AIDS Doesn't Stop Miracle Man

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

April 7, 2006

More than three million people die from AIDS every year. Jerry Mitchell was supposed to be one of those people. In 1981 he was diagnosed with the disease and given only months to live. Twenty-five years later doctors are calling him the "Miracle Man"

A doctor broke the news to Jerry Mitchell in 1981. He was the 11th person to be diagnosed with HIV on the West Coast.

“My T-cell count was 17 and I had more or less 6 months to live,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell decided to live life and see the world. There were few drug therapies at the time.

“I took Geritol and vitamins and my friends teased me,” explained Mitchell.

Whatever he did seemed to work because 25 years he's still alive.

“I just wanted to live and I got a lot of living out of this body,” Mitchell said.

So much so that his doctors call him the “miracle man.”

“Unfortunately most people didn't make it as far as Jerry did,” stated Mitchell’s doctor UVa hospital physician Chris Moore.

As a painter, Mitchell’s canvas is his life. A brush with death inspired one painting of the light at the end of the tunnel.

“So the joke is like the miracle man he's back,” laughed Mitchell.

His doctors often judge his health by the colors he paints with.

“So I sometimes ask him [if he is] painting in red and I know he's not feeling as well medically, as if he were painting with lighter colors,” said Dr. Moore.

This year Mitchell’s been hospitalized 6 times. His paintings reveal his pain but it doesn’t show in his attitude.

“My brother goes ‘any day above ground is a good day.’ He told me that when I was in intensive care, and I laughed, and ever since then I have been laughing,” responded Mitchell.

Mitchell is showing his art at Side Tracks on Water Street in Charlottesville.

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