By Christine Kukka
After our daughter was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B 20 years ago, my doctor immediately had me tested for hepatitis B before I could leave her office. She explained that every household member, including my husband, had to be tested for the liver infection that’s transmitted by direct contact with blood and body fluids. ASAP.
The good news was my daughter, who was adopted, appeared healthy and showed no signs of liver damage. The bad news was my husband and I were shaken to the core by her diagnosis. Weighed down by worry and ignorance, I feared we might all be infected and were facing a death sentence.
I drove out to my husband’s work and we went for a walk. I explained what the doctor had said and explained he had to get tested. It was one of those moments when fear and denial play out over the course of a conversation. Like everyone, he was afraid to get tested. He felt fine, at first he didn’t want to know whether he was infected. For a few moments, he thought ignorance might be less painful than finding out he had hepatitis B.And, as in most families, this disclosure wasn’t easy. He had children from his first marriage who were with us every weekend and they had to be tested too. He would have to share this information with his former wife. This disclosure was going to upend two households. After a few minutes of waffling and processing, he did what courageous fathers do. He got tested and made sure his children were tested too.
The news was all good. His children had been immunized and were fine, he was not infected and was immediately immunized. Today, we are all doing fine, including our daughter.
Every father’s day, I think about that moment, when my husband refused to retreat into denial, when he put his family’s health ahead of his initial impulse to hide from a frightening and messy situation. It is what being a good father is all about, and it takes courage.
A growing number of studies show fathers are critical to the emotional well-being of their children. When they are affectionate, supportive, and involved, they bolster a child’s emotional development, as well as academic achievement.
A child’s relationship with his/her father affects all of their future relationships and helps define what the child considers to be acceptable and loving. When involved with their children, fathers make a difference. No matter if he is married, single, divorced, widowed, gay, straight, adoptive, step-father, a stay-at-home dad, or the primary family provider, one of the most profound things he can do is protect the health of his family—and himself–by getting tested for hepatitis B.
There are many men who are at risk of hepatitis B because of where they or their parents or grandparents emigrated from, or if they served in the military, dabbled in drugs, or had multiple sex partners. That was in the past, and this is today, a time to protect your health and your family by getting tested for hepatitis B.
The CDC offers short video clips that feature a conversation between a daughter and her parents, with the daughter explaining why Asian-Americans should be tested for hepatitis B in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean. A high percentage of Asian and African immigrants have hepatitis B, but most don’t know they are infected. To view these clips, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/knowhepatitisb/materials.htm