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Kristen's Story

Mesarat

Hi. My name is Kristen and I am a 32 year old single mom with Hepatitis C. I found out in the fall of 1998 after having donated blood for the first time. I got a letter about three weeks after the donation from the Health Department informing me that when my blood was screened, antibodies for HepC were detected. I am very thankful that I found out when I did. I always think that if I hadn’t decided to sign up for the blood drive, I’d still be in the dark.

I will say that when I got the letter from the Health Department, I couldn’t believe it. It sounds so cliché, I know, but I was convinced they’d made a mistake. I don’t fit any of the criteria. I’d never had a blood transfusion, and I didn’t have any tattoos. That only left sexually transmission, and from what I’ve read, it’s extremely rare to contract it this way. I’ve had doctors look at me with disbelief when I tell them it’s the only possibility. I don’t know how to explain it either.

Shortly after I got the letter from the Health Department, I visited my PCP and she had labs drawn. My enzymes were perfectly normal and I was asymptomatic, so she suggested that I get my enzymes checked every six months, use protection and take good care of myself. I pretty much forgot about having it.

In 2000, I switched doctors and had my liver enzymes and viral count checked. Both were normal and my new PCP told me that I was “one of the fortunate few…that about 15% of all who are exposed to HepC pass the virus and all that remains are the antibodies.” He even told me that checking my enzymes on a regular basis wasn’t necessary because I didn’t have the virus anymore…just the antibodies, and that I was better off than the average person because if I were to be exposed again, I’d already have the antibodies to fight it. That sounded so wonderful that I didn’t bother to check the validity of what he was saying (pretty naïve, I know). I told my family to quit worrying! and soon forgot about it (again).

It all came back to roost this February. I’d had a swollen lymph node for three weeks that was very painful, but no accompanying cold or sore throat. My new PCP (don’t you just love HMO’s?) had labs drawn again. She did tell me that she didn’t like the way my lymph nodes “felt”. They didn’t feel the way she’d expected them to feel. Additionally, I’d mysteriously lost about 15 pounds through no credit to me. I could tell she was worried, but I didn’t think much about it.

This time, my liver enzymes weren’t normal. She scheduled an appointment with a GI who then ordered another round of liver enzymes and a viral count. Ironically, my enzymes were now normal, but my viral count was 20,000,000 (yeah, you read that right — twenty million).

That was last Monday (May 10, 2004). I still feel fine, but little things that never made sense suddenly do: 1) For the past three years, I have had pitting edema in my ankles, which gets very bad in the summer; 2) I’m tired all the time, which I had chalked up to having a very precocious child under the age of 10; and 3) I often have blood sugar problems.

Last week I had labs drawn to establish the genotype of my virus which will help to determine what type of treatment I am to proceed with. Next week, my biopsy is scheduled so they can find out if there is any damage.

The completely ironic thing about all of this is that I am very passionate about organ donation. I wanted more than anything to be able to donate my organs after I die. Now I can’t do that and it breaks my heart. For those who are family members or friends, please consider donation. That corny ad line “The gift of life” isn’t so corny now.

Other than being very scared about starting interferon, I’m doing well. Thank you for reading my story.


Kristen L. Stevens

“I’m convinced that Chopin too would dig samba if he had the chance to groove.”

 

 

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    Page last updated: July 5, 2004


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