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After being involved in a traumatic motorcycle accident in 1989, Stephen was left with more than just broken bones.
After waking up from multiple operations, Stephen was told he had lost a lot of blood. He received several blood transfusions in order to keep him alive. Little did he know the blood he received contained a virus.
It was not until February of 1990 that blood donations in Australia were screened for hepatitis C.
Three years after the accident, Stephen’s fiancée suggested they both undergo full medical check-ups prior to their wedding. It was at this point Stephen received his hepatitis C diagnosis.
“I found out through a bit of paper. Thirty years ago, people weren’t as sympathetic. If you had diseases like that at the time you were classed as a leper,” Stephen said.
While Stephen did not experience any symptoms over the years that followed, he said it was always in the back of his mind.
“I didn’t have any symptoms that I knew of but then I didn’t do myself any favours either. I lived life to the fullest,” he said.
“I was waiting for the last 20 years to tilt. Like the old pinball machines, if you tilt the machine you lose the ball.”
Stephen’s sense of discrimination led him to keep quiet about his diagnosis, particularly while travelling overseas.
“I’d often hear stories about people being thrown out of countries if you had a disease like this,” he said.
“I spent quite a few years travelling the world and learnt it was best not to say anything”.
Despite having no obvious symptoms, every year Stephen would come back to Australia for a full check-up. Around six years ago his results showed that his liver was undergoing damage.
“The treatment at the time was fairly expensive and I was told it didn’t have a great success rate,” he said.
Stephen felt the treatment options at the time were beyond his reach. But then in 2016, new Direct-Acting Antiviral treatments were listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Anyone with a Medicare card could be treated at a heavily subsidised price.
“My daughter told me about new treatments that were available in Australia. Just tablets. I could afford it and it sounded easy.”
“Afterwards I had a more positive attitude. It was a load off my shoulders though physically it wasn’t much of a change.”
Stephen has since learnt of other friends who also were living with hepatitis C at the same time but did not share their diagnosis.
“The world is more open about it now. It’s surprised me how common hep C can be. Everyone should go and get tested.”