The number of poor, sickly orphans in Romania grew uncontrollably in the 1980s. The children received blood transfusions to make them stronger—no one knew that the blood was infected with HIV. Through the use of a single syringe, the virus was passed along from one child to another.
Mary, an American social worker, decided to spend a year in Romania doing something to help. One of her earliest jobs was sitting with the children as they died.
“I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ But it’s amazing what you can do when you have to do it,” she explains.
The situation seemed hopeless. Then, antiretroviral drugs were sent to Romania. The drugs can significantly increase length and quality of life for HIV patients. Suddenly, there was hope.
“I’ve always—all of my life—had a very strong feeling that we were put here to do something good for other people. I don’t know exactly how I ended up here, when I look back on it, or how I’ve managed to stay this long. But I feel incredibly privileged that I’ve been able to do so. I lead such an enriched lifestyle.”