One woman’s powerful story of life after Hepatitis C and the team of dedicated health experts that helped her see another day.
Dianne Trowhill walks under a redbud tree at London’s John Gordon Home and has a message for those living with Hepatitis C, “Just get treated. There’s a life out there.”
Dianne is a Hepatitis C survivor, a direct result of the determination shown by her and her healthcare team who fought for access to a revolutionary new Hepatitis C drug that boasts a 90% success rate. One pill a day for 8 weeks with virtually no side effects. A pill that Dianne believes can change the lives of those like her who live with the struggle and stigma of Hepatitis C.
Her happiness this morning contrasts the fact that only months ago she was near death, belly swollen with fluids, liver shutting down, too sick to even make it to the doctor. She didn’t leave her home, the curtains drawn, her life hanging in the balance. “It was touch and go for a while there,” she says. “I could have passed away. Simple as that.”
Urging people to get treated for Hepatitis C is Dianne’s message. But her message and its delivery has been made possible in many ways by a London team of health professionals whose passion is helping those most in need. This team has, literally, altered the infectious disease paradigm in London.
Four years ago, London InterCommunity Health Centre (the Health Centre) and the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection created a four person Hepatitis C Care Team. The goal of the Team was to address the needs of Londoners, such as Dianne, at risk for, or living with, Hepatitis C. Dianne had difficulties accessing mainstream healthcare. Her crippling depression made it impossible to get to the doctor, and the negative stigma of her disease and addiction haunted her. She was stuck in a vicious circle of illness and depression. Just getting up in the morning was a huge accomplishment.
The Hepatitis C Care Team fought hard for her to gain access to the wonder drug that changed her life. They provided her with an Outreach Worker and Peer Support Worker who worked on Dianne’s behalf to access health and social services. They helped her book and get to appointments, and offered counselling to help her cope with depression. “What [the team] did was connect me to the things I needed,” says Dianne. “Without them I would have had no support, no treatment. They wrote letters to the drug company, made calls. It was not easy.” The Team connected Dianne with the John Gordon Home - a hospice where she lived for the duration of her treatment.
The London Hepatitis C Care Team believes that everyone should have access to treatment and compassionate, personal care. Part of their goal is to educate the at–risk population about infectious disease prevention and to provide a multi-faceted approach to risk reduction and treatment. This is the best way to move forward, and Dianne is an example of the success this approach can have.
Dianne’s ability to wake up every morning and face the day with positive energy is a direct result of these initiatives. “I had 24/7 support. The Team communicated with my family, met me at the doctor’s office. Who knows where I would be now without that support?”
Though Dianne’s health still fluctuates, she feels “fortunate and blessed.” She explains that she is “not 100 per cent cured. But as long as I have my grandchild and children to help care for, I have peace of mind.” She is currently on the waiting list for a liver transplant, but isn’t certain when, or if, it will happen. Until then, she spends her days caring for her granddaughter while her daughter works, and visiting her friends at the John Gordon Home. She is making up for the time that addiction and illness stole from her. Time that, in a sense, her treatment has given back.
Dianne Trowhill is a living embodiment of what it means to be human, scars and all. She is also a symbol of what can be accomplished when the community comes together to help those most in need. At the far end of the John Gordon Home garden is a water fountain that pours over hand-painted rocks with the names of residents recently deceased. Dianne smiles as Onyx the neighbourhood cat drinks from the fountain. For a moment, while examining the rocks, her smiles recedes and she turns to the sun.
“Just get treated,” she says. “That’s my message.” In Dianne’s case, she still depends on the help of the Hepatitis C Care Team. Even more than fighting for access to the wonder drug that saved her life, Dianne believes the most important role the Team plays in her life is providing emotional support. “Trusting people again,” she says, is the biggest hurdle she has faced in her recovery. “Trusting again is the hardest part of recovery” but because of the Team that surrounds her plus the love and support of her children, Diane is able to trust again and make the best of every day.