People Like Me: Laurel Welch

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Laurel Welch
My name is Laurel Welch and I had Hepatitis C. In 1980, I was working as a nurse at a hospital in a busy practice. I got blood splattered in my eyes and in my mouth and hands, everything. I continued working for the next 10 years or so and in 1990, I started to feel really, really tired and I couldn’t figure out what it was. So like any nurse, you self-diagnose yourself. And I thought I had thyroid disease.

So I went to the doctor and he said your liver function tests are elevated and we're testing you for hepatitis. It was positive. And it was pretty earth-shattering. I was pretty devastated and one of the worst things was telling my daughter at the time, who was a teenager about it and how we had to be careful about sharing toothbrushes. Over the next 10 years, I was on treatment intermittently.

I'd go on for periods of time and get tested at the end and I never responded and I finally decided, this treatment isn't working for me and it's making me feel terrible. So I'm going to do the quality of life thing. And not take the medication anymore.

JoAnn Thompson, MD National Director of Divisions The American Liver Foundation
It's a progressive disease, or a progressive virus, which will continue to cause problems in the liver from sclerosis to fibrosis. It can lead to needing a liver transplant and for many people it can lead to liver cancer.

Laurel Welch
My liver didn't really cooperate with me. So as time went on, my liver became inflamed, and this was diagnosed by liver biopsy and then became fibrosed and that means my liver started scarring down. And then it eventually became sclerotic. I was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and admitted to the intensive care unit. And by that time I was both in liver and kidney failure and was on dialysis.

4 days after I arrived in the ICU, a liver became available. And I was top on the list in that region, so I was able to obtain the liver. My liver came from an 18 year old boy. I know his family now. And his name is AJ and AJ saved my life. I still had the Hepatitis-C virus. I started the medication, I was on it for 4 months, stopped, and I am completely cured.

JoAnn Thompson, MD
It's just a simple blood test, but it has to be ordered. It isn't part of the normal liver panel that a doctor might do, with your regular physical. So they have to order the Hepatitis-C panel to be tested.

Laurel Welch
Get tested, the worst thing that's going to happen is you find out you have Hepatitis-C and you get cured.