This month’s community spotlight is, as always, a little bit different.
One of our beloved friends at VIDC, Brody Williams, recently appeared on Global News as a success story — Brody has finally won the battle against hepatitis C after six (6) different treatments!
Brody’s story is filled with a lot of ups and downs. He’s been struggling with the disease, the illness, the effects of the medications, the stress and financial burden of the disease and treatment, etc. This interview is Brody’s way of waving his flag at the top of a mountain after all the hardships he had to deal with to reach the summit!
At the end of the video, Dr. Conway says to Brody:
“… we’ll pick up the ball from here. We will help the people you want us to help.”
After everything he’s been through, Brody is determined to help others out. He’s been very passionate in attending and providing insight and support to other patients at our HCV Treatment Support Group.
Now that he’s officially cured, he is all the more determined to help others succeed in their battle against HCV. He’s currently still very actively engaged in our HCV Treatment Support Group and is looking into other avenues to better help other out.
The poster says it all! Come join us on July 31 (Friday) for a special Support Group session to mark World Hepatitis Day 2015.
July 28 is the official World Hepatitis Day when all around the world health care professional and organizations join together in bringing awareness to the dangers of this virus.
With 400 million infected, and 4,000 people dying everyday of the virus, we need a lot more work in getting awareness and education about the virus out there.
To find out more about World Hepatitis Day 2015, click here. On their website, they have toolkits and materials you can use to spread the world locally. Infographics and posters are readily available for download — in various languages too. There is a lot you can do on their website, from posting a photo of yourself to show solidarity, to browsing events you can be part of worldwide!
Dr. Coleman has been a counselor for 25 years and has been working extensively in a sexually transmitted clinic for over 10 years. His experience with individuals dealing with sexuality, addiction, and incarceration issues has made him a very valuable partner of VIDC. Every couple of months, Dr. Coleman would come facilitate one of our Hep C Support Group meetings and have a little bit of a group counseling session with us.
Last week the topic was values, or inner spirit as some might call it; or basically, who we are independent of our actions — because sometimes our actions are caused by our circumstances not really by who we truly are inside. Dr. Coleman broke down what our values are comprised of into three main components: how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we see the world.
It was a very informative and interactive meeting where attendees were able to express their thoughts and feelings about who they think they are.
To close the session, Dr. Coleman directed us to the Barrett Values Centre website where we could get a free personal values assessment. Some of us had our results printed and we were able to sit down and discuss with Dr. Coleman, over lunch, what the results meant and how we should use this information.
Defining who we are is a struggle everyone has to deal with, a struggle that becomes harder to overcome when disease/illness and life circumstances get in the way. Our goal last week was to remind everyone that our situations do not define who we are. As part of our commitment to holistic care, this was a necessary session to encourage our patients to not let the disease and the illness take over their lives.
We love having Dr. Coleman over not just for his insights, but also because he is a health care professional that is very dedicated to his clients. His office is less than a minute’s walk away from our clinic, and he provides affordable counseling for those who need it. Find out more about him and his practice on his website.
The biggest lesson I learned is that for me to see treatment through, it requires a team that includes doctors, specialists, nurses, receptionists, cohorts, family and friends. And of course, a dog named Charlie. – Suzan Krieger
This month’s Community Spotlight features one of VIDC’s beloved friends: Suzan Krieger. Specifically, it’s about her article on the May-June edition of Positive Living Magazine entitled Hepatitis and Depression: A Personal Take.
Suzan is one of those courageous individuals who successfully overcame the disease and illness and wrote about it. Her article recounts her journey from when she was diagnosed to her full recovery.
Suzan’s journey is far from pleasant, her diagnosis came as a shock that led to depression, the treatment she first received felt like it would kill her before it cures her, and the medical community seemed absent in all of this. After enduring all that, she resigned to letting the virus stay and live with it.
Fortunately, that’s not where her story ends,
A few years later, I went to a workshop put on by Positive Living BC that featured Dr. Brian Conway, the medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre (VIDC) and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal honoree. At the close of the workshop, I spoke with Dr. Conway and explained how I had tried and felt I had lost on my treatment. He gave me his card and with a confident voice said, “I can help.”
Suzan met Dr. Conway and got introduced to VIDC and our commitment to holistic care.
We’ve written about this commitment a couple of times in this blog (here and here), and yet Suzan’s description of the help she received at VIDC deserves its own post.
The VIDC uses open discussion about feelings—treating one with respect and dignity and providing stellar medical care in as comfortable a surrounding as possible. The team’s approach can be thought of as holistic medicine (a form of healing that considers the whole person)—body, mind, spirit, and emotions—in the quest for optimal health and wellness.
It’s one thing for a medical clinic to describe what it aims to do, it’s a whole other thing if an individual who receive that care describes it. Suzan outlines in her piece what role Dr. Conway played in her treatment.
Dr. Conway helped me find Dr. Patricia Howitt, who is now my primary physician ... [Dr.Conway] met with me and explained my new treatment and, week by week, he kept my spirits up and encouraged me that this treatment—this time—would work.
Our HCV Clinical Research Nurse, Shawn Sharma RN also got a special mention,
Shawn Sharma, a registered nurse, set up a conference call with Gilead and my healthcare insurance company, clearing the way for treatment with the new drug, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and ribavirin. The cost of the combination treatment is around $93,000 per year. Sharma also started me on a vitamin program and made himself available to me throughout the three-month treatment program.
However, VIDC isn’t just a two-man team, and Suzan saw that in action too.
The VIDC did everything from blood testing to ultrasound scans. ... VIDC’s waiting room is a wonderful, chaotic haven filled with patients waiting for their turn to be cared for. The staff provides TV, coffee, snacks, information, and support for the waiting room folk.
The reason we keep emphasizing the need and the importance of a holistic approach is precisely because of people like Suzan. Individuals who stuck with us and give us that pat on the shoulder and says “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.” Awards, acclaims, and recognition from anywhere can never compare to a simple heartfelt thank you from people whose lives you’ve touched and changed.
Suzan, thank you for letting VIDC be a part of your journey and for being such a great example to others!
If you want to read Suzan’s full article (WHY WOULDN’T YOU?) click here!
After ignoring Eric Cassell’s lack of gender sensitivity in his language (we’ll let it slide as it was written in the 1970s), his statement actually resonates very well with the VIDC mission. Our holistic approach to healthcare understands this difference and, as such, addresses both the illness and the disease.
Initiatives like our DTES Pop-Up Clinics and VIDC Connect stem from this and seek to engage the community through awareness building and information dissemination. And we don’t stop there! We directly engage with our patients through our Hepatitis C (HCV) Support Group.
Every Friday from 10AM to 12PM we have breakfast, a discussion group, and lunch for patients who deal or have dealt with Hepatitis C (HCV). Our discussions are led by our HCV Nurse, Shawn, who prepares a presentation on anything and everything that’s related to dealing with Hep C — healthy living, coping with the illness, GMOs, new treatments, drug interactions, etc.
It’s a discussion group meant to inform, educate, and provide social support for patients dealing with the illness and disease brought about by the Hep C Virus. Sometimes attendees just sit and listen to Shawn, sometimes they have very lively discussions on how they feel about healthy food options, and other times they have very heartfelt discussions on what it feels like to live with Hep C. Whatever the case is, it’s always a space where people can feel safe, cared for, and listened to.
Following Eric Cassell’s quote, there is a huge difference between the illness and the disease caused by HCV. The medication can only deal with the disease, and that’s why we have the Hep C Support Group to help patients tackle the illness.
As Dr. Brian Conway MD, FRCPC would often remind us,
A person’s well-being is like a four-legged chair and physical health is just one of the legs. If we want to ensure someone is fully healthy, we need to address all four aspects of his/her person — and social health is one of them. [Paraphrased]