July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. Hepatitis is a viral disease that affects the liver causing inflammation and can result in liver disease.
There are several forms of the virus; the most common types are hepatitis A, B and C. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B are available to protect against infection, whereas vaccinations for hepatitis C currently does not exist and people can be reinfected with the virus.
Roughly 70,000 people in BC live with hepatitis C and one quarter of those infected are women. Hepatitis C can develop into a lifelong illness where some may experience severe symptoms that include fever, fatigue, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea.
Mary Dee*, a patient of Oak Tree clinic
, is HIV positive and has been a patient for over 20 years. Common among patients who live with HIV is to also be co-infected with hepatitis C. It’s been tough for Mary, struggling with addiction and her health over the years. It’s especially hard facing the stigma associated with her illness, but she’s managed to find refuge at BC Women’s getting the care that she needs.
“The care that I’ve received at BC Women’s has been above and beyond to help make me better and successful,” says Mary. “I am grateful to Dr. Neora Pick for the care she’s provided and the personal touch that’s characteristic of Oak Tree.”
In 2015, the Government of British Columbia approved coverage of two new curative hepatitis C drugs under BC’s PharmaCare program. Previously, injectable treatment for hepatitis C only showed a less than 40 per cent cure rate. These new Direct Active Antivirals (DAA) are taken orally and are better tolerated with over 90 per cent success rate of curing hepatitis C. The availability of these new drugs will greatly impact the lives of many British Columbians and decrease the rate of morbidity and mortality.
BC Women’s has made it a priority as part of the government’s initiative to cure hepatitis C. Led by Oak Tree clinic, as of June 2015, DAA was used to treat patients prioritizing patients with the most advanced liver disease, and Mary was among the patients whom was eligible for treatment.
Mary made the conscious decision to turn her life around and enrolled into Heartwood
to get help with her substance addiction. She was thrilled to be part of the program at Oak Tree to treat her hepatitis C infection. On February 25, 2017, on her birthday, Mary graduated from Heartwood. It was a proud moment and she looks forward to being clean and sober for two years this coming November.
Mary was in tears when she learned that she is no longer infected with hepatitis C, and is happy to not only be healthy but to also feel healthy.
*alias used to protect patient's identity