Woman turns battle for survival into lesson for others - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Woman turns battle for survival into lesson for others

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(WMC-TV) – A Memphis woman knew when she was attacked outside her home, her life would never be the same.  But she is turning her heart-breaking battle for survival into a lesson for everyone.

Mildred Richard wanted to die. Born to a crack addicted mother, she dropped out of school at age 12 to raise two newborn siblings, and care for three ailing family members.

"I was tired, at 12," she said.

As she got older, Mildred had children of her own.  Then at 21, she suffered the first in a series of dramatic blows one night while taking out the trash.

"This person attacked me at the trash," she said. "It felt like I was there for hours, but I was there only a few minutes."

Mildred was raped and in the following weeks learned her rapist impregnated her.

"And I really don't want this child," she recalled. "This is a child conceived out of pure evil.  I can't love this child the way I do my babies.  My mind kept saying, it will go away.  It will go away."

Trying to make it go away, she chose to give up the baby for adoption. But upon delivery, nurses mistakenly brought the child to her room.

"I saw a reflection of myself," she said. "That was Mildred on every level. From the ears to the eyes to the nose.  He was even chubby.  He was 10 pounds and an ounce.  I'm like, you a fat girl baby!"

But then, Mildred's OBGYN delivered devastating news.

"She tells me about all these tests that were ran during labor and delivery, and that I tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus."

Mildred's rapist not only impregnated her, he infected her with the disease that causes AIDS.

"I felt like, it was a relief," she said. "And why I say that is, because at the time, all I knew about HIV is that you get HIV and you die.  And I was tired.  And I was ready to die."

Uneducated, and spiraling into deep depression, Mildred was scared to even touch her children, afraid they might contract the virus. Her younger siblings - the ones she'd raised from birth - soon found themselves in a caretaker's role at only 10-years-old.

"What I saw was those kids starting to take care of themselves and my children the way I took care of them," she said. "And I promised them that I would never, never do that to them."

It was the wake-up call she needed. Mildred turned to a non-profit agency that offers support for adults living with HIV and AIDS.  At Friends for Life, she learned how to live – and love - again.

"I had to come off of this soapbox," she said. "I couldn't play the role of a victim forever."

Mildred credits Friends for Life with saving her life, and now travels to Washington DC every year to lobby for federal dollars to keep agencies like it alive.

She hopes her story inspires others faced with the insurmountable to find the will to survive.

"Falling down is the easy part," she said. "Getting up is the most important key."

You can help those living with HIV and AIDS in the Mid-South by supporting agencies like Friends for Life.


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