Hep B Blog

Tag Archives: Adoption

The Terrible Price Paid When Doctors Fail to Test and Treat Patients for Hepatitis B

Image courtesy of Janpen04081986 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image courtesy of Janpen04081986 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

By Christine Kukka

The day we arrived home from China, my husband and I brought our four-month-old adopted daughter to a pediatrician for a check-up. The doctor looked at my daughter’s health records from China, saw she had tested negative for hepatitis B, and said, “Good, I don’t have to test her for that.”

About a year later, I got sick, very sick. I felt nauseous, my stomach hurt and I felt bone tired. I gradually recovered and chalked it up to a bad case of flu.

When my daughter was 2 years old, I read on an adoption email list that some children were testing positive for hepatitis B stateside, though their medical reports in China had given them a clean bill of health. During her next check-up, I asked the pediatrician to test her for hepatitis B. The test result came back positive. A week later, so did mine.

My daughter had chronic hepatitis B, and I, who had donated blood regularly until I became a busy parent, had  an acute case, and cleared the infection. Our story, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Across the U.S., many primary care doctors fail to test at-risk patients for hepatitis B.

I live in a rural, New England state where there are not many people from countries with high rates of hepatitis B. Our pediatrician didn’t know that it can take several weeks after exposure  for an infection to show up in a lab test. She didn’t know that China’s medical records weren’t reliable. She knows it now, but many providers still don’t.

Over the years, I have heard many similar stories with worse outcomes. In one case, a young woman born in South Korea suffered epilepsy and her doctor treated her with a common seizure medication without first screening her for liver infection or damage. She died in her early 20s from liver cancer. The epilepsy drug accelerated her hepatitis B-related liver disease.

A recent article published on the Monthly Prescribing Reference website, describes how a primary care provider was sued for malpractice after he failed to monitor a patient for liver damage despite the fact the Asian-American patient told him he had hepatitis B in his teens. The patient, who was treated by the doctor for more than 15 years, died from liver cancer resulting from untreated hepatitis B.

In addition to these stories, there are numerous studies published in medical journals that show doctors often fail to test patients for hepatitis B or treat them appropriately when hepatitis B is diagnosed. Even liver experts who should know better often don’t follow medical guidelines that recommend antiviral treatment for hepatitis B-related liver damage.

I often wonder why there is this breakdown in hepatitis B care. I wonder if it stems from racism or prejudice. Many people with hepatitis B are people of color, recent immigrants, gay, or low-income. These patients can be challenging for doctors, especially when providers have little experience with hepatitis B, but that’s no excuse.

Over the years, I have accompanied my daughter to her medical appointments and often remind doctors what labs they should order and what the latest monitoring guidelines are. The best of them admit they don’t know how to treat hepatitis B and sit down and read the latest guidelines and discuss a care plan with my daughter. The worse simply do whatever I ask, and I am no doctor.

martin luther king blue I have found one of the best tools available  are software programs that link a patient’s electronic medical record to current medical guidelines. It makes it easy for doctors to know what tests should be ordered, especially if they have never treated hepatitis B before. But they need to have the software and the desire to use it.

I appreciate that doctors are human, over-worked and are driven by an assembly line business model that makes it hard to pause and research a new medical condition. However, the human price paid for lapses in care is terrible, and far more costly considering the expense of treating liver cancer, compared to running the right tests and prescribing the correct antiviral treatment today.

In the U.S., about two-thirds of people living with chronic hepatitis B don’t know they’re infected. They don’t have the money, the insurance coverage, or access to the right doctors who will test and treat them, and make sure their family members are tested and vaccinated. An estimated 20 percent of these people will die prematurely from liver disease. And today, as I listen to the news, I am afraid it’s only going to get worse.

The Annual Hepatitis B Check-up: Facing Mortality and a Missing History

Image by worradmu, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image by worradmu, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

For more than 20 years, I have accompanied my daughter to her annual hepatitis B check-up with her liver specialist. She is 22 and does not need me to come, but I always go out of habit and love.

After the appointment, we sit eating lunch and I talk about how lucky she is that her liver has been healthy and her viral load undetectable for many years. Recently, she started testing negative for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). However, she has never developed hepatitis B surface antibodies. Her immune system has cleaned house, but has lacked the power to produce enough surface antibodies to show up on lab tests and declare her free of infection.

For the second year in a row, her doctor gave her a hepatitis B vaccine shot, an experiment to see if the injection of HBsAg would spur her immune system to generate enough surface antibodies to register in a lab test. Continue reading "The Annual Hepatitis B Check-up: Facing Mortality and a Missing History"

Preparing for College, Dating and Disclosing Hepatitis B

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When my daughter, who has chronic hepatitis B, packed for her freshman year of college, I peppered her with warnings about the need for standard precautions and condoms. I suggested wording for a future conversation where she would disclose her infection and negotiate safe sex with a potential partner.

I hoped these verbal dress rehearsals would empower and protect her, especially if that potential boyfriend turned her down. I wanted her to know that any rejection would not be about her or her hepatitis B, it would be about his fears. Continue reading "Preparing for College, Dating and Disclosing Hepatitis B"

Four Things Fathers Affected by Hepatitis B Can Do for Themselves and Their Families

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Father’s Day, June 21, is a day to celebrate the contributions men make in their children’s lives. It’s also a good day for fathers to acknowledge how valuable they are to their families and how important it is to take care of their health.

Living with chronic hepatitis B can be challenging. Here are some things dads can do to take care of themselves or family members infected with hepatitis B.

1. Get outside and soak in some sunlight and some vitamin D. People with hepatitis B who have vitamin D deficiencies have higher rates of liver damage, cirrhosis and cancer. A healthy diet provides vitamin D, but 80 percent of our vitamin D comes from 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight two to three times a week. So get outside and walk, garden, exercise and soak in some healthy sunlight.

Continue reading "Four Things Fathers Affected by Hepatitis B Can Do for Themselves and Their Families"

An Event-Filled Hepatitis Awareness Month for the Hepatitis B Foundation and Hep B United Philadelphia

Hepatitis Awareness Month has come to a close, and it has been one exciting, busy month for those of us at HBF and Hep B United Philadelphia. In the course of 6 weeks, we have had many of our major events of the year – nearly all featured during Hepatitis Awareness Month or on Hepatitis Testing Day.  Have a look at what we’ve been up to this past month…

HBF preceded the month with its annual, signature fund-raising event. The Crystal Ball was held April 27th and was a very successful, enchanted evening for all in attendance. HBF exceeded goals for the year, and we were pleased to honor Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), who was presented with the Baruch S. Blumberg Prize for his leadership in creating the HHS Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis.

The Hepatitis B Foundation was selected as this month’s featured partner by CDC NPIN. What a great honor, and a wonderful opportunity for HBF to showcase some of our programs, services and materials.

On May 15th, AAPCHO and HBF, with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, launched the Hep B United national campaign.  This unique partnering and collaborative effort will bring attention and action to end hepatitis B – especially among high-risk Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in the U.S. You’re going to see a lot of activity out of Hep B United...

HBF’s Director of Public Policy & Affairs set off to Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Briefing on Chronic Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer hosted by our champions in Congress.  Keeping Hepatitis in the hearts and minds of our elected Representatives is paramount in supporting viral hepatitis efforts in our country.

Hep B United Philadelphia wrapped up its awesome “B A Hero” PSA video contest and finalists and winners were announced. Check out these great PSAs!

Hepatitis Testing Day and the days leading up to the event were extremely busy for the Hepatitis B Foundation, Hep B United Philadelphia, and Partners. We kicked off testing day with our awareness-raising Flash Mob Event in Love Park in Philadelphia. This fantastic event included special guests Mayor Nutter, and Councilman David Oh, and plenty of other notable Hep B Heroes in attendance.  It was an honor to receive a City Proclamation by Councilman Oh, supporting efforts to eradicate hepatitis B in the city of Philadelphia. And of course the students put their spin on the event with a “B A Hero” Rap. You have to listen to this...

Saturday, Hepatitis Testing Day, Hep B United Heroes donned their hero capes for the Hepatitis Testing Day Event held at the Asian Pacific Heritage Festival in Philadelphia. It was a successful event with 112 screened. Those screened and in need of vaccination will be provided with the HBV vaccination series, free of charge, from the Philadelphia Department of Health.

That same day, Hepatitis B Foundation heroes hosted HBF’s B Informed Conference. This year’s conference was specifically directed to parents of children with hepatitis B. This was an incredible full-day conference. Expert specialists in the field addressed both the medical issues and personal challenges of parenting a child with hepatitis B.  It was a wonderful opportunities for parents to meet and discuss, face-to-face, with families facing like challenges. Lasting bonds were created that day. You’ll want to check back at a later time to read a reflection on the day, and access information presented by our expert speakers.

And finally we end this month’s awareness efforts this weekend by participating in the Philadelphia Independence Dragon Boat Regatta. Team Philadelphia Hep B Heroes will (hopefully) row their boat to victory, but even if they don’t win, they are winners at heart. The team is composed not of an expert crew, but rather Hep B United Philly community partners, student partners and staff. If you’re in Philly, stop by and cheer the team to victory. Plenty of team members will be at the event to raise HBV awareness and discuss hepatitis B testing, prevention and treatment.

There were a lot of Hep B Heroes out there this month.  Feel free to share the events of your organization this month!

Hep B Parents: 10 Reasons You Should Get Yourself to Philly

Attention parents of children living with Hepatitis B. Please join the Hepatitis B Foundation for it’s “2012 B Informed Parent Conference“, Saturday May 19th in Philadelphia. It’s going to be an incredible program filled with expert, pediatric guest speakers. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for parents to meet face-to-face to talk about raising kids with HBV.  Think about it, clear your schedule, register, and join us for the day. And if that isn’t enough, here are 10 Reasons You Should Get Yourself to Philly, expressed by Eileen, a good friend of HBF…

1. The “B Informed” Conference for parents of children with Hepatitis B happens just once a year. You do not want to miss this.

2. You will get answers. No matter where your child is on the spectrum, I know you’ve got questions. You’re going to get those questions answered. This isn’t a doctor’s appointment, there isn’t a waiting room full of patients, the doctor’s hand isn’t already on the doorknob. Ask all the questions you want to ask and ask until the lightbulb turns on and you get it. You’ll go home a more confident, better informed advocate for your child.

Read more…

Update on the Adoption of a Waiting Child with Hepatitis B

We are very pleased to share a very special update on the status of William, a waiting child  living with chronic hepatitis B, who captured the hearts of the Hepatitis B Foundation staff. This update comes from Nathalie, Adoption Advocacy Director at An Orphan’s Wish…

“I am thrilled to report that William is in the process of being adopted by his forever family, where he will join his new, wonderful Mom and Dad and his two-new sisters. William’s youngest sister is also adopted from China. When William’s mother contacted An Orphan’s Wish to inquire about him, she had some questions about the implications of daily living with an HBV positive child, and how it affects the child’s life and the life of other family members. The information the Hepatitis B Foundation provided was extremely helpful in answering the family’s questions, and in providing them with enough knowledge to ask informed questions of health care providers. Information provided by the Hepatitis B Foundation allowed this prospective family to have peace of mind about William’s hepatitis B diagnosis, realizing that it is a manageable chronic condition. This enabled them to focus on the specifics of William rather than his HBV. William’s family very quickly responded with more questions for me about his personality, his likes and his dislikes, his dreams and his hopes, rather than focusing on his HBV. They were adopting a son they were thrilled to parent, and thought little of his HBV diagnosis.

As an adoption advocate, the information provided by the Hepatitis B Foundation has been invaluable in educating me about hepatitis B, and HBV positive children. I feel that I have a much better understanding of this chronic condition, and I am in a much better position to answer questions from families considering the adoption of an HBV positive child. I will continue to refer families inquiring about hepatitis B positive children to the Hepatitis B Foundation. They are a wonderful resource! “

Nathalie

The Hepatitis B Foundation wishes only the best for William, his new family, adoption advocates like Nathalie, and all of the children out there who are waiting, living with HBV.

Adopting a Special-Needs Child with Hepatitis B

William - Waiting child with HBV. Contact advocacy@anorphanswish.org for more information.

If you are considering the adoption of a special needs child, I would encourage you to consider adopting a child with Hepatitis B. Children with HBV are available for adoption around the globe. Remember that one third of the world’s population has been infected with HBV.  The transmission of HBV from mother to child during delivery process is very common in many parts of the world. HBV can be prevented in 95% of cases for those that are vaccinated and receive HBIG within 12 hours of birth, with the other two shots of the series to follow, but unfortunately these options are not available to many infants around the globe.  Because HBV is a silent infection, many moms are not even aware they have HBV, and few are screened and identified during pregnancy.

Adopting a child with HBV is very manageable. However, it is good to get educated before you move forward.  Kids with HBV may require treatment when they return home, although most do not. This will not be determined until your child arrives home and has a thorough work-up with a liver specialist.  Please don’t ask for additional testing of your child, as the additional needle sticks raise their risks for infectious disease.

Most children do not have symptoms with their HBV.  They appear perfectly healthy, and they are healthy with the exception of having the HBV virus circulating in them.  They sleep, eat and cry, just like any other baby, and they run, play, captivate and steal the hearts of their parents just like any other child.

Quite often treatment is not necessary for a child with HBV. They have high viral loads, which do make them infectious, but the good news is that the HBV vaccine is a requirement in nearly all states, and licensed day-care facilities. These elevated numbers sometimes worry parents, but the kids are just fine and it is merely a stage of the virus, which tends to occur children infected at birth or early on.  Kids rarely have symptoms and their liver enzymes and blood work are typically within range.   Some children seroconvert, or move into a quiescent, less infectious state on their own with no treatment, while others continue on in this steady state without any intervention other than bi-annual or annual lab work and a visit to a pediatric liver specialist.

However, some children do require treatment when they are young. This is not as common, and is determined by blood work that shows that the immune system is trying to attack the virus in the liver cells. This may sound frightening, but once again, the kids are rarely symptomatic.  Doctors may choose to treat a child in order to see if they can get the child to seroconvert, or move to a more benign stage of the virus’ lifecycle.  For young children, this may involve an immune modulator such as interferon or peginterferon , or in older children, or different circumstance, an oral antiviral.  As a parent, I have been through both, so I can tell you that the protocol is manageable.  There are pros and cons to each treatment protocol which you will want to discuss in detail with your pediatric liver specialist should treatment be recommended.

Believe it or not, one of the tougher decisions is figuring out how you want to handle your child’s personal information.  Often there is a stigma associated with HBV which is primarily borne of ignorance and lack of HBV awareness.   I admit that I had very little understanding of the virus when we came home with our daughter!   The tough part is deciding how you want to handle this information.  It’s a family decision, and until you decide how you want to treat it as a family, you are better keeping this information private.  I would highly recommend speaking with other parents that have experience, both good and bad, with the disclosure of their child’s HBV status.  There is a wonderful, on-line support group you might like to join to discuss the adoption of a child with HBV.

Living day to day with a child with HBV is simple. The biggest transition is learning to deal with preventive measures or general standard precautions, which we should all be following anyway!  All this really entails is making sure that all blood and body fluid spills and contacts are prevented by using a barrier between the bleeding person and you.  Blood spills are cleaned with a fresh, diluted bleach solution.  Should an exposure occur, prophylaxis should be given.  Here’s the thing… we should be doing this with EVERYONE and not just a known entity! It keeps everyone in your family infection free from all sorts of things!

How do you prepare to bring a child with HBV into your home?  It’s simple.  If everyone in your home has not been vaccinated against HBV and had titres checked, then they should do so.  The HBV vaccine is a safe and effective three shot series.  Four to six weeks following the last shot of the three shot series, you can ask that your doctor run quantitative anti-HBs to be sure that your titres are above 10.  If you have built adequate immunity to the virus through vaccination then you and your loved ones will be HBV free for life.  With a safe and effective vaccine, like the HBV vaccine, this is the way it should be!

So when you are considering adopting a special needs child, please consider a child with HBV. Even if you do not choose HBV as a special need, be sure to have your adopted child screened for hepatitis B. HBV is endemic in so many portions of the world. This is how we discovered our daughter’s infection. Had she not been screened, we would have likely never known her HBV status, and although this might not affect you on a daily basis, it is something that needs to be monitored by a pediatric liver specialist. In our case, our daughter needed treatment, but because there were no symptoms, I am grateful we had her screened upon her arrival home.

No matter where your children are grown – within your womb or another, having children truly is a leap of faith.  Keep an open mind. Adoption is a wonderful way to grow your family and choosing to adopt a special needs child with HBV is a great addition to your family.