FIRST PERSON | As reported by HealthDay, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending all Americans born between 1945-1965 get tested for the liver disease Hepatitis C. The CDC estimates 1 in 30 people born during these 'baby boomer' years are infected with this potentially deadly disease and most of them don't even know it. As a nurse, I can tell you that while your liver is quite a resilient organ, Hepatitis C can damage the liver to the point where a transplant becomes necessary.
But as the daughter of a man who died from complications related to Hepatitis C, I can tell you the CDC warning comes heartbreakingly too late.
My father was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2003 at age 53. He had no idea he was infected until he was rejected for a life insurance policy. By the time he was diagnosed, his liver was so diseased his only chance for survival was a transplant. We never knew how dad contacted Hepatitis C or how long he had been infected for. We only knew the clock was ticking on his life.
For the rest of 2003 right up until he died in May 2005, the race was on to make my father's body healthy enough to receive a new liver. Doctor visits occurred weekly. Alcohol was banned and healthy, nutrient-dense foods became the staple of family dinners. Even spiritual guidance was sought by a man who rarely attended mass. Things were slowly going in my father's favor.
Then one day I received a phone call from my uncle who told me there had been a car accident and my father was dead. He died from internal bleeding. It was only until a few years ago while in nursing school that I realized the connection between my father's cause of death and Hepatitis C. One of the many functions of our liver is to make enzymes that help our blood clot. Without these enzymes, any bleeding episode could prove deadly. My father's ailing liver could not stop the bleeding.
Would my father still be alive had the CDC issued its warning sooner? Perhaps. Or perhaps he would have shrugged it off as media hype and hysteria. In any event, he is no longer with us. As his daughter, I can only speak to him the words of late Beatle George Harrison: What I feel I can't say, but my love is there for you any time of day.
But as a nurse, I can tell you this: don't ignore the CDC's warning.
J Budd is a registered nurse and former radio broadcast journalist.
- Infectious Diseases
- liver disease
- Centers for Disease Control