When Vanda Jenkins was diagnosed with Hepatitis C last year, she was already experiencing acute liver failure.
The mother from Frankston, Victoria, had been living for more than 35 years without knowing she had the disease.
Jenkins’ experience might sound rare, but one per cent of Aussies have Hepatitis C, and if untreated it can lead on to life-threatening situations like hers.
For some people, the way they contract the disease isn’t known. The blood borne virus can be transmitted in multiple ways from one person’s blood to another, through shared needles, via blood transfusion (pre-1990 in Australia, before blood was screened), as well as transmission from mother to baby and through sexual transmission.
Jenkins is still uncertain as to how she may have contracted it, although she says finding out she had the infection wasn’t the huge shock you might imagine it would be.
“I just seemed to take it all in my stride and amazingly enough, I didn’t even feel a scared sensation. I was completely ignorant of what Hep C was, even though I had heard of it. All I can recollect was that people who had it had a yellow tinge in their eyes,” Jenkins says.
Another disease you might need to know more about is the Zika Virus. Watch Mamamia TV’s video below. (Post continues after video.)
After being admitted to hospital, Jenkins was educated about her illness quite quickly and was given medication to treat it.
“Immediately they assessed me as having ascites [the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, which can be caused by liver disease] and proceeded to drain my stomach, which had accumulated many, many litres of fluid over a nine month period,” she explains.
Jenkins admits part of the reason why it had accumulated for so long was due to her decision to put her health “on the back burner.”
Between having her house on the market and focusing on her family’s needs, she didn’t seek help for the buildup of fluid in her stomach, assuming it was due to middle-age. Had she sought treatment earlier, her liver would not have been as badly affected.
“It could have been dormant for as long as 45 years. My skin had gotten darker and my ignorance to the illness led me to believe maybe because of my age, ‘age spots’ had just joined together. Looking back now I think, ‘How could I have been so stupid?'” Jenkins explains.