If you’re a regular reader of TheCli3nt.com, you know I am a hemophiliac. Three times a week, I inject (called infusing) a medication called Kogenate FS. Kogenate gives me the factor of my blood I am missing, the missing factor is what makes me a hemophiliac.
What you might not know is that my formative years were during the 80s, a period of time known in the bleeding disorder community as the “Hemocaust.” This was when the pharmaceutical companies allowed HIV-tainted medication to be sold to hemophiliacs. The result was the death of more than 10,000 of my brothers and sisters.
Those years were hard for me. Every infusion was akin to playing Russian Roulette. “Will I get HIV with this infusion?” Many, MANY times, I lied to my mom; and instead of infusing, I would flush my factor down the toilet or into the sink. Going to hemophilia camp every summer was depressing; every summer meant one last brother to hang out with. Eventually I stopped being involved with the community.
A few years ago I came back to the community and I am glad I did. In addition to founding BleedFree, Inc. and helping make life a little better for my little brothers and sisters, I have met some really great people. This is an interview with one of them.
Hemophiliac, author (read his book, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C), and fellow geek, Vaughn Ripley has quickly become one of my heroes, role models, and inspiration. Vaughn wrestled with Hepatitis C, which he beat after enduring a yearlong battle with medicine. He has also fought and continues to fight for thirty-plus years in a battle with HIV and AIDS.
Vaughn is one of the longest surviving HIV+ people in the universe. He and his wife went through many hardships and tribulations to finally have two children; their daughter, Trinity, and their son, Xander, via in vitro fertilization.
Vaughn has spent time racing motorcycles on the street and track. He excelled at rock climbing for more than eight years and has attempted to climb Mount Rainier three times. He ran in and completed the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon, raising more than $3,500 for AIDS care-giving and research. He is a certified personal trainer and unwaveringly works out to stay healthy, fit, and trim (holding in the top three of last year’s Ultimate Men’s Health Guy Search contest). Along with his adrenaline and fitness related hobbies, Vaughn is also an avid guitarist with a thirst for musical theory. In his spare time, Vaughn enjoys writing, playing the guitar, weight lifting, mountain biking, four wheeling, and dabbling in poker.
The Cli3nt: Who are you?
Vaughn Ripley: I’m Vaughn Ripley. I’m also a type A mild hemophiliac who contracted HIV and hepatitis C in the 80s. However, that does not define me.
Which three people (famous or otherwise) would you most like to invite to a dinner party?
Elvis Presley (imagine how much he would add to a party), Albert Einstein, and Nicola Tesla.
What’s your favorite animal and why?
Rhinoceros – because it is the baddest and hardest animal on the planet. Unfortunately, we have lost the Northern White Rhino, which was my favorite… This is because mankind are asshats.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your life and how have you overcome it?
Wow! Leverage to hold against me? hehe… Not doing more with my free education and then college. I now know how much I love learning, and wish I had done MUCH more when I was younger. I have overcome it by continuing to learn and utilize Kaizen to improve myself each day.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Another tough one… Do I tell about the time I surfed on the roof of a delivery van on the highway? Or, swan dived off an 80 foot cliff? Or, maybe simply traditional lead rock climbing on a regular basis. I guess the biggest risk I’ve ever taken is my third attempt on Mount Rainier. We ran into -40 degree weather (with windchill) and gusts up to 100 MPH. That felt risky…
What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?
My family. Simply having a wonderful wife and children despite the odds stacked against me.
What advice do you have for our little blood brothers and sisters?
Live life and enjoy everything about it. That may sound cliche, but I mean it. Don’t be held back. That said, you must be responsible (able to respond) for your actions and understand that each and every choice has ramifications and potential pitfalls. Weigh your decisions by including your bleeding disorder and then choose based on your brain, heart, and gut. Go for it!
If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, would you still have hemophilia?
Absolutely. Hemophilia has helped to build my character and moral compass. It made me the man I am today.
What is your favorite music genre?
Heavy metal. Oh, and gangster rap. Hmm… I also love classic rock. I never turn down a session listening to Beethoven, Chopin, or Tchaikovsky too. Lest we forget blues!!! I love it all. A better question would be, which music genre is your least favorite? In which case I would say, Country.
What teacher in school made the most impact on you and why?
Mrs. what’s-her-name in third grade. Why is because she was hot!
How do you spend your free time?
Writing, lifting, riding my bicycle, running, swimming, hanging with my family, trying to juggle all of my side stuff. I also like to play the guitar and dabble on computers (I’m a geek by nature).
What are your top three favorite books and why?
On the Road by Jack Kerouac is the greatest work of fiction ever written (in my humble opinion). The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen is simply brilliant and inspirational. And, Money Master the Game by Tony Robbins is the best financial advice I’ve ever read (I’ve read many).
I want to thank Vaughn for the time and the privilege of interviewing him. In a couple of days I will be following up with an interview with one of my little blood brothers, Johnny R., so be sure to visit TheCli3nt.com regularly.