'I received a needle stick injury at work' - Vivienne's story

Posted 27 July, 2021
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‘I received a needle stick injury at work’ – Vivienne’s story

As a junior nurse more than 35 years ago I received a needle stick injury at work. This was reported verbally and I was advised to clean the site with alcohol, put a band-aid on, and, well –  that was the end of that!

I was 18 years old, I had completed my training and travelled overseas to begin my life. I got a job and quickly became very unwell with hepatitis.

In those days it was not possible to determine the type of hepatitis that I had contracted – my diagnosis was ‘Non Hep A/Non Hep B type’ hepatitis.

I was given a sickness benefit and told I could go back to work when I felt well enough. About 6 months later I did return to work and went on with my life. I eventually married and had 3 children. There was no follow-up – no further care or support.

In 2002 I visited my doctor complaining of persistent tiredness. He decided to do a check for hepatitis C. I explained that I was not in a high-risk group and questioned why he would test me for this. Thank goodness he did…the results showed that I had chronic hepatitis C and it was a rare genotype.

I then endured 12 months of combination therapy (ribavirin and interferon) in an attempt to clear my body of this virus. The success rate for my genotype was not good, however, I was eventually advised that I was free of the virus, and have remained free since.

Thank goodness none of my children, my husband, nor previous partners had contracted this disease from me.

This experience, however, highlighted the importance of knowledge and education about hep C, and of course, liver health is central to caring for our bodies.

I now understand that hep C can be carried for long periods of time without there being any alarming signs of one being unwell. I wonder how many others even today are unaware of the state of their liver.

I am aware that hepatitis C treatments are now swift and easy to access. I’m not sure this is as widely known as it should be. I think there are many who do not understand the long term implications of their lifestyle on liver health – fatty diets, alcohol intake and drug use affect all aspects of physical and mental health.

What does World Hepatitis Day mean to me?

World Hepatitis Day is a fabulous opportunity to share information widely with people with all different lifestyles.

Information like:

  • The effects of their life choices and lifestyles on their body (in particular liver health!)
  • The options for treatments and how this has changed over the years to become more user-friendly and less fearful… a treatment that is easily accessible and a positive outcome that is achievable!
  • Small things (hygiene, food choices, fluid intake etc.) that can assist in creating better liver health
  • Safer options/behaviours for IV drug users for decreased risk of contracting hepatitis
  • Hepatitis types and the long term issues that can result from contracting hepatitis.

Hepatitis Queensland would like to thank Vivienne for sharing her story.

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