Monday, August 29, 2016

Living With Hepatitis B

The following was written by a Gladney adoptive mom. Her insight is so valuable! Many kids with hepatitis B, including Dexter, are waiting for families! Would you be open to this special need?



I recently found out from Gladney that some potential adoptive parents are hesitant to pursue adopting children who have hepatitis B.  As someone who has chronic hepatitis B (HBV), I wanted to send a clear message to those parents: do not let the presence of hepatitis B, even chronic hepatitis B, prevent you from adopting an otherwise healthy, loving, and ready child.

Here’s my story.  For over 20 years, I never knew I carried the surface antigen for hepatitis B (HBsAg), nor that I had, and still have, chronic hepatitis B (HBV).  But to be honest, once I found out, not much changed in my life.  I continued to eat, sleep, drink, and exercise as I always did. Since I discovered my condition, I have rarely thought about it, and it has never affected my overall health. 

In my research on hepatitis B, I found that 1 in 12 Asian Americans is affected by hepatitis B. In China and Taiwan, it is an endemic problem with over one-third of the world's 240 million infected living in that region. And many that have it have no idea that they're infected, leading to the high mortality rates of those with hepatitis B.

But for those of us who are aware of our situation, and who get regular medical care, hepatitis B is a very manageable condition. I do, of course, monitor my health.  I have a hepatologist, whom I visit annually for an exam, ultrasound, and bloodwork. (When I reach 50 years old, I will have an ultrasound every 6 months.) So far, my virus load has been so low that there has been no impact to my liver. With consistent continuous monitoring, I will be able to detect any liver damage or disease early enough to successfully treat it.

And I'm careful about transmission to others. I cannot donate blood. I always practice safe sex. And my husband was vaccinated. When I had my daughter a few years ago, we made sure she was vaccinated shortly after birth so she wouldn't even have these concerns.

So I know that hepatitis B is very manageable.  Indeed, I’m not the only one in my family managing the condition. My sister is similarly affected. We believe the antigen was passed from our mother at birth.  She has had the same experience I have had.  

When I spoke with Gladney about a potential adoption and realized that hepatitis B was preventing some children from being adopted, I was truly shocked. Yes, there is a potential impact to the liver. However, with regular screening, that impact to the liver can be minimal and managed. In fact, the management of hepatitis B is probably less cumbersome than high blood pressure or diabetes, since there are no dietary concerns and daily monitoring is not necessary. 


So please, do not let the presence of hepatitis B, even chronic hepatitis B, prevent you from adopting an otherwise healthy, loving, and ready child.