December 22, 2010

Report to Readers
An epidemic hits home
If you were Meg Heckman's boss or colleague or casual acquaintance, you'd easily imagine her to be the picture of health: She is a runner and a skier. She is careful about what she eats. She has a sunny, can-do attitude and the stamina for long hours of hard work.In the summer of 2008, she told me otherwise: Meg, a longtime Concord Monitor journalist, had lived her entire…
December 9, 2010
 
What is HCV, anyway?
Hepatitis C, or HCV, is a blood-borne virus that infects between 3 and 4 million Americans and about 200 million people worldwide. It causes liver damage, liver cancer and death. For decades, it was a scientific mystery. During the 1960s and 1970s, researchers identified two viruses that inflame the liver. They named one hepatitis A and the other hepatitis B but were puzzled by…
December 12, 2010
 
My epidemic (Part 1 of 6)
Infected at birth
Sometime in the chaotic hours after my birth, after an ambulance rushed me from Concord to Hanover, after doctors re-inflated my lungs, arranged my tiny body in an incubator and threaded tubes under my skin, I received a few tablespoons of someone else's red blood cells.For two hours, the transfusion dripped into…December 12, 2010.

Tracking government response
In 1998, a report approved by Congress contained stark warnings about the HCV epidemic, decrying "uneven" disease reporting and surveillance, "uncoordinated" research, and limited education on prevention and treatment."Unless confronted more boldly, more directly, and more loudly," the report continued, "the threat posed by hepatitis C will only…
December 13, 2010.

My epidemic (part 2 of 6)
A journey toward diagnosis
When I was a kid, phlebotomists dreaded me. Show me a needle - or even hint that one might be in my immediate future - and I'd pitch a fit. Or run for the nearest exit. My attitude didn't improve much as I aged, but when the Red Cross set up a blood drive in my high school gym, I talked myself into giving a…
December 13, 2010.

'I'm a hepper, not a leper'
For many people with hepatitis C, the public perception of the disease is as challenging as its symptoms. A 2009 study by the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates found that 84 percent of HCV patients had experienced stigma related to their infection. Other academic papers recount stories of people who were barred from using their relatives' bathrooms, prohibited from…
December 14, 2010.

My epidemic (part 3 of 6)
Surviving stigma
The extent of my social problem dawned on me while I was astride a Stairmaster, halfway through my daily workout. The gym was crawling with college kids, grunting, flirting, dropping weights, making plans for the weekend. I bobbed along, eavesdropping and flipping through the May 1999 issue of Cosmopolitan.Tips for…
December 14, 2010.

My epidemic (part 4 of 6)
Secret world of support
On more nights than I can count, I've curled up on my couch, balanced my laptop on my thighs and entered a virtual world where everyone knows exactly what it's like to have hepatitis C.There are dozens of online chat rooms, message boards and social networking sites for people with hepatitis C, or HCV, a common…
December 15, 2010.

My epidemic (part 5 of 6)
Life as a guinea pig
On May 2, 2008, I walked into an exam room at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, collapsed into a chair and declared that I was going to die. Soon.My right shoulder had been aching for weeks, and with the help of a few medical websites, I'd diagnosed myself with liver cancer. This was not a completely irrational…
December 16, 2010.

Emerging treatments out of reach
For HCV patients with access to good health care, the prospects for curing the virus are about to get a lot better, but the future remains grim for the majority of people infected with the disease.Dozens of U.S. pharmaceutical companies are researching cures for hepatitis C, and drugs expected to be released next year have the potential to cure millions. Those medications may be…
December 17, 2010.
 
My epidemic (Part 6 of 6)
The heart works fine
On a Friday night almost three years ago, I barreled into the Barley House in downtown Concord, late for a blind date. As I looked around the room for a stranger I'd connected with on Match.com, I thought, "What the hell am I doing here?"That afternoon, in an exam room at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center,…
December 17, 2010.

My epidemic (postscript)
The brave ones
Despite what many of you have told me recently, I am not brave. Last week, the Monitor published a series of stories I wrote about living with hepatitis C, or HCV, a common but little-known virus that damages the liver and can lead to serious health problems, including cancer. You read about how I was infected through a blood transfusion at birth, about the stigma often associated with the disease and about my unsuccessful attempt last year to cure myself through a clinical trial....
December 20, 2010

Monitor editorial
Get serious about curing hepatitis C
By Monitor staff
Last week Monitor reporter Meg Heckman bravely shared the story of her battle with hepatitis C in an attempt to shine some light on a devastating yet little-known problem. Now it's time for our elected officials to show their own courage and get serious about solving it....
December 21, 2010

Letter
Wonderful series
Bill Glahn, Concord
By For the Monitor
My normal habit each morning is to skim the Monitor, check out comments about the Concord School Board and then read it in detail later. Meg Heckman's series on her life with hepatitis C made that impossible...
December 22, 2010

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