This picture was taken of us several weeks prior to the events described.
While all this was going on, I also had to be tested. I am negative for Hepatitis C. Even though we have been married and ignorant of this disease for 18 years, I never contracted it. We decided to make slight modifications though. We never share a razor anymore and we have separate containers for our toothbrushes.
One of Don's first tests was a simple sonogram. This was done to get accurate measurements of his liver and spleen and to check for kidney stones. Don's liver was measuring normal sized, but his spleen was enlarged and he clearly had stones in his gallbladder.
He also had a test for something called Viral Load. Viral Load (VL) shows the amount of active Hep.C cells in his blood. This count is vitally important to monitoring how well the medicine is working. It is not indicative of how long he has been infected, what condition or how much damage has been done to his liver. Don's VL was 400,000. Some patients have VL counts into the millions!
Over the past 10 years or so, many new discoveries have been made concerning Hepatitis, but the treatment drugs are essentially the same. It is a once a week injection of Interferon into the subcutaneous tissue of the abdomen and Ribavirin pills prescribed in amounts according to the patients weight. One of the new discoveries is that if a patients VL has not dropped by 90% after 12 weeks of treatment, it is not working. To put this into perspective, Don's VL needs to go from 400,000 down to 4,000 after 12 weeks of treatment. If not he would be considered a Non-responder and taken off the drug treatment.
When we consulted with the doctor, he advised us of the sonogram results and said that as long as the stones were not causing Don any trouble, we would ignore them for now. Although his liver was normal sized, he was concerned about his enlarged spleen, which indicates blood backing up from his liver. This is the first time we heard the word cirrhosis. The upcoming biopsy was a test done specifically for this. Patients with cirrhosis have a lower chance of being cured of Hepatitis C...down to 50%. If the cirrhosis was advanced enough, drug treatment for the Hep. would not be an option.
Don's liver biopsy was scheduled for the next week.