I was only 9 years old when Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Lakers’ mercurial star, got a phone call. Magic, in Salt Lake City for a game with the Utah Jazz, was instructed to fly home immediately. Shortly after he returned to Los Angeles, he received the news that would change his life forever. Magic, just 30 years old, recently married and at the height of his playing career, had HIV – a disease with no known cure.
In The Announcement, an ESPN documentary that aired tonight, Magic remembered that day. How he wondered if he’d heard the words correctly. How he considered his basketball career. How he told his wife.
I was 24 years old, recently married and on top of the world, when I received a phone call that led me to drive home immediately. That day, my family received news that would change our lives forever. My sister, Taylor, just 7 years old, had infantile Batten disease – a disease with no known cure; a disease that is universally fatal.
No matter who you are, life can change in an instant.
More than 20 years after his diagnosis, Magic still has HIV. But he does not have AIDS. He has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS research. He still has a family. His playing days are over, but he spends a lot of time in basketball arenas as a fan. And he looks healthy.
Magic’s status, of course, grants him access to the world’s best medicine and doctors. Nevertheless, he is living proof that HIV can be treated, even if it can’t be cured.
We may never have a cure for Batten disease, but there is a treatment out there. Something – a pill, an injection, a surgery – that could give children like Taylor prolonged, mostly normal lives. An enhanced version of the current cocktail of therapy sessions and symptom-controlling medications.
Magic Johnson has been fighting for 20 years and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. I would give anything to have my little sister around for another 20 years.
But I know I can’t count on that.
So, I just have to keep fighting in the meantime – for her, but also for all of the future Taylors. Because we won’t be the last family to get a phone call.