Searching for answers

When two of my family members tested positive for Hepatitis C, I tried to figure out how they were exposed. My brother survived the experience while my brother-in-law died in 1998. Both were Vietnam Vets and I wanted answers.

When my brother-in-law died at the age of 46, we were devastated by the loss. He had fought the virus for over 5 years. From bleeding varices to liver transplants, biopsies and steroids, he struggled to stay alive for his family.


We lived in Kaiser San Francisco’s ICU waiting room. We prayed, we cried, and when told that a man had died in a motorcycle accident that had a matching liver, we celebrated.  

Praying for answers

For nine months we prayed for answers, hoped, and prayed some more that he would survive. His lost his kidneys during transplant surgery—a known complication. There were rides to dialysis, visits to convalescent hospitals where he recovered from infections, until at the very end, a simple but deadly mold entered his blood stream that infected his heart and killed him.

Back then, there were no treatments—no hope.  

We begged the doctors to tell us how he contracted the disease. No one knew. They asked about intravenous drug use, sex, and maybe alcohol abuse. As a family, we bled emotionally considering the options. My brother-in-law was a good man, a great (but not perfect) husband and father, and he certainly wasn’t an addict of any sort.

We learned of my brother’s infection after a physician made a mistaken diagnosis.


There was blood work, meetings with neurologists, primary care docs, gastro docs, hepatologists etc. We hoped and prayed just like before, except this time there was treatment. My brother started out with interferon and kept at it for 6 months even though he felt it was killing him. At the 6th month mark, he had a heart attack and was removed from medication. A year later, a new treatment was approved, and 4 months later my brother was virus free.

Where were the answers

My brother swore he never did intravenous drugs, but he had had a tattoo in the Philippines. When he had a major stroke a few months ago, getting him set up with the VA became a necessity. While my niece was on it like a pit bull, once again I drifted into the world where I wondered, what happened? How did two people in the same family end up with the same unknown source disease? Why did so many vietnam Vets get Hepatitis C? There had to be an answer.


So while my niece was on the VAs back, I went back into research. 

The answer: jet injectors

I don’t remember the search term I used to find the common denominator called jet injectors the army used to inoculate new recruits. While the military does not accept responsibility (yet), they do recognize it is biologically possible. In the 60s and 70s, the military used a mechanical injecting syringe that used compressed air or gas to deliver a vaccine.


A medic went down the row of recruits injecting them one after the other, never stopping to wipe a needle clean or change the vaccine bottle. Hidden within the blood and fluids trapped within the injector, was another new recruit named Hepatitis C. This action went on for years which is why so many vets have the virus. 

What this does for our family, is to vindicate the ones we love and those we have lost. They told us the truth and it took 45 years and some very proactive vets to prove it. You would think our civilian doctors would be on top of things and stop telling families about drug and alcohol abuse. That's a horrible thing to do to grieving loved ones. The amount of evidence about jet injecting is simply overwhelming.

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