Living with hepatitis C

Get tested—it could save your life

In 1979, during an emergency C-section, I required a blood transfusion. It resulted in my being infected with hepatitis C.

At that time donated blood was not yet screened for infectious diseases, and hepatitis C was more than a decade away from being identified. When I first began to have symptoms the general consensus was that, while I was indeed ill, the cause could not be determined, and physicians could only recommend continued bed rest.

For nearly three decades I was intermittently plagued with extreme emotional ups and downs, abdominal ailments that could never be identified, and an immune system that was slowly losing the fight. Life eventually became so unmanageable I was placed on permanent disability.

Through the disability process I met Dr. Abdullah Al-Dwairi, a local physician with one of the highest success rates in the nation for the treatment of hepatitis C. I’m blessed that after many months of treatment I am now officially considered “cured” of the infection.

There really aren’t words to describe the impact hepatitis C has had on my life. I’ve lost many relationships (friends, family, loved ones) as well as career opportunities and employment. It completely changed who I thought I was, and, very likely, the person I was meant to be.

The reality of hepatitis C is staggering. It is estimated that more than 4 million people in the United States are infected, and in Butte County alone an estimated 4,000 people have hepatitis C. Neither of these statistics includes the homeless or incarcerated population. Hepatitis C is the No. 1 reason for all liver transplants performed today, the No. 1 cause of liver cancer, and is currently the most common blood-borne infection in the U.S. It is passed along primarily through contaminated blood products, shared needles during IV drug use, and unsafe tattooing and/or piercing practices.

One of the most frightening facts of this disease is that the majority of people with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection and can be ill for 20 to 30 years before ever having any symptoms.

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. I would urge anyone, even if you don’t believe you are at risk, to be tested. If you know, or even suspect, that you may have been exposed to or infected with hepatitis C, absolutely be tested and seek treatment. I know from my own experience how overwhelming and frightening this can be, but I also know, for a fact, that it could change your life—even save it.