Family Member Diagnosed With Hep B in 2012
In 2012, I was in my first year of nursing school in California. We were learning about liver disease and its manifestations. I had never taken care of a patient with liver disease, nor did I know anyone personally who had it. However, that changed that summer. I received a call from my neighbor asking if my father was OK, because she had seen him being carried into an ambulance. I immediately phoned my mom in Hawaii and asked what had happened. I did not get a clear picture other than “he is not feeling well.” Thoughts and confusion rose in my head. People don’t just get sick and get into an ambulance. I immediately flew back home to see what was going on with my dad. When I got to Queen’s Hospital and saw how very sick my dad was, it broke my heart into pieces. As I write this story, I still ache from how sick he was and how much he suffered.
I spoke to his physician and learned that my dad had chronic hepatitis B for about 10 years or more but never knew it. My dad had asked his physician not to tell my sister and me that he had this disease. My mom was the only person who carried this secret. They didn’t want his disease to prevent us from exploring the world and living our own dreams. Although I believe this was the reason for their secrecy, I also know that there is stigma attached to hep B. This stigma is especially common in the Asian community, and I believe that they didn’t want their friends and family to know.
Long story short, my father passed away about three months after his first of many hospital visits. There were many tears, heartaches and frustrations. It was all too much for me; still to this day, my heart misses him very much. I concentrated my energy on completing nursing school and trying to live a fulfilling life through the memories I had of my father. It was one of the many ways I was able to cope with his passing without completely aching inside.
I was curious about this disease, so I searched for ways to learn more and get involved in the hepatitis community. At first it was difficult to navigate my way to find more information. However, I was fortunate to meet a hepatitis coordinator in Hawaii named Thaddeus Pham, who was a guest speaker in one of our classes. I reached out to him, and he showed me a whole world of individuals and families who had hepatitis and stories similar to mine. I immersed myself in the hepatitis community and helped in any way I could, whether at health fairs, providing vaccinations or just allowing people to share their stories. As ironic as this may sound, I am so grateful for my experiences and being able to be involved in the hepatitis community.
What three adjectives best describe you?
Bubbly, excitable, optimistic.
What is your greatest achievement?
Completing nursing school.
What is your greatest regret?
I wish I had known what I wanted to do with my career during my first bachelor’s, instead of wasting so much money and time on getting a second bachelor’s degree!
What keeps you up at night?
When my husband snores!
If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
Encouraging people to get tested and not be ashamed of this disease.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Think before you speak.
What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?
Thaddeus Pham and all those who put their time and heart into this community.
What drives you to do what you do?
I know how I felt with my dad and the struggles he went through. Little by little, we can help others so people won’t have to suffer as much.
What is your motto?
Some days are harder than others, but in the big picture, life is so amazing.
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is one thing you would grab on the way out?
My phone and, of course, my husband!
If you could be any animal what would you be? And why?
I want to be a cute little puppy, receive constant snuggles, get dressed up and have a famous Instagram page.