A patient’s story: Dealing with regrets

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She was diagnosed of hepatitis B infection during her second year in the Community Health Training Institute.

The news broke her down as all her siblings and parents tested negative and successfully took their vaccination schedules.

Initially, she was put on some herbal preparation by someone who claimed the preparations would cure her ailment.

Things got worse until I met her and I remember after some hours of education and counseling on her condition, she took the liver function test and the hepatitis B profiling test, which showed she had elevated liver enzymes and was in the chronic stage.

I encouraged her that there’s always a way out and that I would assist her through. She was then referred to a physician who recommended tenofovir for her and requested that she repeats the test after every 6-8months.

Her next result was amazing. Liver enzymes were within range; her viral load too was good! This was when she was getting ready to marry. She kept asking me if she could marry and not infect her children since the vertical transmissions is accounting for most of the cases reported in Ghana.

I assured her that it could be avoided by ensuring that the baby receives both the HepBIg and the regular vaccine at birth 12hrs before breastfeeding.

She was happy about this revelation and began making plans for that. Few months down the line, she called to tell me she was pregnant and they’re expecting a baby boy. I reminded her on the immunoglobulin and vaccine for the baby too.

Few days after her delivery she called. I asked whether the baby was given both shots or not but she told me her midwife said the vaccine alone was enough to protect the baby.

I felt disappointed by that revelation. I told her that was a wrong choice. In the meantime, we had to hope and pray. But unfortunately, the baby tested positive. Now he’s 3yrs old and the mother has another baby (a girl). This time, she ensured and insisted that the baby was given both the HepBIg and the vaccine at birth. The baby is about 7 months and has tested negative. Some good news!

This young woman is happy but has her regrets. She calls to appreciate my assistance and assurances. She told me she regrets her first child is positive. The boy is so handsome and intelligent and this sometimes makes her regret giving birth in the first place. She sometimes cries over that. Her husband has been very supportive too.

Her story is not so different from many others in some parts of the country. The unavailability of the immunoglobulin and the vaccine* in some cases, to babies born to positive mothers is a challenge. Even in places where the HepBIg are available, they are very expensive and only very few can afford.

Interestingly, most healthcare givers are unaware of this, especially, the need to give the immunoglobulin injection within 12hrs before breastfeeding.

Our system of vaccination requires that babies received their first vaccination (penta vaccine) after 6weeks and this contains the hepatitis B vaccine.
This also poses a great threat to babies born to positive mothers. They stand to be infected by the time they are 6weeks old.

I believe something can be done about this. With government interventions, we need to expand our awareness and education programs and campaigns to cover the rural areas too. And take the message to their doorsteps.

I can’t imagine her joy when she hears there’s a cure for babies born to positive mothers. And am sure that will go a long way in this our course.

This is a story of health professional who regretted giving birth. Her story is not different from those hepatitis patients out there who are suffering and cannot afford the treatment cost.

The action is now. Let’s come together to eliminate hepatitis from Ghana and Africa. It affects everyone and everywhere.