HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). People can become infected with HCV through shared needles used for intravenous drug use or by a needle stick in health care settings. The virus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse, sharing personal items contaminated with blood, invasive healthcare procedures, or tattoo needles.

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This image is an H&E stain of a liver biopsy from a patient with moderately active viral Hepatitis C infection.

LAUREL’S STORY

Married to a surgical pathologist and with a 25-year career as a nurse, Laurel was familiar with the role laboratory professionals and pathologists play in healthcare. When she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1990, that familiarity became personal. Before her diagnosis, Laurel balanced her nursing career with raising two children, and playing the occasional round of golf. But after her diagnosis, she was terrified: would she live to see her children get married? Would she meet her grandchildren?

Laurel used her medical education to combat her anxiety. She learned everything she could about Hepatitis C so she’d be able to ask the right questions and became her own advocate. She had to consciously work to stay positive while living with the uncertainty a diagnosis of Hepatitis C brings.

Fortunately, some of that uncertainty has been replaced with relief and gratitude. Laurel received a liver transplant in 2011, and thanks to science and research, was cured of the virus in 2012. Now, with her future ahead of her, she’s found another passion in advocating for others and helping friends and family navigate the sometimes-unwieldy world of medicine. She encourages everyone to ask about their lab results and pathology reports so they can understand what they mean.

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CLAUDETTE’S Story

Claudette has worked as a nurse, midwife, and in human resources for an airline company. Living in Turks and Caicos, she is as dedicated to island life as she is to taking care of her family and friends.

One Sunday when she returned home from church, her son A.J., who was 18 at the time, was still in bed. That was unusual for him, but Claudette made him some food hoping to rouse him. A.J. did not eat anything and returned to bed. The next afternoon, she received a phone call at work; her daughter was unable to wake A.J., Claudette rushed home from her work at the hospital. Because they lived in a remote area, the ambulance would take too long to arrive, so Claudette lifted her son into her arms. To this day she still does not know how she got the strength, but she got A.J. in her car and took him to the hospital. At the hospital they discovered that they did not have the resources to treat A.J., so they med-evacuated to Nassau, the Bahamas, with Claudette, his sister, and father, following behind him on a separate flight.

Claudette remembers the nurse’s words so clearly: “His eyes are fixed and dilated.” She knew it meant her son was gone. She made the decision then to donate A.J.’s organs. She knew it was the right decision. What she didn’t know was that Laurel Welch had been transported to Florida, waiting for a new liver she desperately needed.

Because of Claudette’s decision during the most devastating moment in her life, Laurel received a new liver and got a second chance at life. “All A.J. ever wanted to do was live in the United States,” Claudette says, “and all his seven organs that were donated went to people in the U.S. so I guess his dream came true.”

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Laurel and Claudette share their experiences in how the laboratory played a critical role to ensure Claudette’s son’s liver saved Laurel’s life.