What will follow is my first-hand account of what, when, how and where my hepatitis-C disease was first documented, and where I’ve come to since. This will be several editions to our web-site’s “Frankly Speaking” forum. This is my story only, and I’m sticking with it.
Scene One, Act One
What could have, and perhaps should have, been the most distressing and depressing news for me was received in the form of “The Letter” from the American Red Cross. It came on March 14, 1989 and read, in part, “your liver enzyme ALT count of 58 is extremely elevated. Please do not donate blood ever again, as your name is now registered as a ‘tainted blood’ donor.” It also stated that I should see my doctor “immediately”, as this increased enzyme can be attributed to obesity, alcoholism or hepatitis. WOW!
So I made an appointment as soon as I could and results were returned and my doctor stated “there is no sign of hepatitis at this time.” This was dated March 29, 1989, and this was when researchers were first discovering that there was a “non-A non-B hepatitis” virus. Knowing that I was not obese (but I was/am) and knowing that I drank a lot but was not an alcoholic (I was/am) I was relieved that I didn’t have hepatitis and continued to live my normal life…good job, wife, house, 2 kids, 2 cats and drinking to excess and paying no particular concern to my diet.
Fast forward to March 9, 2002, and blood work after routine physical showed elevated ALT/AST (131 and 80) liver enzyme numbers. Doc mentioned a potential hernia, EKG was normal, but due to my history of drinking, strongly suggested that I cut back or curtail drinking to save my liver….OUCH, straight to the point.
I stopped drinking that same year, 2002, on what would have been my mother’s 76th birthday (May 4th). However, I had an already planned trip to go “home” to the Emerald Isle (Ireland) and knew that I would be drinking that entire visit….and I did. My last drink was August 1st, 2002….shortly before the landing gear touched down at JFK.
Next doctor visit was March 2003, and enzyme levels were ALT 113 and AST 68. Still elevated and I am not a drinker. Doctor wasn’t too concerned, since I had “just stopped” drinking. Throughout 2003 I had various episodes of pain and discomfort in my upper right quadrant (and we all know the liver resides there.) April 25th Ultra Sound found “no abnormalities to liver, spleen, pancreas and gallbladder”.
August 1st, 2003….One Year Sobriety date. On October 11th, 2003 and a new doctor to my family practice sees me for “stomach pain” again. Suspects bacterial infection and prescribed antibiotics, and took comprehensive, CBC and metabolic/liver panel blood work.
November 25th, 2003 (don’t know the reason for the delay) he goes over my blood work results. ALT = 135 (27-59 normal) and AST = 76 (4-37 normal). We discussed my sobriety being into a second year and he suspects Hepatitis-C or HIV, and orders more detailed blood-work.
December 5, 2003 Doc calls me at work and says “stop by after work, as I have good news and bad news”. And that news will be shared in next article I submit.