Mercy Health Hepatitis C Clinic Celebrates 1,000 Cures

Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne infection worldwide, and the number of people living with this disease in the U.S. is staggering.

Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. Chronic hepatitis C causes scars and inflammation in the liver that can lead to extensive scarring or fibrosis (stiffening of the liver).

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

  • 2.4 million people are estimated to be living with hepatitis C in the United States. The actual number may be as high as 4.7 million.
  • 51% of persons living with a hepatitis C infection do not know they have it.

The infection can go undetected for decades, finally surfacing with symptoms such as joint pain or fatigue that mimic the natural signs of aging. If left untreated, the virus can cause cirrhosis, cancer, and death.

This silent killer is so common that hepatitis C screening is recommended for everyone over 18.

The Good News

Fortunately for patients, the Mercy Health Hepatitis C Clinic in Muskegon is the only dedicated hepatitis C treatment clinic in the state of Michigan. That means patients have access to state-of-the-art care.

Since 2011, Mercy Health’s dynamic Hep C care team has served patients in eight counties and recently celebrated 1,000 cures of this often-undetected virus.

And there is more good news:

  • There are no longer any insurance restrictions on who can be treated.
  • The clinic treats Hep C with oral medication.
  • Today, a cure is possible.

Meet John Luke Daniel, Who Was Cured

John Luke Daniel*, 60, was one of the people who had Hep C but had no symptoms. It was his Mercy Health Primary Care Physician (PCP) who noticed John’s liver enzymes rising over time and took action.

“I was at a routine physical a little over a year ago, and my PCP noticed that my liver enzymes had gone up even more from the previous year, which was elevated. He kind of raised an eyebrow. So, my doctor ran more bloodwork — which didn’t show a cause — and then he decided to run a hepatitis test.”

The results came a few days later, when John was at work. He was in shock. “My jaw dropped, and my eyes welled up. I couldn’t help but think about how, when I was young, this diagnosis was a death sentence.”

With loving support from his wife who had called him, John made it home from work that day. “She is like the Rock of Gibraltar. She called me and said that we’d figure this out together… we’d get through this together.”

John’s PCP immediately referred John to the Mercy Health Hep C Clinic.

“Swirling” is how John describes his mind during his first appointment. Thoughts of making sure his affairs were in order came to mind. Then Elaine Englesman, DNP, entered the room.

“She introduced herself and said, ‘We’re going to get through this, and I have the utmost confidence that this treatment will work.’ She is outstanding and her staff is great. They made me feel relaxed. When I left there, I felt like the weight of the world had been shifted away from me, and I started sobbing.”

John was unaware that there is an oral medication that can cure hep C. He was relieved by the news but concerned about the cost. “But Elaine and her team did the paperwork” so John could afford it.

If You Are Hesitant

“If somebody is sick with what I had, you need to know there is a cure. If you are worried about the stigma, set that aside and remember that your life is important. This care team is professional and spot on. They put you at ease, they explain everything in detail, and they check on you.”

John’s faith is very important in his life. He sings the praises of his church prayer group who also offered their support.

“I am so grateful to God for the doctors and the team. My future is bright. I can resume my life and see my grandkids get married. Without the Mercy Health Hep C Clinic, I’d be dead. Now I’m cured!”

If you think you may be at risk for Hep C, ask your Mercy Health Primary Care Physician to run a test.

*To protect this patient’s privacy, we are using a pseudonym.

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