For Mother’s Day, we want to highlight the impact of one local mother, on her now famous son, their family, and the world.
Back in 1990, doctors told Julie Lewis, a mother of three young children, she had three to five years to live. She beat the odds and with the help of her family is now determined to pay it forward.
If you would like support the No Mom Left Behind 2017 Campaign click here: No Mom Left Behind
To learn more about the 30/30 Project click here: 30/30 Project
Her 29 year old son, Ryan Lewis, is one half of Gammy winning music duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Starting at age six, Ryan was told his mother may not be alive to see him grow up.
Lewis says, “I think when you’re that young what registers is the dangers, or this could happen. That’s all that you know, it’s scary.”
In 1984, Julie Lewis had a difficult delivery during the birth of her first child, Teresa. It was one year before the state of Washington began testing donated blood for HIV. Through a blood transfusion, Julie contracted the deadly virus.
She was just 32 years old when diagnosed.
All three young children, and her husband Scott, had a high risk of contracting the virus.
“When I got my second test which was a confirmation test that I was indeed HIV positive," Julie says,"The same day I found out that the rest of my family wasn’t. So it was kind of a relief on some level that it was just me.”
She adds, “A doctor tells you, you have three to five years if you’re lucky. It dons on you that I’m not going to see my kids get out of grade school, much less graduate from high school.”
Her husband Scott recalls, “The determination that Julie had in being able to recognize in these three (referring to their children), that there’s a lot to live for. To just give it every shot that she could.”
She gave it every shot and then some. Julie and the family got involved in the HIV/AIDS community in Spokane where they lived, at a time when going public carried a stigma. Even when sick, she fought to be functioning mother for her kids.
“I really didn’t want my kids to remember me like that. Even if I died. I didn’t want them to think of me as a sick mom,” Julie says.
Ryan adds, “My mom is really strong. I don’t think a lot of people are that strong. It’s one thing to to keep your health and persevere and live for 33 years with HIV/Aids. Its’s another thing to be positive and be a normal mom throughout the whole time. It’s a little unbelievable.”
Equally unbelievable, in 2014, on Julie’s 30 year anniversary of living with HIV, the Lewis family made a decision to launch the 30/30 Project. A non-profit raising money and creating partnerships to build 30 health care facilities around the world, that stand for at least 30 years. In places where people, many of whom are battling HIV/AIDS are desperate for quality healthcare. For the second straight year, the Lewis family and the 30/30 project have launched the “No Mom Left Behind” campaign this Mother’s Day.
“We can do something. We have a platform so we’re using it,” says Julie's middle daughter Laura Irwin.
They’re now in the process of building the ninth medical center in Africa and Asia. A recent fundraiser brought in enough money for three more facilities. Julie's oldest daughter Teresa Hillis has now joined the 30/30 Project, as the organization's director.
“It’s very inspiring for me, it’s my dream job, honestly,” Teresa says.
With Mother's Day here, for the Lewis family, it's a time for reflection. About the mother who had to question if she’d be here to see her kids grow up. She did. Julie Lewis never thought she'd be around to experience grandchildren. She now has four.
Speaking of his mother's strength to live with HIV and improve health care around the world, Ryan says,“I’m not surprised.”
His sister Teresa adding, “Because of this tragedy in our family, something none of us would have chosen, we get to wake up and make a difference in other people’s lives, and my mom is the one who inspires that in all of us.”
Which just may be the best mother’s day gift of all.