Death is never easy and it is never pretty. Death is always with us and if allowed, Death will teach us to cherish the time we are here. Sometimes Death comes quietly and sometimes Death is loud. In this world, only one thing is certain in our journey toward the unknown--Death will come.

The Vietnam war

The complicated era of the vietnam war was rife with protests, drugs and antiwar slogans. From the music we listened to, to the streets of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco, we plastered peace symbols everywhere we went. Those coming home from the war never heard a thank-you for your service.

Instead they were spit on, laughed at and degraded. In addition, they were never the same both mentally, spiritually and physically.

My brother's death 12 weeks ago was easy. The days leading up to his death were not. In fact, the suffering was immense. He died not from hepatitis C but more from chronic smoking and his initial treatment of hepatitis C interferon and ribavirin. Interferon can cause heart attack, congestive heart failure and stroke. Jerry had all of them while on treatment and thereafter. After the heart attack he was withdrawn from treatment and told to wait it out. Within a few months new drugs were on the market and because Kaiser had been neglectful in diagnosing my brother those drugs were available to him.

Eventually, the virus was cleared from his system, but the damage to his liver and vascular system was more than his body could bear.

The process

We lost Jerry in bits and pieces. While he always knew me that was not always true for other family members. The last time I saw him he had a heart attack. He was at home, sitting in a chair next to me grinning and holding my hand.

Seconds later he was screaming and clutching his chest. My husband got him back into the hospital bed while my nephew called hospice. Once we found the medication we were able to administer morphine. Jerry fell into a deep sleep and several hours later while sitting next to him he grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I looked at him and his eyes opened.

If a description were possible I would say his eyes conveyed a deep sadness. I saw all the things we'd talked of doing, the trips, the family reunions that would never be and that he was sorry to be saying good-bye. Seconds later, his eyes closed and his hand went limp. He died a few days later.

My husband's brother, also a Vietnam vet, was one of the first to be diagnosed with hepatitis C and one of the first to receive a liver transplant. My brother-in-law was a big man and finding a liver was tough. At the last moment a donor was found. Because it was last moment, my BIL had enormous obstacles to overcome such as kidney failure. Nine months later he died. Hepatitis C also took my husband and BIL's best friend.

He went through interferon and ribavirin therapy but lost his life to liver cancer due to Hepatitis C. He too was a Vietnam vet.

In Vietnam people got tattoos and if someone was injured they never stopped to put on gloves. Jet injectors were used for vaccinations and there is ample proof blood and tissue were passed from one person to the next transmitting diseases like AIDs and hepatitis C. However, hepatitis C has finally met its match. More than 60,000 veterans have received new antiviral drugs which are improving their chances for survival, but sadly vets wait for recognition from the military for their culpability.

How you can help yourself and someone else

Share this information.

If you know someone who might have been exposed, help them get tested.

Be AWARE: The FDA has issued a warning that there is a risk of viral hepatitis B being reactivated after starting treatment for hepatitis C. Tell your physician if you have had a history of hepatitis B or if you have other liver issues before starting treatment for hepatitis C.

If you are taking treatment KEEP taking treatment.

Hepatitis C and the Vietnam Vet

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

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