Counting Bruises

I remember the first time I thought something was amiss with my health. It was sitting in Friday morning algebra class where I should’ve been focusing on the lesson at hand. However, my friend and I were focused on something less pedantic–counting the bruises on my arms from the previous night’s football game. I played nose guard and center and didn’t wear arm pads.

I was surprised that we tallied over 50 bruises, which didn’t seem normal. 

Easy bruising, most likely caused by low platelet counts…both symptoms of the autoimmune disease taking shape in my body that would not be diagnosed for another 20 years.

Elevated Liver Enzymes

In 1993, I planned on studying abroad for the summer in Florence Italy. Prior to leaving, I was required to have a physical which revealed that I had elevated liver enzymes. The doctor probably thought this was due to excessive alcohol use, which wasn’t the case.  He didn’t investigate, he just offered this piece of friendly advice: “You may want to take it easy on the drinking over there.”

The Honeymoon is Over

A little over a year after my wife Kristy and I were married, we were visiting her parents when her mom mentioned to Kristy that my color seemed off. She suggested that I get it checked out. So I contacted my doctor, and he referred me to a local gastroenterologist (liver specialist). I still remember the day, February 21, 1997, when Dr. Janardan entered the room. He had a serious look on his face and said these words to me: “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but It appears that you have signs of serious liver disease including cirrhosis.”

It took a few seconds to process what he said. I immediately felt flush and thought “What? Liver disease? I thought only alcoholics got cirrhosis.”  He waited a moment for me to regain my composure and went on to say “Look at your hands…do you see how red they are?” I never noticed, but sure enough, my palms were red. “That’s a sign of cirrhosis”. 

Shell-shocked, I returned to work and called Kristy with the bad news.

In a matter of moments, I went from being a healthy and carefree 26-year-old to suddenly facing my own mortality. I remembered waking up every morning, looking at the bathroom mirror telling myself “You’re not going to die today, and you’re not going to die tomorrow, and Jesus said “Do not worry about tomorrow…” so let’s get on with the day. 

For the next several months Dr. Janardan and his team tried to figure out what was causing my liver condition.

Finally, he referred me to the University of Michigan where they officially diagnosed me with Autoimmune Hepatitis (AH) with cirrhosis of the liver. AH is a chronic, autoimmune disease of the liver that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks liver cells, causing the liver to be inflamed. They also mentioned that I may need a liver transplant. 

Next: Chapter 2: Imuran, a Miracle Drug

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment