Sunday, June 18, 2000

Readers offer words of hope to man with terrible illness

        When I was able to shed some light on the devastating disease called hepatitis C through one man's story a few weeks ago, (“Former soldier battles a new enemy,” May 28), readers were quick to respond. One man wrote for his mother who also has hepatitis C and had long suffered with few who understood her condition. An old friend from Kharkiv, Ukraine, who met the Joseph Dee family through the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Project, was e-mailed the story by Jan Sherbin, a Cincinnati board member of the project, and is coming to “share a smile” with Mr. Dee.

        Most expressed sentiments of awareness and concern, but a few had other reactions to the story of Joseph Dee, a Vietnam veteran and former homicide detective with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. Here are some samples of what readers had to say:

        Dear Ms. Kendrick,

I enjoyed your article on Mr. Dee. I am a survivor of a drunk driver and have endured 21 surgeries so far. I, too, am having to educate my doctors because they now don't have a clue as to what to do for me. I have been given a tentative new diagnosis of osteo sarcoma (a fast growing and deadly type of bone cancer).

        I am in constant pain and fighting off infections. Joseph Dee's reference to being “up” sounded as though it had come from me. I am always trying to explain the why's. I am now facing certain amputation of the leg which I fought to salvage for 8 years. I am having to go to Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University for sec ond opinions because nothing seems to work.

        I fully can understand the trials Mr. Dee faces daily.

        — Dara Lehner, Springfield

Dear Ms. Kendrick,

I was especially touched by your article on Joseph Dee because I am also handicapped by illness.

        So many things he said made me cry because I understood and agreed with him and it is so hard to make others understand. It is also rare to find someone who knows what you are going through.

        Tell Joseph Dee that I have put him on my prayer list and that I thank him profoundly for all he has done for his country and me. Thank you for writing such a moving tribute to this man.

        — Rebecca Bockhold, Cincinnati

Dear Ms. Kendrick,

        While I was deeply saddened by Mr. Dee's story, I was rather amused that he had pretty much given up on living.

        I too had a blood transfusion in 1972, after a complicated miscarriage, and I too found out 20 years later that I had Hepatitis C.

        I was told it would probably never give me any problem, but I kept getting sicker and sicker, was always exhausted, and almost died, and then found out I had cirrhosis of the liver from the Hepatitis C.

        I didn't make any funeral plans, didn't keep people on the lookout for my obituary. I did not focus on death. I focused instead on living.

        After going from doctor to doctor, having every test done known to man, I was finally put on the liver transplant waiting list. I lived in constant pain and agony, couldn't sleep more than a few hours at a time from either gall bladder attacks or the pressure of excess peritoneal fluids pressing against all my internal organs. I had to have fluids drained from my abdomen every week for the last three months before the transplant. I received my transplant in March 1998, at 45 years of age and after 18 months of waiting.

        By the time I received it, I was begging God to either let me die or find me a liver. I am glad now that a liver was found in time.

        I was out of the hospital in two weeks and back to work full time in three months. My point is to let you know that there are so many people just like me, and to let Mr. Dee know that there is still life after Hepatitis C.

        I belong to a support group that gave me more hope than anyone during my illness. I met people who had received their transplant and were alive and energetic.

        — Pat Jauch, North College Hill, member of Tristate Liver Transplant Support Group

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. E-mail:


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