The Hepatitis C Frontline: Liver Transplants
Last updated: June 2023
Part 2: Celebrating the Small Wins
All names and identifying information have been changed to protect the integrity and anonymity of the persons in the story- consent has been given to relay this story
The effects of a long-term hepatitis C infection in the body are devastating. The swollen belly, confusion, jaundice, and pain plagued David* and as each day passed, his symptoms worsened. The cirrhosis he had acquired from his long-term hepatitis C infection was killing him. As his support worker, I felt so helpless. David and his partner Patricia* had been to dozens of doctors’ appointments that we hoped would result in a new liver for David. The physicians warned David that the chances were slim and there was no timeline to follow for when he could expect a transplant.
Worsening hep C symptoms
David and Patricia had been together for many years, and for most of them, Patricia acted as David’s caretaker. Every week there was a noticeable decline. David could no longer communicate properly, was often confused, and his mobility was all but gone. He could no longer walk without help due to the weakness and pain he was in. We prayed for a miracle and it came on a very cold, drizzly November morning.
The journey to a new liver
There was a liver, but we had to get David and Patricia to the major hospital that was hours away. They had no money, no one to look after their pet cat Fluffy and they were panicking. Through a bit of dumb luck and begging government authorities for assistance, I managed to get them on a plane to the hospital that evening. And then I cried. The tears came flooding out and I couldn’t stop. I felt fear, fear for David and Patricia, fear that I could have done more, fear that I would never see him again. The surgeons actively prepared Patricia that this procedure may not work, as David was in very rough shape.
The next day, I eagerly awaited confirmation that the procedure was a success, and I waited, and I waited. Two days later, I received confirmation that David had a new, working liver. The tears came again, but this time, they were tears of gratitude.
I saw David the other day, it has been four months since his operation, and he is unrecognizable. The warmth has returned to his smile and he is spry, silly, and back to his old tricks of teasing his wife. There are small wins in this field, and you have to take them when they come because they are precious and fleeting. It reminds me of why I work in the field of helping those with hepatitis C and HIV: because I am a survivor and I want to be a part of creating other survivors. It is these kinds of experiences that make this job worthwhile and give me the drive to keep pushing forward, no matter what.