Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

The Blood Letter

Something just wasn’t right about that letter waiting for me from the Mississippi Valley Blood Center. It looked too formal, printed on first-rate envelope stock, to be a simple thank you letter. I had given blood at the drive at my daughter’s school a few weeks earlier. Perhaps they wanted to congratulate me on the superior quality of my donation!

            Instead, it informed me that my specimen had tested positive for Hepatitis C.

            I was immediately overcome with nausea and faintness to the degree that my surroundings were pulsating to the rhythm of my heartbeat. My wife and daughter were going about their business around me, oblivious to my shock.

            Slowly, I staggered into the vacant living room, reading on. “Felicia, I need to speak to you,” I whispered as I passed my wife.

            The letter went on to suggest I see a doctor and get additional tests to determine if I have liver damage. And they were putting me on a sort of National Do-Not-Draw List.

            Felicia hadn’t responded, continuing on with her conversation with our daughter in the kitchen. “Felicia,” I called again, tersely. “I really need to see you!”

            She rounded the corner.

            “This letter says I have Hepatitis C,” I whispered, handing it too her.

            After a short read, she looked up at me with a worried look. “What does this mean?”

            I reminded her that a coworker’s wife had died from the condition many years back. And that was all I knew about it. We reviewed a photocopied brochure that accompanied the letter:

  • About 600 people die every year from Hep C after short-term exposure.
  • Most people carry the virus for the rest of their lives.
  • About 20 percent of individuals infected develop cirrhosis of the liver, sometimes after a period of 20-30 years of infection.
  • Most people exhibit no symptoms and may not know they have it.
  • It is primarily transmitted through the blood; it cannot be spread through casual contact and rarely transmitted through sexual contact.
  • Treatments cure about half of those who undergo them. 

            Fuck! Just fuck!

            After receiving this distressing news, a Google search revealed that it might or might not be chronic, that it may or may not be treatable, that it can turn me yellow, lead to cancer and, yes, kill me. There was a slight chance I may have transmitted this to my wife . . . assuming that I had not gotten it from her.

            This brings us to the $500 billion question: How the hell did I get it in the first place?

            The most obvious explanation was when I was selling blood plasma during the 80’s. Workplace negligence happens everywhere. Somebody could have stuck me with an infected needle. But hadn’t I had bloodwork done on several occasions since then? Wouldn’t it have shown up then? Or had they even tested for Hep C?

            They were saying it’s generally not transmitted to sexual partners. Generally. And I hadn’t ever had a transfusion.

            It might have come from dental work. I had just seen news stories about how they were closing a local Veterans Affairs hospital because unsanitary conditions were putting patients at-risk of AIDS and hepatitis. Could I have gotten this as the result of crappy dentistry? Surely, I’ve had my share.

            Unfortunately, I will never know. At least it’s not Mad Cow Disease.


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