Petra Wright speaks about her journey recovering from hepatitis C and her ultimate aim to see the virus eliminated in Scotland.
“When I was first diagnosed my drug use was around 25 years in the past. I had a good job in Financial services, a mortgage and life was good. Nobody in my new life knew anything about that part of my life. I moved on and that was it. It was a huge shock to me.
Although I was feeling unwell with many ‘easy to ignore’ symptoms, like forgetfulness, digestive issues, joint aches and pains, I was reluctant to make my GP aware of my earlier dalliance with drugs. Eventually I told her and was referred to the hospital clinic. I self-stigmatized but the strange thing was that the stigma I felt wasn’t about having Hepatitis C Virus but more around how I had got it.
At the time treatment consisted of 6 months of weekly injections of interferon and daily anti-viral pills. Lots of side effects made it impossible to continue working or carrying on with life as usual. The efficacy was around 75%, I finished the course but, but the virus came back after a month.
I found the Hep C trust website. They had a helpline in London. Using the helpline, I could phone a stranger who had experienced the same as me. I agreed to do some press work to raise awareness about Hepatitis C. (HCV).
The first interview I did was for the local Bo’ness Journal, it was front page. I went to Tesco that day and a few people were coming up to me whispering ‘see that, I’ve got that’.
I suppose that alerted me as to how many people were affected and didn’t talk about it openly. That’s when I realised that by speaking out, I could help other people.
I eventually secured a job with The Hepatitis C Trust as the Scottish Officer. I’ve been cured for about five/six years after my second round of treatment. I’ve not looked back since. I’ve been working with the Trust for ten years.
The big message is this is a medical condition, it could happen to anybody, people should stop thinking it’s only a drug user’s disease. The treatment now is a pill a day with 97% success rate and little or no side-effects.
My goal is to eliminate Hepatitis from Scotland, just face up to it, get tested. Nobody need ever know, the treatment’s so good these days.”