Christmas came early for one Scunthorpe man after it was a case of third time lucky!
Paul Hazel was devastated to discover back in 2015 he had hepatitis C. Fast forward four years – and after three rounds of treatment – he is virus free after testing negative for the second time in a row.
Paul has decided to tell his story in the hope more people will come forward and seek help, as the new treatments available now have a cure rate of more than 95 per cent!He said: “Getting my final negative result is the best Christmas present I could have ever wished for. I have been through a lot to get here but it has been worth it. For me success has been possible because the staff at Scunthorpe hospital never gave up.
“I had two courses of the ‘old’ treatment, which I have to confess was hell. The second time round it was just awful. I had to take a day off work every time I had the injection as I would be in bed for the whole day, it just wiped me out.”
However, Paul, together with the hepatitis C team at Scunthorpe hospital, persevered and didn’t give in. Hepatitis C specialist nurse, Clare Robinson, said: “There is so much taboo surrounding the virus, as well as bad press when it comes to the ‘old’ treatment that people are reluctant to come forward.
“However, treatment is now so simple with hardly any side effects – using the new direct acting antiviral medication; patients now only have to take one or three tablets a day for eight to 12 weeks. The days of injecting the ‘old’ treatment using interferon are long gone. It is great Paul is telling his story as hopefully it will show there is hope for people living with the virus.”
Hepatitis C is contracted through infected blood. It can be caught if people have had tattoos using dirty needles or shared ink, body piercings using unsterilized equipment, occupational needle stick injuries, fighting, had a blood transfusion before 1991, been a recipient of blood products before 1986, shared such things as razors, hair clippers or toothbrushes, unprotected sex and shared needles for drug use – anything which can lead to a transfer of blood to another person.
Clare said: “It is really important if people think they have put themselves at risk, or have any of the symptoms of hepatitis C, to get themselves checked out.”
The virus can take decades to develop, sometimes as long as 30 years, before it makes its presence really known in the form of cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer
Paul periodically kept complaining to his GP of not feeling right but was always told it was nothing to worry about. So in 2015 when he was told he had tested positive for the virus he was devastated.
Talking about how he felt after receiving the diagnosis he said: “My first thought was I hoped I hadn’t passed it onto my wife or two daughters. It is really infectious and I could have so inadvertently infected them. Thankfully they all tested negative.”
Paul was referred to Scunthorpe hospital in November 2015, and following a comprehensive assessment, was started on the ‘old’ regime of treatment in March 2016. It failed.
Round two began in September 2016 and this time it made him very poorly. He said: “It absolutely wiped me out and all I could do was go to bed. It looked really promising though as my viral load came down but then it started going the wrong way, I persevered in the hope it would work.”
After three months he tested positive for the virus. He said: “When it didn’t work I was gutted. It wasn’t just what I had gone through but also the expense of the treatment and he impact on the NHS. It was hard but I just kept going. I couldn’t drink alcohol as I didn’t want to put extra strain on my liver, but that was a small price to pay.”
The team kept him under surveillance to keep an eye on his liver. Then in June 2018 Paul had the opportunity to try the new direct acting antiviral medication. Paul said: “There were no side effects compared to the old treatment, it was a doddle. It was so easy. I didn’t have to take time off work, life just continued as usual.”
The best news came in December 2018 when his test results showed he was negative for the virus. He had a further test a year later and now in 2019 it is official – he is cured.
Paul added: “The new treatment is brilliant. I would urge anyone who has been through the old treatment and faced the horrors it brought and the failure it sometimes ended in, to go to their GP and get referred into Clare’s clinic. Without the team at the hospital I would still be living with hepatitis C and my future would have been unknown.
“Now I can spend Christmas 2019 knowing I am virus free, and I can enjoy the odd pint or two!”
Clare added: “Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent or limit any damage to your liver, as well as help ensure the infection is not passed on to other people.”