Sunday, July 9, 2023

Ryan White


Ryan Wayne White was born in Kokomo, Indiana, on December 6, 1971.  He was born with hemophilia, a genetic disorder that impairs the body's ability to make blood clots. As such, he required regular blood treatment sessions.  During one such episode in 1984, he contracted HIV from a contaminated blood source and was given just six months to live.

In response to his health status, White was barred from attending in-person classes at his school, instead having to listen in via telephone.  A legal battle ensued for nearly a year, but on April 10th, 1986, he was ultimately allowed to return to class.  As a result of the media generated by the case, White became a national figure and the face of AIDS, a disease that was still being understood.

On March 29th, 1990, White was admitted to an Indianapolis hospital with a respiratory tract infection and was placed on a ventilator.  His condition only worsened, and he ultimately passed on April 8th.  He was just 18 years old.  He had outlasted his doctor's expectations by more than five years.

Ryan White was laid to rest at Cicero Cemetery in Cicero, Indiana, near his mother's home.

Rest in peace.

  • More than 1,500 people attended White's funeral, a standing-room only event.  Notable attendees included Donald Trump, Barbara Bush, Michael Jackson, Phil Donahue and Howie Long.  Elton John performed his hit "Skyline Pigeon."

  • As noted in the pictures above, White's memorial was donated by actor Matt Frewer, most famously known for his portrayal of Max Headroom.

  • A year before his death, White's story was told in the made-for-TV movie The Ryan White Story, starring Judith Light and Lukas Haas.  You can watch it in its entirety on YouTube.

  • The autobiographical book Ryan White: My Own Story, was released two years after the author's death.  Pick up a copy on Amazon.

  • Four months after White's death, President George H.W. Bush signed the Ryan White CARE Act into law.  It provides grants to improve the quality and availability of care for individuals and families affected by HIV.  It has since been re-authorized twice.

  • White passed just one month shy of his high school graduation.

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