James: Patient Story

Homecoming: James Knigge’s Story

Moving back to his home state of Texas was a difficult prospect for James Knigge. He’d been living in California since 1988, for so long that it had become essentially his second home. He met his husband, Glade, in Orange County in ’92. But his mother was ill, and he couldn’t just leave her alone. So, in 2008, he and Glade moved to Dallas to take care of his mother in her last days. But they both had a problem of their own: they were HIV positive.

“Glade came down with pneumonia, so we rushed him to a hospital in Mission Viejo,” James says, recounting a time when he and his partner had to fight the stigma of being HIV positive. “The doctor made a big ordeal out of it, he had me all dressed up, had the mask on. I basically ended up taking care of [Glade]…the nurses wouldn’t even come in.”

“I was determined to fight it, and to win,” James says.

Glade continued to be in and out of the hospital while James did his research. Despite their struggles with HIV, they were resolved to live their life as normally as possible. When he and Glade first met, they were just making minimum wage, but their move to San Francisco in 1997 spurred them to pursue success. They built a house, hosted birthday parties, and had good friends. But they still had HIV. They were forced to take a host of medications to manage their condition, some of which had very bad side effects.

“[One of my doctors] put me on one of them… she calls me, and she’s panicking, saying ‘get off it, don’t take anything, don’t even take aspirin, your kidneys are failing’….It’s caused memory issues…bone damage.”

When they made the move to Dallas in ’08, James was so focused on taking care of his mother that he neglected to take care of himself. He hadn’t taken his medication in a long time. Then in 2009, James’s mother passed away, and after that, in 2014, Glade did the same.

Health Services of North Texas: Collin County Center

“I lost my mind. I was on the floor of their office flipping out… but Dale handled it so well,” James says, referring to a past employee of HSNT’s Collin County Center. “He came to the apartment and sat with me.”

At the passing of his partner, James fell into a deep depression that ultimately left him homeless for a period. Despite this hardship, James was still able to reach out to HSNT’s Collin County center and find the help he needed: food, shelter, and a powerful support system.

“[The doctors] were the greatest bunch of people I’ve ever met…they saved our lives. They got us on track with medication, Jill, Dale… they helped us in so many different ways. A lot of it’s a blur because so much was happening to me… but they made me face reality.”

At Health Services of North Texas, James had someone to talk to about his problems, someone to help him find housing, and someone to help make sure he had food and a smile on his face.

“I’ve been able to release and talk about things, what my issues are… I got to a point where I didn’t even want to be seen by people because I was so ashamed of myself. I have to give [Mary Wallace] a lot of credit for the help I’ve gotten…. Julie’s been very helpful, too. She knows the ropes, she knows what’s going on with homelessness, medicine…she’s gotten me to straighten out.”

James’s goal now is to save for a car, find a job, and “most of all, help others in need.”

“Without the help, knowledge, and expertise of the doctors, I would not be alive. Each of them helped in what medications I needed at each and every level and change in my life. Health Services of North Texas literally saved my life.”