A Brief Look Back at My Story: The Lynn Lingenfelter Story starts with this incredible victory. For almost 30 year now, yes 30 years I have been living with HIV/AIDS. For those that have not heard my story, when I was 16 my best friend shot me in a hunting accident and I received near 40 pints of blood. One of those pints was tainted with HIV. However I didn't learn that till much later. After surviving the gun shot wound in the gut I went on to live my life like any other teenager. It wasn't until I was a Sophomore at Penn State, year 1987, when I started hearing about this HIV/AIDS disease. Because I had received so many pints of blood 3 years earlier I thought I should get the test just to be sure I didn't have it. Also I found out later that a man from the Pittsburgh area had died of AIDS and one of his pints of blood was in my body... thanks to the Red Cross. Watch the "The Band played On" and see how money destroyed many lives.
I fell into a depression that lasted almost 10 yrs. Didn't want to expose myself to others and be rejected and just waited to die. The funny thing about it all though is that I did not die. I reached the age of 29 still wondering what it is all about and still staying in my depression and away from people and still waiting to die and nothing was happening.
One day I woke up and said "I have to change this". I was fat, out of shape and feeling like crap just waiting to die and I was over it. Something had to change. I started working out at a whole-in-the-wall gym and one day I read about a Physique Transformation contest by Bill Phillips. For those that know that part of my story, you know, I won that competition and it changed my life forever. That competition later became known as Body-for-Life.
Fast forward to today and my most recent health situation. Almost 5 years ago, so 25 years into having HIV/AIDS I started having serious health problems. Shortly before I turned 40 years old I started to notice that my eyes were giving me problems, I was having trouble speaking and thinking clearing and I had horrible headaches and night sweats. I just did not understand what was wrong with me. On my birthday Nov 20th 2008 I went to see my Infectious Disease Dr and as soon as he saw me he immediately called an ambulance to take me to the emergency room. He thought I had a stroke.
It was not a stoke and it took a team of 5 Dr.'s 3 weeks and a brain biopsy to discover that I had another terminal disease that has no treatment and no cure. It is called PML. Now at that time I had very infrequently taken my HIV meds. I know that is not what my Dr.'s wanted and I often had to deal with lectures and threats from them because I didn't regularly take my HIV/AIDS medication. But in this new deadly disease by not taking my medication all along was the only thing that saved me aside from God and his purpose for my life.
I remember leaving the hospital with my wife and mother shortly after being told that I had PML. It was believed that I was going home to die and I think my family, including my wife, believed there was a good chance the Dr.'s were right this time. Lots of crying and I had lost so much of my abilities to function like a normal human being. I could not handle anything moving fast whether people, the car or anything. I could not sleep and turn off my brain "overload" and very emotional!!. I could not track to read anything and even if I could I don't know if I could have comprehended it anyway. I lost so much weight and got almost skeletal. I could not swallow without some serious problems. In fact, they almost did not let me leave the hospital because of the swallowing situation. And so many other things in my body just were not functioning properly.
Christmas 2008. I was very gaunt and showing the weight loss. Back home from the hospital for about 6 weeks and we were starting to think I just might make it. Symptoms were not getting worse but staying the same. I had other health issues show up like kidney stones but that is another story lol.
You see PML is a rare brain virus that eats away at your brain. I had the virus in all 4 lobes of my brain and depending on the lobes, my motor skills were affected . PML would have continued to eat away at my brain and I would have been dead in 3-6 months from the onset of symptoms except that I had not regularly taken my HIV/AIDS meds. My only chance to survive was to take my meds and hope they worked to strengthen my immune system enough to fight back the PML. Does that mean that I would no longer have PML? No I will always have PML just like I will always have HIV/AIDS. So now 2 deadly viruses.
Thank GOD and my HIV meds it worked. It took me about 6 months to come back to the point that I was able to go back to work in our Personal Training Studio that we owned at that time, but come back I did. It was a long, tough journey with lots of setbacks, lots of prayers and hope and faith. I know I had folks around the world praying for me and I still get so emotional when I think back to that time and how important and incredible it was, the outpouring of love and faith and hope from so many friends and strangers. It made a huge impact on all of us, my family, knowing we had so many folks praying for us during that stressful, unsure time.
Today for the first time in my life I can say I am ready emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually to handle sharing my message of hope with others. I think there were a few false starts and many other personal situations that had to be prayed over and worked through and overcome but today I am ready. I am ready to share with the world my story. It has taken me this long to get to the point of thinking that my story even matters to other people. You see I know who I am. I know I am a sinner and I know my faults and my weaknesses. I just think I am a regular guy who has had to deal with extraordinary health situations and come out on top for now.
But the end does come to all. One thing we can be sure of is that we will die. I don't know if PML will be the virus that ends my life but I do know while I am here and while God has given me this chance to be alive I am going to run with it this time. I have a beautiful family, my wife and two miracle children, and at the end of this life I want it all to have meant something. If in telling my life story to you and others I can impact you enough to then go do the same and make your life count, make your life be about something bigger than yourself, well what better legacy is that. Thank you Jesus!
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