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Rocket Man Falls and Returns

Ryan White

Elton was feeling lost, living without hope or direction. He began to look out at the rest of the world to find something meaningful. For Elton, inspiration came from a young boy named Ryan White.

Ryan White was diagnosed as a hemophiliac—a person whose blood does not clot—when he was only three years old. Hemophiliacs are at high risk of death from small injuries, which can cause extensive bleeding that the body cannot stop. Tragically, when Ryan was young, medical science did not understand the AIDS virus, or how it was contracted.

In 1984, after surgery due to complications from pneumonia, Ryan White found out that he had contracted AIDS, a disease that breaks down the body's immune system until it can no longer fight off even small illnesses like the common cold. He was given only a few months to live. However, Ryan was a fighter, and as the months passed his will to live increased. Even while Ryan fought the disease, he also had to fight discrimination. Unfortunately, people were still very uneducated about AIDS, and so Ryan suffered many prejudices. In his hometown, neighbors and kids harassed him and rallied for him to be kicked out of school.

Elton John was well informed of the mounting AIDS crisis across the United States and throughout the world. Ryan's story tugged at his heart and spurred Elton to action. Splitting the bills with Michael Jackson, Elton covered Ryan's medical expenses. Elton was at Ryan's bedside when he died in 1990. He performed at Ryan's funeral and soon after checked himself into a drug and alcohol treatment center. He also announced to the world that he was gay.

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesElton JohnRocket Man Falls and Returns - Losing John Lennon, Jump Up!, Elton Gets Married, Fun Fact!, Ryan White, The Elton John Aids Foundation - Back on the Rise