Breast milk donation more valuable than pageant crown for HIV+ mom

Former Miss Arizona contracted HIV, but received a very special gift from a friend when she gave birth.

PHOENIX - Twenty years ago, she was a shining example of the youth in Arizona. Erin Dolby was a classically trained pianist and would become Miss Arizona 1996.

The year after her reign ended, her life took a near-deadly turn.

In a first person-account,  she shared how she was able to rise above her demons and receive a gift from a dear friend that would help her raise her most precious possession -- her daughter, Rowyn -- to live a healthy life.

"I was Miss Arizona 1996 and when I relinquished my crown in 1997, I decided that I wanted to be a young woman without responsibility and fell into the grips of a bad drug addiction," Dolby said.

She says the downward spiral lasted 13 years, until she finally got help in 2010.

"About three weeks into the process, I had blood work done, and found out that I was HIV-positive as a direct result of some of the choices I made," she admitted.

She remembered saying to herself: "I'm dirty, I'm damaged, no one's going to love me. I'm going to die."

That's until she was sent in a new direction.

"One of my counselors came to my room and said, 'Hey Erin, my brother-in-law is HIV positive, this is what we're going to do.'" she said. "OK, well, this is a livable condition versus a deadly virus."

"They told me that I could have a very normal life. I could marry and not ever transmit the virus to my husband," Dolby said. "They told me that I could be a mother."

After three years of trying, Erin and her husband, David delivered a baby girl, Rowyn, nine months ago.

The only thing doctors said she couldn't do was breastfeed her newborn.

A plea on Facebook for a breast milk donation was answered by Valley mom Lindsey Corbin.

Corbin had been freezing a surplus of milk for her own children. She heard Dolby's story and was happy to provide breast milk for Erin's growing infant.

"She ended up feeding Rowyn for seven months with the milk she had pumped," Erin said. "And that's just a gift that I could never repay."

The AIDS Walk Arizona & 5K Run is open to all ages and dogs. Money raised helps support 16 Phoenix-area HIV organizations.

Visit the AIDS Walk website for more information.

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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