Fear of contagion, isolated patients, a surge of overwhelming and unpreventable deaths, and the frontline healthcare workers who shouldered the responsibility of seeing us through a deadly epidemic: as we continue to confront the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, Taking Turns reminds us that we’ve been through this before. Only a few decades ago, the world faced another terrifying and deadly health crisis: HIV/AIDS.
Nurse MK Czerwiec began working at the Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371 in the 1990s–a pivotal time in the history of AIDS. Deaths from the disease in the United States peaked in 1995 and then dropped drastically in the following years, with the release of effective drug treatments. In this graphic memoir, Czerwiec provides an insider’s view of the lives of healthcare workers, patients, and loved ones from Unit 371. With humor, insight, and emotion, MK shows how the patients and staff cared for one another, how the sick faced their deaths, and how the survivors looked for hope in what seemed, at times, like a hopeless situation.
Drawn in a restrained, inviting style, Taking Turns is an open, honest look at suffering, grief, and resilience among a community of medical professionals and patients at the heart of the AIDS epidemic.