Faces of Liver Disease
Sharing your experience can provide hope and comfort to others in the liver community.
Almost two years ago, after months of chronic colds, flu, and sinusitis, 55 year old Debra Jordan went to the doctor for her annual physical. He ordered blood work that revealed that her liver enzymes were elevated. He astutely ordered a hepatitis C test which came back positive.
"I was floored when I was given the diagnosis," says Jordan who has a Masters in Health Sciences and works as a counselor for people with HIV and AIDS as well as people recovering from addictions. Living and working in Chicago, she had attended numerous seminars and training sessions that addressed hepatitis C in at-risk populations, but no one had ever given her a reason to hope.
Debra's primary care physician referred her to a group practice where she met Dr. Jeffrey Goldman who recognized Debra as a good candidate for hepatitis C treatment. Dr. Goldman warned Debra that treatment would be demanding and would require total commitment, compliance and a level of uncommon strength and determination. She would be subject to severe side effects including anxiety, depression, anemia, intense mood swings and hair loss. Dr. Goldman notes that "Debra was a highly motivated patient. She did a lot of reading and learned about treatment [so that] she was more equipped to deal with the treatment and the side effects." The treatment regimen included weekly shots of Interferon, daily doses of Ribavirin and Procrit by injection for 2 months to address the consequent anemia. The treatment itself lasted 48 weeks only to be followed by a 6 month waiting period before a blood test could reflect the desired outcome: a sustained virological response (SVR).*
On December 19th 2008, Debra's blood work came back from the lab. It showed SVR. Debra and Dr. Goldman consider this a cure.
During her struggle with the hepatitis C treatment, Debra was introduced to the American Liver Foundation by Dr. Goldman's nurse, Kelly Hofmann. Kelly is the facilitator of an ALF support group in the western suburbs of Chicago. When Debra began her treatment, there were no support groups for patients in the southern suburbs where she lived. With help from ALF Debra, Kelly and Dr. Goldman started the first support group for patients of liver disease in that community. The group has grown from 3 attendees at the first meeting in September 2008 to 23 patients at the most recent December gathering.
How did Debra Jordan contract hepatitis C? Over 16 years ago she struggled with drug addiction. After a religious awakening, Debra got clean and put her life back on track. She completed her Master's Degree and dedicated herself to helping others avoid the same mistakes she made. In cases where this isn't possible, Debra serves as an inspiration and as proof that it is never too late to change the course of your life. She acknowledges that she contracted hepatitis C as a consequence of her own choices and this is part of the message she intends to share with the larger world.
Through out her illness and treatment, Debra was both the cornerstone of her family and the recipient of her family's generous love and support. Acknowledging an unexpected blessing, her daughter Natalie admits that "Mom's illness helped the family come together and get a lot closer." Her son Ryan, now a parent himself, says that his mother's battle with hep C "opened his eyes" and made him realize "how short life is and how precious." After her mother's death, Debra and her Aunt Gussie Washington became very close. At the times when the treatment was so intense that Debra didn't think she could carry on, Aunt Gussie rallied to her side. "I would encourage her by telling her that nothing lasts forever. She had too much to live for." When asked how she feels about how Debra contracted hep C, Aunt Gussie is clear and compassionate, "We didn't judge her. We are stronger for our mistakes as long as we learn from them-and that's what she did. We are very proud of her for what she is doing now. I encouraged her to tell her story."
Within the next ten years, Debra envisions spending more time with her many grandchildren and working full time with the American Liver Foundation. She is "passionate about helping people" and intends to further ALF's mission of research, education and advocacy. ALF cannot carry out this vital mission with out your support.
*For more information on the specifics of Debra’s treatment, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org