Random hepatitis C test results in lifesaving treatment for Taranaki woman
22 July 2020
When Lynne Shannholtzer went to see a specialist for ongoing fatigue, she never thought a random test at a Hepatitis Awareness Week pop-up clinic in the hospital foyer last year would solve her health issues.
“I’d been feeling really tired all the time, with dry eyes and mouth; my GP had run all sorts of tests and nothing was coming from it; hepatitis was never something I had considered a possibility.
“On my way through the hospital foyer I spotted the hepatitis C (hep C) pop-up clinic display which showed very similar symptoms to what I had been experiencing. I didn’t know a lot about hep C but given how I was feeling I thought it couldn’t hurt to get tested,” Lynne said.
Just five minutes later, the quick and painless finger-prick test gave her the answers she had been looking for.
While Lynne was shocked to learn she had hepatitis C, she felt relief to finally know what was wrong, and to learn that hep C no longer carried the life-sentence it used to.
Dr Nadja Gottfert, Taranaki DHB and HealthShare hep C community support clinician, says “Hep C is often described as the ‘silent killer’. Around 50,000 New Zealanders have it but many don’t know as the symptoms can be subtle. It can lead to liver disease and/or cancer, and if left untreated it can be deadly.”
This could certainly have been the case for Lynne had she not had that random hep C test. Her liver function tests prior to the pop-up clinic had been clear, so for Lynne’s GP, there was none of the usual indicators that it could have been hep C.
Further blood tests and a prescription for the new fully-funded medication meant just two months later Lynne was cleared of the life-threatening virus, and now has more energy than she’s had for a very long time.
“My advice to anyone who is feeling tiredness, has joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain or is in one of the high risk groups, is to talk to your GP about getting tested – it’s quick, painless and results are almost immediate,” Lynne said.
Nadja says “The most common way of getting hepatitis C is through activities related to intravenous drug use. So if you have ever injected, even if it was only once back in the day, you should get tested.
“It doesn’t matter how you got hep C, what’s important is getting cured so you can get on with your life.”
Last updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2020