New Bedford, Massachusetts
Diagnosed with Hep B in 1996, Hep C in 1989
I am 46 years young and tri-infected with hep C, hep B, and HIV. I also have several other health problems, including asthma, COPD, hypoglycemia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and so on. In September 1983, I had just started ninth grade in a vocational high school, and was taking the courses I had dreamed of. I had been delivering newspapers, and had saved up enough money to buy a moped. It was my first taste of freedom. I was 14 years old.
Around the second week of October, two guys jumped me for my moped. I was stabbed with a long screwdriver; it went in my back on the right side and out the front of me. It was cold outside, and the metal felt like ice as it went through me. My sweatshirt was pitched up like a tent because the screwdriver was sticking out about four or five inches from my body. It was a pain like no other I’ve experienced, even to this day.
After jumping me, the guys ran. One yelled, “You have to go back and get that. You have to finish him. Kill him. He saw us.” I knew the guy who stabbed me.
I tried reaching around to pull the screwdriver out, but I couldn’t reach it. Then I tried to push it out from the front side, but it was too painful. I still had my moped, and could hear them coming back to finish me off. One was yelling to the other, “No witnesses!” I don’t know how I managed to get back on the moped and start it, but I once I did, I floored it full throttle. I got a good running speed, but he caught up to me. He grabbed the screwdriver and pulled it out of me. Within seconds, I felt nice and warm.
I thanked God for getting me out of there just in time. I only lived about an eight-minute drive from where this happened, and I wasn’t going to stop until I got home. When I got to my house, my older brother and his friends were hanging out. That nice warm feeling I had when they guy pulled the screwdriver out of me wasn’t because of the cold steel leaving my body; it was from all the blood that was flowing out of me. I started feeling cold again. The last thing I remember was looking at my boots; they were filled with blood.
I woke up in the hospital. I don’t remember much except for the doctor telling me to take it easy. I was hooked up to IVs and had tubes down my throat. The screwdriver had completely pierced my lung, so I had needed surgery. The doctor told me I was lucky, as I could have drowned in my own blood. I had received seven units of blood. The doctor said another 1/16th of an inch and I would have been paralyzed; it came that close to severing stuff. They were surprised I still had all my movements and functions. A couple of days later, I was home. They caught the one that stabbed me. He got two years!
A few months later, I was having some health problems. My mother had worked at the hospital and heard rumors going around about the blood bank having used contaminated blood. She had my blood tested. My labs indicated that I had HIV and viral hepatitis. I had just turned 15. Since then, I’ve had doctors tell me I only had about six months to live. I’ve been hospitalized twice with Pneumocystis pneumonia. I’ve been taking HIV meds from the very beginning. I’m still here. My T-cell count is 600 and my HIV viral load is undetectable. I have the HIV under control.
My main concern over the last 10 years has been the hep C. I have genotype 1a, which until recently was one of the toughest ones to have. I just started Harvoni. It’s been seven days now. The side effects aren’t too bad, considering all the other meds I have taken over the years. Harvoni has a high cure rate, and I’m hoping it works for me. My AST is 34 and my ALT is 31.
I haven’t been an angel over the years. Once I found out what I had, I stopped caring, and began partying and doing drugs for over 20 years. But, I got tired of not caring and started taking care of myself. I hope my story can help others, and inspire them not to give up, and to take care of themselves. Yes, some of the meds can be brutal at times, but they are well worth it. I’ve always prayed for a hep C drug like Harvoni to come out. My prayers have been answered.
What three adjectives best describe you?
I’m very aggressive when it comes to my health. I am also very inquisitive and vivacious.
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement has been to stay alive with everything I have been through
What is your greatest regret?
Giving up on myself and letting myself go in the wrong direction, causing the loss of friends and family
What keeps you up at night?
Coffee, and thinking of how life would be without being HIV and hep C
If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
What is the best advice you ever received?
There’s always tomorrow
What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?
My doctor, who has it also
What drives you to do what you do?
The will to live
What is your motto?
Life wasn’t meant to be easy
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A bird, so I could fly away to different places and enjoy the view
New Bedford, Massachusetts