Eight Years: A Journey from Diagnosis of Hepatitis C Infection to a Liver Transplant
It was some time in the year 2007 when during the routine lab tests, my wife Vrinda’s Liver Function Tests (LFTs) started coming abnormal. We underwent many tests to find out the reasons. At the end, we did the Hepatitis C test and it came positive.
Of course that time I did not know the further journey and hence started consulting many doctors, reading internet etc. Then I was told by the doctor that there was ‘Interferon Injection and Ribavirin tablets’ combination therapy that time, which had very less success rate and was quite expensive too. But we were pushed to the wall and had no alternative but to try the same.
This treatment had lot of other side effects just like chemo therapy. But my wife Vrinda is a very courageous lady and has extremely positive attitude. Instead of becoming anxious, she told yes I am ready for the treatment and we will go ahead. That made our life easy from the point of view of handling the situation. She needed about 4-5 injections every week. One for the main treatment and the remaining for managing the side effects of the medicines. It was completely impossible to go every time to doctor for injection (Intra Muscular). So I learnt from the doctor how to give the injection. Before the diagnosis we had booked a trip to Mauritius for 1 week. So we carried the 1 week’s injections with us in ice bags. All these were given over there but we did not cancel the trip.
Initially we were told to take the treatment for 6 months, we did it and realised it is not successful. Then we were told to ‘try’ another 12 months. No luck. The virus was still there. Lot of money gone, lot of side effects, worsened the health, mental agonies ………..alas we have to try something else. The combination treatment was taken for 18 months. Still no luck.
Then we were told that she has to undergo Liver Transplant. That time in 2008-09 Cadaveric Liver Transplant was not common and the LIVER TRANSPLANT surgery was possible only in New Delhi. So we flew to Delhi couple of times, met the doctors. They said since my blood group is the same one, I need to undergo various tests so as to check the possibility of me as a donor. After all the necessary test were done, I was passed the necessary criteria and was approved as donor of the liver. The operation was fixed in the month of June 2008 at Sir Gangaram Hospital Delhi. We searched the accommodation required for three months. Since the operation was in other state than the domicile, there were lot of administrative formalities of the government, which we completed.
Here in Pune we were managing with the health before transplant and were tensed. Somehow I do not remember what exactly happened but the Doctors in Pune declared that Vrinda’s heath is still not ‘that bad’ so she can wait for the operation for some more time. That was a temporary relief for us. She lead quite normal life, managed the heath issues as and when they arouse, till Sept. 2015 when she started showing end stage of the liver, symptoms like ascites, encephalopathy.
By this time, in a period of these 8 years, many developments had happened in the medical field. In 2007, only the ‘combination therapy’ with very limited success rate was available while now an oral medicine Sovaldi (tablets) were available at an affordable price and had almost 100% success rate with no side effects. In 2012 these tablets were available only in USA for about 100 times more cost (2015) than in India. Hence the prices also had gone down for the drugs manufactured in India. She took those tablets and her virus count went down under detectable level. That was a very good thing to happen. It was necessary to get ready for LIVER TRANSPLANT operation. The awareness for Organ Donation had increased a lot and now the successful Liver Transplant Operations were done in Pune also.
In Sept. 2015 Vrinda registered herself on the waiting list of ZTCC, for Liver Transplant in Pune, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. We had kept our bags packed so as to leave the house in 1 hour. Luckily on 4th Dec. 2015 I got a call to get her admitted in Ruby Hall Pune. On 5th Dec. 2015 she got a liver and was operated successfully.
She was discharged after 6 days and started recovering at home. Everyday there was some progress like it happens with the small child growing. Yes we religiously followed the doctors’ advice and she slowly started doing the exercise of walking and the Gym.
What we can advise is ‘be positive’. Positive attitude can play wonders. Hard times come and go. Tomorrow is better. Follow doctor’s advice and listen to those who have already undergone transplant. There are good developments happening in medical field, every minute. So better and better things are available, we can be benefited because of the same.
Note : I did not know anything much about Hepatitis C way back in 2007, but on reading from other sources and talking to experts in the field, I learnt that Hepatitis C is a deadly virus, the infection is caused by a blood-borne virus which affects the liver. It could spread through use of injectable drugs, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products. However, unlike Hepatitis B, it is not sexually transmitted. There is no known vaccine for Hepatitis C. For a long time the virus will silently be inside the body and not show any symptoms at all. A significant number of people infected with Hepatitis C develop cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. But now I there is an affordable treatment for patients infected with Hepatitis C, so if you are lucky to get diagnosed early in life, it is possible to save from the sever effects of this deadly virus.