Unprotected People Reports: Hepatitis B
"I Was At No Risk for Ever Having Hepatitis B!"
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of this report.
|The following letter is written by a 35-year-old woman who contracted
hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. This mother of three children, like at
least one third of people who contract hepatitis B, had no known risk
factors for HBV infection. We are printing her story because, as she says,
"I hope my story helps convince people to get their children and themselves
immunized. No one should have to go through what I went through."
|The letter is as follows:
|I am a married 35-year-old woman and a
stay-at-home mother of three young daughters -- ages 4, 7, and 10. I live in
a small town on the New Hampshire seacoast. I've always been extremely
healthy and active. Last November 12th, I woke up and my joints
were aching, especially my hips, knees, and ankles. I had just started an
intense walking program, so my first thought was that I had "overdone" it.
Each day, I felt progressively worse, and I finally made a doctor's
appointment after suffering for about a week.
At the doctor's, I described my symptoms. He
said that he thought my symptoms indicated "stress." He took some blood work
to rule out rheumatoid arthritis and sent me home with a prescription for
ibuprofen and the advice that I should consider going on antidepressants to
eliminate the symptoms of "fibromyalgia." I felt devastated because I was
sure something was wrong with me.
I continued to feel worse and worse every
day. I began to feel more nauseated and exhausted than I can describe. Worse
yet, my doctor had made me feel that it was "in my head" even though I told
him that I did not feel depressed and was under very little stress!
After getting sicker and sicker, I finally
made another appointment ten days later. The nurse practitioner took one
look at me and noticed how jaundiced I looked. Also, my stools had become
pasty looking and my urine quite dark. I thought I was just dehydrated from
not eating for so long. She took blood work to determine if I had hepatitis
and what type. I knew absolutely nothing about hepatitis at this point. I
was just relieved that I had a diagnosis for what was wrong with me. She
then described the ABC's of hepatitis. I immediately assumed that I had hep A
because I am in a category not considered "at risk" for the other types. Two
days later, she called back with the results that I had hepatitis B. I felt
as if my whole world had caved in.
My husband had to be tested. During the two
days that we had to wait for the results, I felt that everything I believed
about my marriage had to be a lie. When the results came back negative on my
husband, he had to receive immunoglobulin because I had potentially infected
him. I then had my two older daughters begin the vaccination series (my
youngest had completed the series).
During the approximately six weeks that I
felt so sick with this infection, I was so ill that I couldn't even take
care of my kids. This whole experience was so incredibly demoralizing and
humiliating. I believe that most people know nothing about hepatitis -- I
know I didn't. If I had known that I had even the minutest chance of
becoming infected with hep B, I would have run to my doctor's to get
immunized. I've never felt so ill.
I can't describe how it felt to have to wait
for six months to finally have the blood work done to rule out the chance
that I had become a chronic carrier. No amount of reassurance from the nurse
practitioner could convince me that my chance was minimal that I would be
chronic. After all, I was considered at no risk for ever having hep B at
In June, I received my blood work results and
the knowledge that I am completely recovered from hep B. I thank God for
that. But I'm still dealing with the after effects of what I went through.
My husband and I went to a counselor to deal with the stress that this whole
situation placed on our marriage and how angry my husband felt because I
hadn't trusted him. I feel sick at the thought that during the time of my
acute infection, I could have infected my children or my husband.
This virus has such a stigma attached to it!
I stopped telling anyone that I had been infected with hep B.
If my story makes even one person reconsider
and have their child or themselves immunized, then it will make me feel
Over one third of all people who are infected
each year with hep B are in the "no risk" category for infection. I'm one of
them, and even a year later, I'm trying to put my horrible experience behind
me. No one should ever have to suffer through being infected with this virus
-- it is totally preventable with a series of three shots. "No risk" living
is a meaningless term. If you go to dentist, borrow a toothbrush, get your
ears pierced, get a manicure, or engage in countless other mundane
activities, you could become infected.
I hope my story helps convince people to get
their children and themselves immunized. No one should have to go through
what I went through.
|1/6/99 • REPORT #9
|Disclaimer: The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) publishes
Unprotected People Reports for the purpose of making them available
for our readers' review. We have not verified the content of this