This story was originally published in a Press Release from Northland District Health Board.
In July 2016, the New Zealand Government and Pharmac funded the new-generation treatment Viekira Pak to treat genotype 1 of the hepatitis C virus. Below a New Zealand man shares how the new treatment has changed his life.
A Whangarei man who asked to be known as Martin wept as he shared the story of Viekira Pak curing him of a 20-year illness “equal to cancer.” Martin says he has a “new lease of life” after hepatitis C gave him years of shame, discomfort, depression, and made him feel he was a burden on the healthcare system.
Martin, now 62, contracted the virus while a university student four decades ago, but like many people he was only diagnosed in his 40s, after which cirrhosis began to set in.
“When I heard Viekira Pak was coming I rang Nurse Sandra and got on the Viekira Pak list. I’m so thankful. I feel like it’s given me another thirty years of life.” Martin thanked Sandra (Clinical Nurse Specialist) and Kaye (Northland DHB Physician) for their caring approach and said the work of award-winning Auckland City Hospital hepatologist Professor Ed Gane and his team of specialists also helped Martin’s recovery.
Part of Martin’s journey involved giving an emotional speech to GPs and pharmacists as they learned about the impact Viekira Pak can make. “The speech was a pretty emotional time. I was so thankful, and other patients were, to be given that chance. It felt good to share my story, it was an eye-opener to them. I had felt like a burden on society. You couldn’t talk about it, it was not cool that I got my illness through perceived irresponsibility. No one wanted to know about it.”
“It was a debilitating disease, equal to cancer. You live with depression; you wake up feeling like you’ve got the flu and don’t know why. You just put up with it. It’s not something you share. People don’t appreciate what it does to you – it’s like running on half your cylinders. On top of my shitty liver I had unexplainable grumpiness and moodiness and when I was stressed the effects of hepatitis C hit me tenfold.”
“I have lost a couple of mates to liver cancer. In the last 2-3 years, I was getting pretty desperate; mild cirrhosis was kicking in. In the back of my mind was finality.”
It was the New Year when Martin received the good news: after 12 weeks on Viekira Pak, blood tests proved he was now clear of hepatitis C. “I’m not ashamed of what I did, how I got it, I was just fortunate to live through it.”
-Northland District Health Board