I Have Hepatitis C…Thanks Uncle Sam!

The post title is kind of a two edged sword. It’s sarcastic because of the way I got the disease, but at the same time, it’s also a thanks to the military for stepping up to take care of us Veterans, especially because of the cost of treatment.

I have Hepatitis C, type 1 genome. It’s the most “popular” type of the disease and is also the hardest to get rid of. Approximately 4.5 million Americans are infected with or carry the Hepatitis C virus. That equates to about 2 percent of the population.

A medical survey of a representative group of Americans tested between 1988 and 1994 concluded that approximately 1.8% of the general population of the United States carried the antibody to hepatitis C in their bloodstream, which placed the the number of Americans with HCV at 3.9 million persons. More recent studies using newer assays have pushed the suspected rate of infection up to around 2.5%, indicating that around 4.5 million Americans are probably infected.

I’m a veteran and the numbers for Veterans are even more scary. Veterans have an incidence of Hepatitis C in the ten to twenty percent range. Why is that? First, most of these cases are Vietnam era Vets. I volunteered for service in the summer of 1976, right after Vietnam.

Anyone who went through basic training back then will remember  the march through the room where you received your vaccines to start your service. 150 new recruits pushed through a room in about five minutes, with medics on either side using what was called a “jet gun”, a method of giving vaccinations using high pressure forced air to inject the vaccine instead of needles. Below is a list of ways Hepatitis C can be passed;

Jet “Air Gun” Injections Blood Transfusions Blood Base Products/Vaccines
Exposed to Blood/body Fluid Reusable Needles,
Syringes & Vials Finger Pricks/Lancets
Medical Procedures Dental Procedures
Kidney/Blood Dialyses
Tissue/bone Transplant Tattoos In Service
Had a STD/STI or Multiple Partners in service
Used Tooth Brush Used Razors 2006 Prostate/Scope Exams 22,000 + vets … across the country are warned improperly sterilized equipment

Even though the jet guns are a needle less injection system, it has been found that improper application of the gun in giving a shot can draw a tremendous amount of blood. The high pressure air can actually cut the skin. The tech might wipe the end of the gun before giving the next shot and they might not. Back then, the Seventies, Hepatitis C was an unknown disease, much like AIDS.

 

If left untreated, Hepatitis C will cause Cirrhosis of the Liver and/or possibly Liver Cancer.   I was diagnosed two years ago with Hepatitis C, Type 1. At the time, the treatment prognosis wasn’t that good…maybe a 40 percent chance of effective treatment, depending on a person’s viral load. Here’s a link that explains viral load. I’m not sure what my V load is, somewhere in the 2 million range. At the time, my doctor and I decided to wait for the new treatment that was in the pipeline with the FDA. The new medicine added to the other treatments would extend the prognosis up to maybe 80 percent chance of success.

As part of my treatment, I received a biopsy of my liver. You lay on a table and are given an anesthetic so you don’t care that the doctor is getting ready to stick a horse needle between a couple of your ribs and guide it through muscle and other vital body parts to take a small piece of your liver for analysis. The biopsy said I had stage two Cirrhosis, but mt doctor said he believed I had more like stage three. That would be akin to a bottle of 80 proof a day habit for thirty years. I drank the occasional beer or mixed drink, but no more.

There are all kinds of links out there for people interested in finding out about Hepatitis C. Here’s a link to one search engine page and another.

Now we get to the “good” part where I describe the medications I have to take on a daily,( and weekly), basis. First off, is the weekly self-injection I give myself. It’s called Pegasys Alpha-2A. It is a subcutaneous 180 ml injection. I was warned that the side effects would be like having the flu for a couple of days every week. That’s why I take the injection on Friday nights right before bedtime. Surprisingly, I haven’t had that bad of a reaction to this medicine. I actually feel better for a day or two afterwards. This medicine is around $1300 bucks a month

The next medication is a twice daily dose of Ribovirin 200 mg capsules. I take three of these twice a day, once in the morning with my other daily medication, and again in the evening with dinner. Side effects are nausea, diarrhea, stomach upset, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, trouble sleeping, flu-like symptoms to name just a few. There’s also weight loss/gain, loss of hair, loss of taste and or hearing. From what little I could find out, this medicine costs about $1200 bucks a month.

This is the good one, the one I waited two years for. It’s called Teleprivir 375 tabs. My doctor explained to me that everytime he gave me a month’s prescription for this medicine, it was like he was handing me a brand new Toyota Corolla. Yes, you read that right, this medicine costs $ 12,000 bucks a month. I take two tablets three times a day. Side effects of this medication are nausea, vomiting, hemorrhoids, rectal itching/burning/discomfort, ( the butt hurt), and/or change in taste may occur. The problem with this medicine is you have to eat something with 20 fat grams each time you take it. (A Snicker’s bar has 17 fat grams. ;) )

Hepatitis C has been in the news recently. Here and here are a couple of links to stories about it.

Well, that’s about it.

 

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31 thoughts on “I Have Hepatitis C…Thanks Uncle Sam!

  1. I wondered why they got rid of those Jet “Air Gun” Injections.

    Because of the miracles of modern medicine, many people have naive notions about disease. Except for cancer, they think we can cure everything else. The reality is more grim. Because that is where the sick people are, hospitals are a good place to get sick. So if you are healthy, letting people stick needles in you and going to the doctor doesn’t have much to recommend it. Unfortunately, military personnel must take orders.

    I pray your treatment goes well. If I tried to eat that much fat three times a day, I would be in misery. Hopefully, your body can handle it better. If you can handle it, I suggest you get use to taking a morning and an evening stroll. The walks will aid digestion. Even without that much fat, I need the exercise.

  2. Appreciate the thought. Not much anyone except G-d can do. Just have to suffer through the treatments as well as I can and see what happens next. I’m thankful that the VA is taking care of my medicines…otherwise, I’d be SOL.

  3. Pingback: Very Inspiring Blogger Award | Citizen Tom

  4. Thankfully, I have not seen a Jet “Air Gun” in years. Needles are bad enough. I guess I was just hoping they had gotten rid of them.

    Even though I have two nurses and a doctor in my immediate family, I must admit that does not make me an expert on medicine. If I could figure out how to make mental osmosis work, I would be a genius. :grin:

    The best I can do is to present awards to people who have earned them. Therefore, it is my duty to inform you, according to the guidelines for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, that Citizen Tom has nominated you for it: http://citizentom.com/2012/08/06/very-inspiring-blogger-award/. If you so choose to accept, it will be my pleasure. Thanks for your inspiring blog.

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  6. Wow, Mr G….
    Not much I can say, other than to add my most sincere prayers to you and the family.

    I’m not too familiar with Hep C, BUT: with the high-octane cocktail that you’re chugging down every day, one would think that would kick Hep C’s a**. I’ve seen it in my own family: the proper meds and a strong willpower can do miraculous things.

    God Bless, partner….

    And, much as B3A offered, let me know if you need something.

    • Appreciate the sentiment and the prayers. It gets hard sometimes when you feel like the cure is worse than the disease, but it is what it is. We just muddle through the best we can and hope for the best.

  7. Amen, brotha.

    You’re a pretty tough dude, from what I’ve been able to assess over the past few months.
    If Vegas will post the bet, I’ll happily put my mortgage payment on you to beat it….. ;)

  8. Oh, wowsers that’s a lot of pill popping. I sure hope the regimen doesn’t tear you up too badly. And that we get to hear great news at the end of it. And thanks for letting us know what’s going on. The great part about blogging is, we don’t just share political views, but we get to share a little of our selves. I’ll be praying for you.

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    • The fainting spell I had was a side effect of one of the drugs I was taking for the disease. I started treatment in June and had the fainting spell in August.

      I most likely got the disease back in the 70′s when I joined the service. It took over thirty years for it to manifest itself. I didn’t have Jaundice, but was tired a lot and achy.

      There are a lot of Veterans who had it and never knew they had it until it was too late. I’m one of the lucky ones.

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