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My Journey to needing a Liver

In the summer of 1964, when I was 16 and between my Freshman and Sophomore years in high school, I was run over by a pharmacy delivery truck, whose driver had broken into a drug delivery. He illegally took some barbituates, became a Driver Under the Influence (DUI), lost control of the vehicle and ran up onto a sidewalk. I was on that sidewalk, with my cousin, and returning home from a workout. I was run over, my right ear partially severed, from being dragged by the truck some 100 feet. I had a cracked backbone, bruised kidney, ruptured spleen and 2 concussions. I was in a coma for 2 weeks. I was told that only my youth spared me from death.

Updates (2)

October 19, 2018

In the summer of 1964, when I was 16 and between my Freshman and Sophomore years in high school, I was run over by a pharmacy delivery truck, whose driver had broken into a drug delivery. He illegally took some barbituates, became a Driver Under the Influence (DUI), lost control of the vehicle and ran up onto a sidewalk. I was on that sidewalk, with my cousin, and returning home from a workout. I was run over, my right ear partially severed, from being dragged by the truck some 100 feet. I had a cracked backbone, bruised kidney, ruptured spleen and 2 concussions. I was in a coma for 2 weeks. I was told that only my youth spared me from death.

I had lettered as a freshman at Holy Cross High School, in track, and thought to be a promising athlete. Due to the injuries, I was prohibited from participating in contact sports, such as football, my true love.

Through the grace of God, a dedicated private nurse and with the love and support of my parents, I recovered. However, during the surgery, I had internal bleeding and received a transfusion. Unknown to all involved, the transfusion was with tainted blood. Hepatitis C was not discovered until 1990, more than 26 years after that fateful transfusion. I continued in High School to run track, but never achieved the potential that I envisioned.

A decade or so later, both of my parents died two years apart, when I was 28 and 30 respectively. Being an only child, I was presented with the fact that I now had to make my way alone. I cared for my grandmother until her death, at the age of 102. I married and had children, not knowing that the HCV was eating away at my liver.

Move ahead to 1999, when I was having my yearly prostate exam. The urologist ran some liver tests on me and I was ultimately diagnosed with the Hepatitis C virus, HCV. I underwent two 48 week regimens of Interferon and relapsed, both times. During these treatments I was weakened and my work as a health care recruiter of Clinical Medical Physicists, suffered greatly.

In 2015 I was offered the miracle drug Harvoni. After six weeks of treatment, The HCV was cleared from my system. I am so grateful to the Hepatology team at Ochsner, for helping me obtain this expensive but curative drug.

After clearing my system of the HCV, I was scheduled for regular six month follow ups. Until a few weeks ago, I seemed fine. Then, one of my labs showed a spike in my AfP tumor marker score from 2.4 to 39. My PA became concerned and ordered an ultrasound, CT, then an MRI. They identified a cell that was determined to be HCC, Hepatocellular Carcinoma, AKA liver cancer. I was informed on my son’s birthday, as we were about to celebrate, I became somber and sorrowful, rather than happy and joyful. I shared the news with only a few family members that evening, not wanting to put a definitive damper on the mood. But, make no mistake, I was depressed, and my family bewildered, as to just how to take this news.

My only grandson, 3 year old Vincent is the joy in my life. We spend countless hours and days together, bonding and reveling in our naturally symbiotic relationship. For me to contemplate, not only my own death, but the pain and mental anguish it would cause him, to loose his pawpaw, brings tears to my eyes, every time.

I am determined to beat this latest challenge. I have totally changed my lifestyle to be the best patient I can be. I have lost almost forty pounds, walk three miles 6x a week. Have put myself on a 1600 calorie diet and upped my prayer count immeasurably. As I tell my friends this fateful story, I can see, feel and hear their concern, but assure
them that I will be the best possible compliant patient that I can be. My confidence level is still high, due to Ochsner bring a top rated Multi-Organ Transplant Center

My RFA is scheduled for October 29, but there is no guarantee that other HCC cells will not continue to pop up in my now grossly cirrhotic liver. Therefore, I need this transplant to live a longer life. My general health, other than this cancer, of course, is good. My liver is still functioning and my MELD score is 10. Being a local patient, I can be called to be the backup for any blood “type A” transplants that may be scheduled. My journey begins again.

I reflect back on that fateful accident when I was 16, no fault of my own, but never the less, setting into motion the dynamics that lead me here today. That is my Story.

October 17, 2018

My RFA (Radiofrequency ablation) is scheduled for Monday October 29. I’ve lost 35 lbs since May and have changed my lifestyle to include 50 mins of cardio 6x a week and constant prayer. I have changed my diet to include 1600 calories a day. I am eating at least 2 cups of vegetables and fruits a day, including a veggie omelet in the morning or oatmeal with blueberries. I am drinking water constantly. I eat a banana every day, as my grandmother told me that’s why she lived to 102, lol. My HCC has been measured at 2.2 cm as of the last MRI and I have been officially added to the transplant list. My MELD score is at 10 and because I am a local patient (20 mins from Ochsner), I could be called at any time as a backup to any scheduled transplant recipient with A type blood. My Bone density score was .6 and that is within the preferred range of -1 to +1. My stress test was good, reaching heart rate of 127, which is 85% of the max for my age of 150, within just 8 minutes.

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Guestbook

October 19, 2018

Love you Howie.

Lindy Brown

October 19, 2018

I am with you Howard in so many ways. Yesterday I had a fibroscan to see what kind of damage has been done to my liver. I also have hep C and went on the interferon treatment many years ago, but just recently it has become active again. Been a nervous wreck waiting for the procedure and was finally blessed with good news that I qualify for the new drug treatment and the doctor says the prognosis is good. I’m sharing this so you know I do know somewhat where your at and that I will be sending prayers and loving thoughts to you. There are no words to ease the pain of what you must feel about your grandson. I know you must be the very best pawpaw. Keep making memories.I know your faith is strong and you have good people around you for support. Thank you for sharing this. That in itself took courage. You are a strong and beautiful man Howard and you are not alone on this journey.

Lindy