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Jul 06

How I Found Out I Had Hepatitis C

OK, so here is my story about how I found out that I had Hepatitis C. Please bare with me whilst I regurgitate the full story. Looking back now, I know exactly when I got Hepatitis C, a friend at the place I was working at commented to me when I arrived to work one day:

“Hey buddy, are you OK, you look kinda yellow today.”

A strange comment I thought at the time. I did go to the bathroom and have a good look at myself in the mirror but to be perfectly honest I couldn’t really see any real yellowness and besides I was in a rush I had just arrived at work, felt fine and didn’t think anything more of it. I certainly had no idea I was displaying a classic albeit less common symptom of a recent Hepatitis C infection. Yellowing skin is just one possible symptom, many people display none although here are a few of the most common symptoms of Hep C to look out for. That was about three years ago now when I was working abroad in Asia – teaching English.

Now, I didn’t realise there was anything wrong with me until about a year and a half later when I went for a routine health check, as part of the health check which was required in order to apply for the visa I wanted to get to travel to Saudi Arabia for work. As part of the health check they checked my liver function and this is when it first came to my attention that my ALT (Alanine Trasnaminase) score was high. It was 95 when it should have been less than 40. The other liver function indicators were fine though; Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), Aspartate Transaminase (AST) and Bilirubin levels.

If you do not know what ALT levels refer to like I didn’t at first then basically it is a measure of how inflamed the Liver is and an indicator as to how much damage may be occuring. The British Liver Trust explain this much better.

I did a quick bit of research and concluded that I must have just been having a few too many beers recently and that this had caused the elevated liver test. I figured that I would just quit drinking for a couple of months and that that would fix things. Remember, that as I was in Asia I was actually not getting Doctor’s advice as such, I was just picking up medical test results and doing the investigating myself online, yeah I know pretty dumb but discussing medical conditions with a Doctor can be expensive and not my idea of fun when English is their second language AND when they are on commission for what treatment/advice they dish out. God bless the NHS!

Anyway I went to do a repeat test of this ALT thing two long dry months later. To be honest being a perfectly healthy person normally, exercising a lot and generally taking pretty good care of my health I expected the ALT number to have dropped right back down to normal levels and for there to be no more cause for concern.

Surprisingly to me the ALT reading was exactly the same, 95. I couldn’t understand it, two months with no beer and nothing had changed! That is when I figured that this had the potential to be kind of serious but I still had no real ideas what the underlying problem was. So, I went away and hit google pretty hard for a couple of hours. I then returned to the hospital and asked for tests for Hepatitis A, B, C and HIV. These it seemed were the most likely reasons for continued elevated ALT scores from what I had read online and whilst I knew a little about HIV I can’t say I knew anything about Hepatitis other than it just sounded pretty bad.

So, like I said I was in Asia and the doctors just do what you ask of them, there was a bit of a language problem and this really prevented any in depth discussion or explanations. Yeah, of course there are hospitals in Asia with excellent English speaking Doctors, however you pay a premium for that and at the time I was on a pretty tight budget if you know what I mean!

So the nurse at the hospital took my blood, filled a test tube and told me the results would be ready in about an hour. That hour seemed like a very long time indeed. I walked around the nearby park about three times, had a coffee at a Black Canyon and tried to remain calm but I couldn’t help but let my thoughts run away with me.

I managed to leave it about an hour and half before walking back to the hospital and asking at reception for my test results back (a bit of a mission on its own when you don’t speak the local language!). The results had been placed in a filing cabinet in a kind of sealed envelope with perforated edges of the type you normally get tax information in. The receptionist handed it to me then left me to it.

I turned my back to the counter heart thumping and walked towards the exit. I started tearing off the sealed edges and pealing open the results. And so it was whilst walking along a sidewalk outside the hospital that I read the ‘positive’ that was next to the Hepatitis C heading. There was also another ‘positive’ next to the Hepatitis A heading aswell.

Can’t say I felt to great after reading that, a kind of hollow sick feeling entered the stomach – and the only thought that entered my head was what the hell is this thing!

But that is in essence how I discovered that I have Hepatitis C and the reason for this blog. As Anita Roddick (Article linked well worth a read) a famous UK businesswoman who has sadly passed away now (from issues not related to Hepatitis C) was famously quoted as referring to her Hep C positive conditions as:

“A bit of a bummer”

Indeed… I concurr!

More on how I believe I actually transmitted the Hepatitis C liver disease later, probably in the next post.

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