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 hadnt decided to sign up for the blood drive,
Id still be in the dark.
I will say that
when I got the letter from the Health Department, I couldnt
believe it. It sounds so cliché, I know, but I was
convinced theyd made a mistake. I dont fit any
of the criteria. Id never had a blood transfusion, and
I didnt have any tattoos. That only left sexually transmission,
and from what Ive read, its extremely rare to
contract it this way. Ive had doctors look at me with
disbelief when I tell them its the only possibility.
I dont 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
wasnt necessary because I didnt have the virus
just the antibodies, and that I was better off
than the average person because if I were to be exposed again,
Id already have the antibodies to fight it. That sounded
so wonderful that I didnt 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. Id had a swollen lymph node
for three weeks that was very painful, but no accompanying
cold or sore throat. My new PCP (dont you just love
HMOs?) had labs drawn again. She did tell me that she
didnt like the way my lymph nodes felt.
They didnt feel the way shed expected them to
feel. Additionally, Id mysteriously lost about 15 pounds
through no credit to me. I could tell she was worried, but
I didnt think much about it.
This time, my liver
enzymes werent 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
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) Im 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.
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 cant 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 isnt so corny now.
Other than being
very scared about starting interferon, Im doing well.
Thank you for reading my story.
Kristen L. Stevens
convinced that Chopin too would dig samba if he had the chance
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