She died right after I took this picture. It was a year ago. Rhonda’s from Jamestown, New York — near Buffalo. Her partner was Dan. I knew her arm was bad but she would never show me all of it. She would lift her sleeve just a little bit to show me the edge of it. I tried for months to get her to go to the hospital to treat it. But she was so afraid of getting dope sick. One guy told me being dope sick is like having the flu ten times over and then getting hit by a truck. So a lot of addiction is just avoiding the dope sick. One day, I ran into Rhonda and Dan. She had been bitten on the foot by a rat, and she said, I’ll go to the hospital. And I’ll let you take the photo now, so that maybe it will help someone else. She took off her sweater and showed me. I took the picture and brought her to the hospital, and she died a week later. She was 34 years old. She was a really beautiful person. She had a very loyal group of people who would give her money when she panhandled. She looked very destitute on the street, so she made a lot of money. Sometimes she says she made up to $300 a day, because people felt sorry for her. (Women make a lot more than men, because people just feel sorry for them.) And it all went to heroin. People liked her. But underneath her sweater, she was being eaten away. I had to take that photo, because I wanted to show what could happen to people. To get Rhonda into the hospital, I had to take her to the West Side of Chicago to buy dope first. Rhonda shot up into that mass of flesh in her arm, right in the back seat of my car, then we went to the hospital. The infection travelled through her bloodstream into her heart, so she died of blood infection — MRSA infection. I thought she was gonna make it. The hospital gave me the news early one morning. I had to find Dan and tell him.

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