May is Hepatitis Awareness Month
Did you know that the month of May is Hepatitis Awareness month, and May 19th is Hepatitis Awareness/testing Day? Do you know someone living with Hepatitis C? If you are reading this, then the answer is YES.
My name is Sarah and I am the Co-Founder of Carolina Blogging. I am also a Hepatitis C Survivor and Warrior. Today marks a special day for me as it is the last of my monthly blood draw appointments, and also the day that I completed a 12 week treatment for Hepatitis C. My story is a unique one and I want to share it with you to help promote awareness and understanding of this silent disease and killer known as Hepatitis C.
My family started the 2015 new year with budget planning like almost everyone else does. One of the ways that my husband and I found to both supplement our income *and* help someone at the same time was to donate plasma. My husband would usually be the one to donate and I would stay home with the kids. Plasma helps everyone from burn victims, patients with blood clotting disorders, genetic emphysema, and rabies, tetanus, dialysis patients and organ transplant recipients. Did you ever imagine that sitting for 1 hour to donate plasma and getting paid for it could do so much good?
Let me tell you how donating plasma saved MY LIFE as the donor.
My husband went in to the plasma donation center earlier this year to learn that he was unable to donate due to a temporary pause with donors who have 3 or more tattoos. He has 4 to be exact. The plasma center was conducting a study to determine the number of donors who tested positive for Hepatitis versus the number of donors who have tattoos that tested positive. They were looking for the correlation between hepatitis and tattoos. With him not being able to donate, we simply just traded spots and I went instead. I was new to the plasma donation process and was told that the first donation would go for testing to ensure I met all of the appropriate requirements. This is where my life changed and I had not realized it.
About 2 weeks after my donation, I got a letter in the mail urging me to visit the plasma center sooner rather than later. I thought no big deal of it because I have a disorder called hereditary spherocytosis (which simply means my blood cells are shaped differently and I needed my spleen removed at an early age). It’s not uncommon for a doctor to take a moment of silence to read over my chart when I go for a routine physical. I usually get the generic statement of, “Oh. We read about this when I was in medical school years ago, and I am going to have to do some research”. So, with the letter in hand from the plasma center I went in on a Sunday afternoon and got news that no one wants to hear alone. I had trace markers for Hepatitis C and was no longer eligible to donate plasma and needed to seek immediate consultation with my primary physician.
My initial reactions as the plasma center medical assistant delivered the news were “You are wrong. This is a mistake. I have had tons of bloodwork done in the past. I do not meet any of the typical traits of a person who has contracted Hepatitis C“. As I sat there in a state of shock and anger, crazy thoughts started going through my head.
Should I turn to my spouse and blame him, was I infected when I had my children, did I contract the virus when I had surgery last year?
Can you imagine not knowing how you got Hepatitis? The answer is that you probably can not even put yourself in those shoes unless you have been diagnosed. The reason for this is because there is no real way to track back to exactly how you were infected with hepatitis. There are only favorable and non-favorable events in your past that you can look back on.
So here I am, crying in the office at the plasma center and assessing every single choice I made, doctors visit I had that included blood draws, and possible scenarios where I would have put myself in direct contact with Hepatitis. I am 33 years old and have had 4 major surgeries in my lifetime, 2 of which were c-sections with my children. I am not a drug abuser and I have been with my husband for 11 years. I went home in silence (partly because I had forgotten to grab my cellphone when I went to the plasma center) and partly because I needed to pray.
Are my kids infected, is my husband infected, will people treat me differently, do I even tell anyone about this, what happens if this is not curable?
These are all things that now had to be addressed. Not to mention the expenses I would soon incur from treatment. I quickly made an appointment with my primary physician and had my blood taken and tested again. Sure enough, positive for Hepatitis C, genotype 1b with a virus cell count of 62 million. I was then referred to my local gastroenterologist where I was given information about what I was dealing with and the treatment plan. I was also instructed to have my husband and children tested. As a mother, I can not describe to you the internal pain I felt as I held my children in my lap while sitting in that over-sized chair to have their blood drawn for testing. I held my babies still and tried as best I knew how to comfort them as the nurse used the smallest needle she had to draw their blood. She will never know this, but it was an answer to a prayer to walk in and see the person who would play such an important role in drawing blood to be an old friend from highschool. Prayer does work and that was a small sign that the good Lord above was telling me that everything was going to be OK.
My husband and children came back Hepatitis C negative. After receiving the news that they did not have to get treatment, I felt OK moving on to what came next. My story stops here as I have promised to share this with Connie over at LifeBeyondHepatitisC.com after my treatment ends. I will post here after we work together to launch our story to help support patients living with hepatitis c and the survivors too!
This leads me to the reason I wanted to share my story with you.
Can you help me promote Hepatitis Awareness month?
It will not cost you anything outside of a few minutes of your time to post on social media.
The CDC has put together a bunch of amazing buttons that you can post on your websites side bars and social media pages. You can view them HERE. There are also tons of resources available and you can view them by clicking HERE.
May 19th is Hepatitis Testing and Awareness Day and I will be promoting it on all of my social media sites. My story is unique, but perhaps will convince someone somewhere to get tested. If I can save one life from Hepatitis C, my story has meaning.