’s Life 20 years later. Watch WHBF Local 4 News at 10:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, November 23, 24 and 25.

Robb’s Life Chapter 22 – A Warning for Women about HIV

Robb, Kelli Hughes and Beth Wehrman arrive to speak to a church group in Davenport - September, 1995.

Robb, Kelli Hughes and Beth Wehrman arrive to speak to a church group in Davenport – September, 1995.

Kelli Hughes was a college student when she had sex during a one-night stand with a young man who infected her with HIV.

One mistake changed her life.

She became Robb Dussliere’s friend. Twenty years ago this week, Robb and Kelli spoke to a group of teens at a Davenport church about how they could avoid HIV. The appearance was organized by Beth Wehrman, who was Executive Director of the AIDS Project Quad Cities at the time.

When we shot this story in September, 1995, Kelli thought it would be a miracle to reach her 30th birthday, and she did not think a 50th birthday was even possible.

You want some good news? Kelli is still with us and she is only 4 or 5 years from hitting that 50-year mark. That’s how good the medication has become for those who contract HIV.

Take a look at the story and see how bleak her future looked 20 years ago. The new medications were just preparing to hit the market. We did not realize it at the time, but the new drugs came along in time to save Kelli, but not in time to save Robb.

Kelli and her husband and children (which they had using artificial insemination) are living in St. Charles, Missouri. I am attempting to contact her to catch up, but here is a story about Kelli that appeared in a Dewitt, Iowa newspaper five years ago.

There are still many people who are shunned and lose their jobs when they acquire HIV. Please help the DeLaCerda House by donating a few dollars to help support these people. It was Robb’s great passion in the last few months of his life. Follow this link and click on the Donate button on the right side of the page.

Robb’s Life Chapter 20 – A Scoping Procedure as Throat Pain Continues

Robb prepares for a scoping procedure in September, 1995.

Robb prepares for a scoping procedure in September, 1995.

In early September, 1995, Robb Dussliere was in continuous pain from a throat infection. He was also running a fever.

Dr. Louis Katz arranged for Robb to go to Genesis for a scoping procedure.

It was obvious that Robb’s health had declined in the five months since we began our series. His eyes have the appearance of someone who is ill, and it appears he has lost weight. But he continues to push on, meeting everything with a matter-of-fact attitude.

I was surprised and grateful for the unusual access I was given with my camcorder in the hospital.

Donate to the DeLaCerda House and help keep Robb’s legacy alive. Please donate a few dollars to help support homeless HIV and AIDS clients in the Quad Cities. Go to www.delacerdahouseinc.org and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the page. On behalf of Robb, thank you.

Robb’s Life Chapter 17 – Scoping Out a Throat Problem

Robb plays with his dog, Buddy, while talking with me about his recent throat issues.

Robb plays with his dog, Buddy, while talking with me about his recent throat issues.

When Robb returned home from his trip to California to visit two of his brothers, the fever he felt when he was on vacation turned into a throat problem, making it hard to swallow and difficult to eat. By August 16, 1995, he was ready to have it checked by his doctor.

I didn’t go with him to the hospital but I talked with him before he left and was at his house when he returned. Looking back, it was the first time since I had known him that he had been sick.

I didn’t realize he had started the downhill slide.

This was one of the stories that featured Robb’s dog, Buddy, a little more. I always loved the way Robb “fools” Buddy at the end of the story. Even as his parents sat on the couch, their concern over Robb’s health evident on their faces, Robb had the sense of humor to get on the floor and play with Buddy. It was classic Robb.


Please donate a few dollars to the DeLaCerda House to keep Robb’s legacy alive and help provide support to homeless people living with HIV and AIDS in the Quad Cities. To donate, go to www.delacerdahouseinc.org and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the page.

Robb’s Life Chapter 16 – Family Time Grows More Valuable as AIDS Progresses

Robb enjoys family time in California with two of his brothers, nieces and nephews as time grows more precious.

Robb enjoys family time in California with two of his brothers, nieces and nephews as time grows more precious.

At the end of July, 1995, Robb Dussliere went to Anaheim, California, to visit his brother John and his family. His younger brother John drove down from Palo Alto.

The time remaining in Robb’s life was unknown, but the reality was sinking in that these visits were valuable moments that may not happen again.

He had a video camera with him on the trip and brought back the video for me to use in a story. Robb came to the studio and I sat him in front of my favorite blue background for the interview to describe the trip and what it meant to him.

This feature ran on the 10:00 news on WHBF-TV — August 6, 1995.

Even today, 20 years later, there are homeless HIV and AIDS patients who do not have family support like Robb did. You can help keep Robb’s legacy alive and help them by donating — even just a few dollars — to the DeLaCerda House, Robb’s favorite nonprofit organization. Go to the DeLaCerda House website and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the page.

KWQC-TV Broadcasts 20-Year Update on Robb’s House and the Need for Help

KWQC Robbs HouseRobb would be so happy that 20 years after we started the Robb’s Life TV news series, his memory lives on and he is continuing to inspire people and raise funds to provide housing for homeless people living with HIV and AIDS.

KWQC-TV ran a wonderful story tonight on the 6:00 news. Reporter Courtney Yuen visited Robb’s House today, the transitional housing unit operated by the DeLaCerda House. Robb, his father Lorney, and others worked to renovate this house because Robb understood that housing can make a big difference in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Watch the KWQC-TV news story here.

And please donate to Robb’s House and the DeLaCerda House by following this link and clicking the Donate button on the right side of the page.

Robb’s Life Chapter 5 — Robb Volunteers to Help People with HIV/AIDS

One of the first stories we did in the Robb’s Life series showed how he spent a lot of his time in the spring of 1995, volunteering with the AIDS Project Quad Cities (now known as The Project of the Quad Cities).

This is the office where I first met Robb and Beth Wehrman, who was executive director of the AIDS Project at the time. I returned the following week for a story.

Robb began showing his personality here. When Joe, a young man with AIDS, walks in with Robb’s lunch, Joe had no idea we were videotaping a story. Robb simply said, “You’re on TV,” and grinned. I’m sure Joe was startled, but he stayed around for a few minutes.

Robb was devoted to the idea of providing housing for homeless HIV/AIDS patients. Twenty years later, it is still a need in the Quad Cities. Please donate a few dollars to the DeLaCerda House by following this link and clicking on the Donate button on the right side of the page.