Friday, June 29, 2012

In you we trust - 7

(This is the seventh part of a fictional short story - In you we trust. You can find the first part here.)

Hepatitis C is a scourge in dialysis units today. Many patients become Hepatitis C positive a few years into dialysis. The indolent nature of the disease has caused not enough attention to be given to it. Medical proessionals are more focussed on immediate problems that dialysis patients face. A disease that takes about a decade to start showing clinical symptoms is not very high on the priority list of nephrologists.

Left untreated, the disease can cause Liver Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer and Liver Failure in about twenty years in non-dialysis patients. In dialysis patients this period is about ten years. Still, ten years is a long time for a dialysis patient.

Many dialysis patients do not even know about the danger of getting cross-infected with Hepatitis C in their dialysis units. It hits them only when they turn positive. Like other chronic conditions, this is also something that 'cannot happen to me'!

Despite all her knowledge about kidney disease Aparna was ignorant about Hepatitis C. All she knew was 'positive patients' had to dialyze in a separate area. She hadn't bothered to find out more about the disease. 'It cannot happen to me', was what she thought too.

One morning, as Prakash started Aparna's session, Aparna noticed him drawing a blood sample for an investigation. She had not asked for any test. Why was he drawing a sample, then? He asked Prakash. Prakash said he was dawing a sample for Hepatitis C testing. Aparna asked him why he was doing that when they had sent the sample in the first week of the month as usual and it was already negative.

Prakash was fumbling as he answered. He said something about some mistake being committed in the Reprocessing Unit, about some mix up happening, about her dialzyer being mistakenly reprocessed in the positive reprocessing machine.

Aparna was apalled. Though she did not know exactly what had happened, it sounded horrible. She had a very disturbed session that day. She started imagining all kinds of horrible things happening to her. The word 'positive' has a very negative connotation. Though people on dialysis who are Hepatitis C positive will very likely not be affected by the disease, a whole lot of other issues crop in.

Aparna got on to the internet and read up all she could about Hepatitis C in dialysis patients. The fact that there wouldn't be any symptoms for years offered no consolation. She had plans of living for long on dialysis and this could mess things up a lot. She started doubting Prakash's role in this. The guy probably hates me. He might have done this just to get back at me. But then she thought that may not be true. No one can fall to that level. Not even Prakash. He has an ego but he will not stoop to a level where he would play with someone's health.

The report came back negative. Aparna was relieved. However it was not all over yet. The Hepatitis C virus can be in a so-called incubation period for months. Every month, Aparna would have to undergo the test to make sure she has not turned positive. At least for another 4-6 months.

Aparna was quite disturbed with the recent turn of events. At the back of her mind she had this nagging doubt that this was done on purpose by Prakash. She wasn't convinced however. She thought no one could do such a thing. She was wondering if she should talk to Dr. Jha about this. She debated this for a while. Maybe Dr. Jha could do something about the virus in the incubation period if it was already there? Maybe some additional tests might help check on this? She decided to talk to him eventually.

Dr. Jha appeared quite unfazed when she talked to him. He offered rather blandly, "Aparna, let us not assume anything until we get a positive result."

Aparna got a little worked up.

"But Doctor, what if I have really been infected? What if the virus is in the incubation period?"

"I would strongly advise you not to stress yourself too much with this. Let us repeat the test every month and see."

Aparna was disappointed. Dr. Jha hadn't been very helpful.

That evening, while watching TV at home, her brother called her. For the first time in many months, she broke down. Her brother felt helpless. He wanted to help her but could do nothing. He was stuck in a job in the US and couldn't return to India for another year. After the call as well, she put her head in her pillow and cried bitterly for about an hour. She felt very lonely and desperately wanted some support. She felt it was totally unfair for her to deal with all this all by herself. All her friends had got married and had loving and caring husbands. Some even had kids. And here she was, all alone in this world having to deal with this disease. She had come to terms with the dialysis bit. But this whole new Hepatitis C angle to it left her very scared.

No comments: