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OUR STORIES —

The Hepatitis Foundation International is proud to offer this series of very special stories about the people involved in the fight against hepatitis and other liver-related diseases.

You will learn about the courageous lives of people personally affected by the ravages of hepatitis.

You will find uplifting stories of how people engage in the daily fight to bring widespread awareness to the importance of liver health...

To begin, Kathy Gacos tells the story of her brother, Billy, and his long struggle to find an effective treatment for Hepatitis C...

Billy’s Story, by his sister, Kathy Gacos

Kathy and her mother, Kathryn Lieberman

On the 26th day of January 2013, the candle of life which had always glowed brightly, flickered and went dark with the passing of my mother Kathryn Lieberman.  

Kathryn, age 79, suffered a life-ending fall while we were on vacation in Puerto Rico—in spite of valiant efforts on the part of all the doctors and medical personnel to save her.  

In lieu of flowers our family asked that memorial donations be made in her memory to the Hepatitis Foundation International.  My father and I have been overwhelmed by the support of family and friends with the contributions to the foundation.

My mother wrote a story that was published in Liver Health April-June 2007. I want to briefly share this story again to explain why my mother worked so hard to bring awareness and education to Hepatitis.

My brother Billy's mysterious death left her a grieving mother with more questions than answers. Bill passed away on January 16, 2006 from a profound hemorrhage of the posterior nose. An artery had broken for some reason, and his heart gave out from loss of blood. He lived alone, and he did not call 911. He lived only four minutes from the hospital.

Billy was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2000, when he was 39 years old.  He had probably had it for twenty years. He immediately decided to take the treatment available at the time, which was interferon and ribavirin.   After six months, he was taken off the treatment because it was not working. In the meantime, Billy finished school for a new career he was pursuing as a medical laboratory technician. He struggled to complete his degree, now hampered by severe fatigue.

Billy finished his degree, and it was the highlight of his life, despite the hepatitis C. When he graduated in 2003, it was a proud moment for him and our family but especially for my mother.

Around this time his latest biopsy showed that his liver was becoming worse, he immediately started the “new way” treatment (pegylated interferon and ribavirin) in spring 2003. This time it was working.  We were all so happy and grateful. He was going to get another chance at life, or so we thought.

Billy was supposed to feel well, now that the treatment was complete.  Well, he didn’t.  Six months passed—no luck. He continued having fatigue and joint pain, and other strange side effects (that we assumed) were associated with interferon. By this time, he was on temporary disability.

To make a long story short, Billy never got his second chance at life. He never had the opportunity to begin the career he worked so hard to achieve. He left behind two young daughters and a devastated family. He left behind a devastated mother who had been desperate to find the cure for her son. Billy was 46 when he passed.

My mother stated, “ Some people wonder why it matters so much to me.  They advise me to get on with my life and that I probably will never know. However, we read every day about people, especially parents, who take on causes because their loved one has died. Perhaps this is mine.”

I hope I am able to continue in my mother’s footsteps to bring awareness and education to Hepatitis. 

Now meet Gil Sadler as he celebrated his annual fun and fundraising event, Jamaican*Me*Crazy, with family and friends...

Jamaican*Me*Crazy

By Gil Sadler

Not many people shopping for a new house would have what Gil Sadler had on his “must have” list:  space for a sandbar-wrecked sailboat (including sandbar), full size tiki bar, bandstand and as much sand as can be hauled in! 

Thankfully, he found such a property allowing the joyful continuation “Jamaican*Me*Crazy” – Gil’s annual fun and fundraising celebration.. Gil’s party began as a celebration following his successful treatment for hepatitis C back in the late 1990’s.  He planned a party to thank his friends and family – and the Hepatitis Foundation International for their support throughout his ordeal.

In 2000, when Gil decided to re-create his Jamaican beach scene, he dug and dug and lugged and lugged – A 25’ deep pit for 200 tons of sand for the Jamaican event.  He built a tiki beach bar named “The Nauty Bar” (nautical) and repaints and refreshes it annually. A marooned sailboat on the sandbar serves as a large and accessible cooler for the party!

Gil announces the date of the event- and then stands back as the ever-growing network of friends and family shares the excitement.  Four weeks out, Gil picks a mascot to be part of all announcements…and Facebook photos. This year a ventriloquist’s dummy, appropriately dressed for an island beach party, made the weekly countdown announcement.  

The night unfolds with costume contests, silent auction, and live music and island style revelry! Corporate, regional and local contributors line up to support this annual fun event.  Gil is always taken back by the generosity of the contributors as well as the partygoers enabling the Hepatitis Foundation to continue its encouragement for others as they did for Gil.

And learn about Paula and Steve's brave fight against hepatitis...

HCV from a Transfusion for a Tonsillectomy
Decades Ago Claims
A Precious Life

Hepatitis C was unrecognized in the blood transfusion Paula Marie needed when she ran into trouble during a tonsillectomy 50 years ago. 

Over the years, this treacherous virus slowly and silently attacked her liver cells, the infinitesimal chemical converters in Paula’s liver, and turned them into scar tissue, called cirrhosis. Tragically, her liver had no way of warning Paula that this carnage was going on.

This non-complaining organ that serves as the body’s control center is its own worst enemy. It suffered in silence every day until there were too few healthy liver cells remaining to keep hundreds of vital life sustaining functions working on a daily basis. Paula’s liver tried its best to ward off the cancer that eventually snuffed out the flame that sparked her life.

Note: As a loving tribute to Paula, Steve, her husband of 29 years, plans to collaborate with the Hepatitis Foundation International to serve as a voice of the liver to promote liver health/wellness and preventable liver related diseases.