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<v Gwyneth Gamble Booth>Good evening, I'm Gwyneth Gamble Booth. <v Jim Swenson>And I'm Jim Swenson. Welcome to this special edition of Front Street Weekly. Tonight, we're going to devote the entire half hour to a personal look at the devastation of AIDS and the emotional changes that its victims go through as they confront the ultimate reality of the disease. <v Gwyneth Gamble Booth>Reporter Rod Minott and photographer Steve Gosson show us the courage and concerns of residents of a unique home in Portland for those dying of the disease. We want to caution you, tonight's program contains material some might find objectionable. <v Speaker>[coughing].
<v Speaker>Corky, Corky, come here, come here, Corky. Up, up. Come on. Play dead, all the way play dead. <v Rod Minott>It's morning at the Juniper House. <v Wayne Oros>Down. Doing them all over. <v Rod Minott>While, bed ridden Wayne Oros has trained Corky, the house dog, to do these tricks. <v Wayne Oros>That was real good. <v Rod Minott>Wayne is dying of AIDS. <v Wayne Oros>OK, down. <v Rod Minott>So are the other four residents of Juniper. <v Wayne Oros>One more time. <v Rod Minott>Where waking up means having survived another night. <v Speaker>Oh your hot chocolate, it's getting warmed up. Is that what you want is your hot chocolate? OK. <v Speaker>Want your coffee? You can drink your milk. <v Speaker>I'll drink my milk. <v Speaker>OK, has your bed been changed? <v Speaker>Yes ma'am. <v Rod Minott>From day to day, they struggle to keep what little health and independence they have left. Each patient here is in the mid to later stages of AIDS, a disease that's destroying their body's ability to fight off infections. There is no cure. Death will come slowly, painfully. Any hour, any day can bring a turn for the worse.
<v Pat Boston>Extremely unpredictable, extremely unpredictable. It's one day they'll be doing very well, the next day they'll be unable to walk or unable to feed themselves or unable to to move. <v Rod Minott>They have lost their jobs, their income, their health insurance, and they are now on public assistance. With nowhere else to go, they have come here. Juniper is a place for them to die with dignity. No high tech, life prolonging measures are used. <v Jan Weyeneth>I'm glad to see you're eating. <v Speaker>[inaudible] <v Jan Weyeneth>Juniper house gives these people a home, you know, and love and their- and meet their care needs, you know that within an environment that isn't isolate them and make them feel rejected or dirty or so on. <v Rod Minott>Rejected, like Jerry Coffman, who says his father beat him up because of his homosexuality. Some, like Jerry, have been abandoned by families. <v Jerry Coffman>Well, I know where my daughter is now, so.
<v Rod Minott>Others end up here because friends, families or lovers can't afford the strain of providing 24 hour care. If there was no Juniper, most here would probably face their final days alone in apartments, hospitals or maybe even some seedy downtown hotel. All of the patients here are either gay or bisexual men. AIDS, however, is not a gay disease. Juniper opened in May of last year and was the first of its kind in the northwest. It remains one of only a handful of such care homes in the country. It runs mostly on volunteer power, gets its funding from state and private dollars. As the number of AIDS cases continues to climb, experts say more Juniper's will be needed. Care here is as much as two thirds cheaper than a hospital stay. <v Speaker>[song on tv plays: The Way iy Is by Bruce Hornsby & The Range]
<v Rod Minott>Meet some of the residents of Juniper, people like JD, whose crumpled body is now confined to a wheelchair. Several weeks ago he was walking, his will to live now measured by the simple flicking of a cigarette. <v Wayne Oros>When you're done, you're done. That's it. <v Rod Minott>Wayne is a former businessman and minister. He moved in last summer after friends found him passed out in his apartment. He was living alone. <v Wayne Oros>You have all that much that's [inaudible] then the gateway. <v Rod Minott>AIDS has seized Wayne's body. His muscles have literally melted away from bedrest. He doesn't eat much, has bouts of diarrhea and now weighs only one hundred and fourteen pounds. <v Wayne Oros>The way I feel about it is, is that it's affecting my muscles and the muscle tone, but it hasn't stopped me breathing yet.
<v Rod Minott>Hasn't destroyed his spirit either. Wayne's out outlived one roommate and five other Juniper residents. The fact he is still alive has amazed others in the house. Wayne accepts that he will die and draws much of his strength from the Bible. <v interviewer>Are you at peace? <v Wayne Oros>Yes. Yes, I am. And like I say, no matter what happens. If I gasp my last breath at one o'clock today, I'll feel as though I've done what I'm supposed to, and that's it, no more. And so he must have somebody else to replace me and whatever, you know, so I feel I feel happy because then I'll find out what's on the other side. <v Rod Minott>What Juniper offers is comfort, not a cure. Some of that comes in pills dispensed around the clock, painkillers, anti-depressants, antibiotics, and pills to control seizures.
<v Pat Boston>A little red one and a funny little pinkish green one, pinkish-gray one and-. <v Rod Minott>Wayne's pain is so fierce it can knock him out for days. <v Wayne Oros>That's the roughest pill I've ever had to take in my life. I have a very bad digestive system now. The pain is always there always has been right from the beginning. It's just that some days it's more tolerable than others. It's what the pain medication that they're here for. <v Jan Weyeneth>OK. <v Wayne Oros>You want-. <v Jan Weyeneth>I want your left arm. <v Rod Minott>Wayne also needs daily shots to control vomiting. A problem partly caused by neurological damage from AIDS. Having AIDS has helped Wayne reunite with his family. For years, his sister wouldn't talk to him. But last fall she flew out from Michigan to visit. So did his mom and dad. There are nights now Wayne says when he wakes up in tears thinking about them, wishing there could be one more visit to say goodbye.
<v Wayne Oros>I know my mom and my dad and my sister, uh. I know my brothers, my three brothers, they- they care, it's just the grief that they'll be going through, you know, after I'm gone. But I would like to pass. Seen them all too. Excuse me. <v Rod Minott>He once was a chef in Los Angeles. Now, John, he spends his days lying in bed, no longer able to cook. John has severe dementia. You could mistake it for Alzheimer's, except that John is only 42 years old. The AIDS virus or some other infection related to the disease is believed to be in his brain. He came to Juniper last fall after friends noticed odd changes in his behavior. One of them will call Michael his voice and face, we've disguised.
<v Michael>Evidently one day, he'd gone to his classes wandering around the falls for a little bit. Wandered out and I didn't know where he went and he drove around for hours not knowing where was, who he was, or what he was doing. Finally ended up on the front porch of a friend. [inaudible] how he found that location and trying to park his car and banging in the car in front of him behind him and the neighbors came out and helped him and he couldn't even remember who to call, you know, for help. <v Juniper Staff>Hello. <v Speaker>[dog barking]. <v Rod Minott>It's believed that Lee Miller also has AIDS dementia, but his isn't as bad. At some point, most AIDS patients will develop dementia. A hairdresser, Lee began forgetting things on the job and was forced to quit. He knows his mind is slipping away. He's attempted suicide twice. All he wants now, he says, is to live long enough for a cure.
<v Lee Miller>I need help. I'm not. Um, the disease affects- affected me in a different manner. It's eating my brain up and I get confused and get paranoid and I get fears of being outside. <v Rod Minott>Despite his fears, Lee still forces himself to take busses to downtown Portland, he wants to stay active. It's his way of fighting the disease. <v interviewer>Isn't that scary for you when you're riding that bus? <v Lee Miller>Yes. Yea I'm scared. Because I've gotten lost that way, but I try to have the best drivers tell me where to get off. I write down where I'm going to go to start out because I know that I can sometimes just forget what I'm doing. <v Rod Minott>Today, Lee goes to the library in search of books about AIDS to study up on the disease. He knows he faces death. He just doesn't know when it will come. In the books, he searches for clues.
<v Lee Miller>It's important to me because I can learn about myself and learn about my sickness. I have to know the symptoms. If I'm really weak and [inaudible] or people are just saying that, I've gotta know myself. I am afraid to I don't want to be a vegetable. OK? And by not doing things for yourself and by giving up and just having people wait on you. [Lee on video: I give up.] You become a vegetable. [Lee on video: I know]. I want to live like everyone else does, but if I am going to die, I might as well give them a hard time while I'm doing it. <v Wayne Oros>Now you have to have a Milky Way, mama said. Now here's two, three, two, Milky Way and a one Three Musketeers. <v child>I want that one.
<v Rod Minott>To Andrew, DJ, and Melissa, children of one of the Juniper's staffers, he's uncle Wayne. <v Wayne Oros>Now don't spoil your lunch. <v children>I know. <v Wayne Oros>It's so nice to hear, you know, [inaudible] that wasn't- it's me. And they know, too, that I have candy and so they get a piece of candy if it could. <v Speaker>[tv in background] <v Juniper Staff>Do you want them clipped? Filed. <v Rod Minott>Volunteers and staff understand the risks of getting AIDS and take precautions to protect themselves. They know the virus can't be transmitted by casual contact. Juniper's staffers like Pat Boston say they have no fears. <v Pat Boston>And if can take the proper precautions that you don't put yourself at risk, you can hug them, you can touch them, you can talk to them, you can laugh with them, you can cry with them. And it's not going to- it's going to hurt, but it's not going to kill you. <v Speaker>[chatter of Juniper staff] <v Rod Minott>Pat's bigger concern is keeping patients comfortable. There are times when she feels helpless.
<v Pat Boston>It's not fair. It's not being able to understand why is this happening or how can I take it away or how can I make it better? If I was the good fairy I'd wave my magic wand, but I'm not the good fairy, and so I just have to take it along with the rest of them. <v Rod Minott>Pain and fright can come in simply being moved. John is coming back from a doctor's appointment at a nearby hospital. When a patient like John leaves his bed, life can be pure hell. <v John Heath>Ah. Oh, oh, oh. <v Juniper Staff>Here you go. <v John Heath>oh, Oh my leg. <v Juniper Staff>Mm hmm <v John Heath>Oh goly Jesus Christ. Mary Mother of God. <v Speaker>[happy birthday song] <v Rod Minott>Birthdays take on special meaning at Juniper. <v Juniper Staff>There you go sweetheart. <v Rod Minott>For patients, it's a time to forget the pain, a time to remember how to laugh again.
<v Speaker>[Happy Birthday Song and laughter] <v Rod Minott>The laughter doesn't last for long. There's been a death, not one, but two. J.D. and Barry, who live in the Assisi House, a neighboring home also owned by Juniper. It's the first time two have died on the same day. Even days later, tension, tears and fright linger. For Pat it's the first time she's lost a resident. <v Pat Boston>I was there when John passed away and I was the one that said set, OK. He's gone now, [nine] months, it's over, and that was real hard. And then I was I was there when they came. The mortician- the mortuary came and got him and I was the last one to cradle his head. And I wouldn't have anybody take that away from me for anything. And now I'm going to cry. [cries].
<v Wayne Oros>We all know that this is, you know, his road is finished. But I told him I'm a little bit disturbed, at you, J.G. Of course he's not hearing this because he's out. I'm a little disturbed about um, about you, change because you're the next one and it's- you're beating me up there. And so just clear a path for me when I come by. So I didn't say goodbye to him or anything. I just s- so long until we see each other again. <v Jerry Coffman>I didn't know. I have no idea that Barry was dying at all, and it caused me to have other seizures from it. <v Rod Minott>At the Assasi house right next door, Barry's death came as a shock. He'd recently moved in and no one realized how close to death he was. Assisi was supposedly set up for those less sick with the AIDS virus. It marked the first loss in the House. In this discussion group led by a volunteer nurse. There was fear among the residents and the dark thought that perhaps one of them could be next. Some faces and voices have been disguised to protect identities.
<v Assisi Resident>Maybe I live in a bubble, but I thought people don't die here. They die next door. That's a reality there. <v nurse>So as long as you're over here, you're safe? <v Assisi Resident>Right, but I- no, don't know. I don't I don't think I don't think that because I go any day I could go. But, you know, the four of us we had we've never really made a home here. But I thought during [inaudible], I mean, I just figured that it would be the four of us, you know, not forever but, you know, for a long time. <v Assisi Resident 2>Oh. <v Assisi Resident>I think we do have to have to have a party here. <v Assisi Resident 2>Yeah, because that's what I was [Resident 1: we can wash that all away] going to say. You know, the happiness in this house will come down. If that-. <v Assisi Resident>Yeah, we-. <v Assisi Resident 2>you know, but we have to bring it about. <v Wayne Oros>Let's see. First of all, uh, to my family, goes the deer hanging on the wall, rings, watches. I have a yellow T-shirt.
<v Rod Minott>Wayne has already planned for his death. He drew up a will long ago. <v Wayne Oros>-And a blue T-shirt with Oregon on it. Uh, I would like the following done in a funeral or a memorial, the cremation, in partly because you can't transfer a body without it being cremated or enbalmed over the state line. So it's going to be cremated. It goes back to Michigan, where they're going to have, uh this, uh, services back there with all my relatives near. <v Rod Minott>Lee now realizes he'd better write a will too. Something he hopes to work out today when his brother visits. <v Lee Miller>I don't believe in cremating, so. <v Rod Minott>Wayne says last fall, his doctor predicted he wouldn't live more than six months. With one week to go, he's already arranging a victory party to celebrate surviving.
<v Wayne Oros>And so the 11th of March will be the sixth month. So I've got to look what- oh good its on a Friday too, weekend. Good. So I'll be looking towards that next. Let's see, today's the third. Yeah. I got eight days to go. <v interviewer>And you expect to be-. <v Wayne Oros>Still here. You better believe it. <v Rod Minott>Lee waits for his family to drive up from Salem to help get his finances in order. He is anxious and depressed. He spent all of yesterday waiting by the window for them only to realize later it was the wrong day. <v Lee Miller>I don't know where everything is this morning. I thought I was all organized. And now when my brother comes, I don't know.
<v Lee's sister-in-law>This is a nice room isn't it?. <v Lee Miller>Yeah, it's nice room. <v Rod Minott>Lee's mom, sister in law and brother soon arrive, it's their first visit since Lee moved into Juniper. At first he tried hiding his illness from the family, fearing they'd reject him. There was shock, but also support. This is what his mother told him. <v Orpha Amunds>What you have to me is no disgrace. I said, it happens to many people, they get it many ways. So I said, um, to... For you. We don't want you to feel that way because we love you just as much now as we did before. And you need your family. <v Bob>Now has your brain shrunk any more than it was? They said it was- last time they said it was a size of a eighty eighty five year old man. Now has it went any more than that or not? <v Lee Miller>Well, they said it was going to continue to shrink about-. <v Bob>Continue to deteriorate? <v Lee Miller>Yeah. <v Rod Minott>Lee has been trying to get Social Security disability benefits to help pay for his care. In fact, he's been trying for two years now. He's been turned down twice. The latest just a few weeks ago. Even though his doctor had already diagnosed him with AIDS and said he was unemployable. Now he's had to file an appeal. More papers and red tape that confuse and distresse Lee. Today, brother Bob loses his patience.
<v Bob>I have a feeling that get what the AIDS problem that they have, they figured that some of the AIDS patients are going to die before they ever approve their benefits. That's what I think I. I think the government is just saying, OK, we'll turn him down two or three times and we'll save money this way. In the meantime, somebody- they die and then they don't have to give them any benefits. That's what I think. <v Speaker>[coughing in the background]. <v Rod Minott>John is near death. His last rites were given in the morning. For the past several days, friends and staff have been comforting him around the clock. His cries of pain now quieted by morphine. In the next room, they celebrate another birthday. <v Pat Boston>I'll be glad when he's in heaven because he'll be a whole lot more comfortable than he is now. I mean, it's not, not comfortable to be bedridden and have leg pain and and be congested and not being able to breathe and have a fever and can't get rid of it. And he's fought the good fight. But, you know, he's ready to go to God and, you know, I'll miss him, but I'll be glad when he's there.
<v Rod Minott>Six hours later, John Heath passed away, the sixteenth resident to die at Juniper. It's the morning after John's death and Wayne has survived his doctor's prediction. <v interviewer>The 11th. <v Wayne Oros>It is isn't it? Well, proved them wrong, didn't I? Once more, I got to call my mother. She'd be very happy to s- hear that. <v Rod Minott>Tonight he'll celebrate with his victory party. For now, he remembers John. <v Wayne Oros>It's a blessing that he's arms up today. I'm so happy. That's good.
<v Rod Minott>Are you happy where you're at today? <v Wayne Oros>Am I happy? Well, Yes, I am. Oh, sure. I like parties and I'm having one tonight. <v Wayne Oros>I would like-. <v child>this is a great pie cake <v Wayne Oros>To make a toast. <v Rod Minott>That night Wayne celebrates with friends and I thank the Dear Lord that this is my victory party for the third time and not only to my victory, but also I'd like to be reminded that John and I toast to him as well. <v Rod Minott>Wayne and other Junipe residents know their time will come and that others wait to move in here. But tonight, victory is more real than anything else. <v Juniper Resident>You beat them again, huh?
Front Street Weekly
Episode Number
No. 723
Juniper House: In Search of Comfort
Producing Organization
Oregon Public Broadcasting
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
"'Juniper House' chronicles life and death at a Hospice House in Portland for needy AIDS patients. This documentary, shot over a five-week period, portrays how AIDS patients cope from day-to-day with the inevitability of premature death. It focuses on their hopes, fears, setbacks and victories. As such, it is a compelling story about the personal search for comfort that all AIDS patients face. "The program merits Peabody consideration because it provides an inside look at the lives of those suffering from this well-known, but often misunderstood, disease. Demystifying the seriousness and pain of AIDS helps the public realize the pressing need to work for its elimination in our lifetime."--1988 Peabody Awards entry form. The program follows Juniper residents such as Wayne Oro, who has outlived his doctor's predictions but his health continues to decline. Also, Lee Miller, who suffers from dementia but forces himself to take busses downtown to stay active. The documentary also discusses with the Juniper staff their experiences and perspective on the residents and coping with death.
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Producing Organization: Oregon Public Broadcasting
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Duration: 0:26:34
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Chicago: “Front Street Weekly; No. 723; Juniper House: In Search of Comfort,” 1988-04-26, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Front Street Weekly; No. 723; Juniper House: In Search of Comfort.” 1988-04-26. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Front Street Weekly; No. 723; Juniper House: In Search of Comfort. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from