Hepatitis C goes untreated for nine years

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SARASOTA- Hepatitis C is easily treated and curable, but to be cured, you have to know you have it.

Michele Parke says she tested positive for the disease in 2009, and for almost a decade the disease has continued to progress because the health department didn’t tell her the results.

“They didn’t even tell me,” Parke said. “And I kept telling them something’s wrong, and I’ve seen doctor after doctor after doctor after doctor, not one told me.”

Michele went to the Sarasota County Health Department with odd symptoms in 2009.

“I just didn’t feel right,” Parke said. “You can just tell when something’s wrong with you.”

She had persistent nausea and headaches, and over 9 years her symptoms kept getting worse.

“Then my joints started,” Parke said. “My ankles, my knees, like my body doesn’t want to hold my weight up, it’s hard to walk. Then I started with the swelling.”

Then a severe pain in her side. In February 2018 a doctor said she was determined to find an answer, and she did, Hepatitis C.

“My knees went weak,” Parke said. “And I said when, when did you find out I had this, how did you know I had it, she pulled the monitor, and bright red letters, she goes let’s look, and it said 2009 bright red letters.”

So for 9 years, Parke didn’t receive the treatment she should have.

“It’s difficult to know exactly what could have happened to this woman in the last 9 years,” Dr. Vega said. “Some patients it can be a very aggressive form, and they can go on to develop liver cancer or even cirrhosis in those 9 years.”

Medical Director for CAN Community Health, Dr. Vilma Vega says that damage usually occurs over 10-20 years.

“The good news is that the medications that are available to us now are so simple,” Dr. Vega said. “That the good news is they’ll probably be able to get treated right away within the 8-12 week window time for the medication.”

So Michele Parke could achieve a 100% cure.

“It can be cured,” Parke said. “It can be cured, and I thank god for that, and I’m just praying it will be cured.”

Parke hopes her story encourages others to take control of their care.

“Whatever doctor you go to,” Parke said. “Make sure you look at your lab results yourself because you cannot depend on the doctors to do it, you can’t depend on the doctor’s to do it.”

The Sarasota County Health Department says they can’t comment because it violates patient privacy regulations.

Michele will be starting treatment at CAN community health this month. If you are at risk of contracting Hepatitis-C, Dr. Vega says talk to your doctor about being tested because the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to treat.

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at samantha.sonner@snntv.com.