Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371

Graphic Mundi. Nov. 2021. 232p. ISBN 9781637790076. pap. $24.95. MEMOIR
First published in 2017, this memoir carries a new introduction contrasting the 1980s-onset HIV/AIDS epidemic with the recent COVID. In 1993, newly minted nurse Czerwiec (Menopause: A Comic Treatment) finds herself working in Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s Unit 371, which provides comprehensive care to their mostly gay men AIDS patients. Heavily staffed, some personnel gay themselves, Unit 371 encourages warm, personal relationships with these stigmatized, mostly terminal patients. Under the mantra of “caring, compassion, competence,” pizza from outside, art therapy, and hugging patients all become part of treatment. First surprised but then fully committed to this approach herself, Czerwiec admits, “I thought I’d never find work that was as rewarding.” When AIDS drugs improve and the unit closes, Czerwiec begins making comics to express her appreciation—and her sadness that much medical care is not so caring. Her naive-seeming, simply colored figures in spare backgrounds convey the basics of her stories, the way the unit provided the basics of a good life for its patients.
VERDICT Czerwiec’s wrenching, inspiring story addresses how people should be treated by the medical system and challenges them to treat all patients as in Unit 371. Highly recommended.
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