I was interpreting for a new patient getting approved for a transplanted organ this week and we were both surprised by a relatively new option. You can choose to accept an organ from a donor who was Hepatitis C positive, and then get the new cure for Hepatitis C after getting the organ.
The surgeon explained that this is a good option for end stage disease, where waiting for an optimal organ could mean death on the wait list. As others ahead of you in line turn it down, you have a better chance of a shorter wait time. Yes, you get infected with Hepatitis C. It is an inconvenience, and it can be costly, but the cure rate is now around 90%.
For this patient, knowing that he may get a donated organ months or even years ahead is a huge win. A young man with a young family, very ill, after being a farmworker and having exposure to chemicals, in addition to other risk factors, he was glad and grateful to know this, and his wife was thrilled.
So many times the answer to the patient’s prayer is simply no. No, there will not be a cure. No, you did not get to our specialized medical center soon enough to make a difference. No, you will not have a chance to raise your children. No, our wealth and our technology and all our goodwill do not always add up to extended, healthy lives.
But sometimes there is a gleam of hope. Sometimes, the research turns into help for patients in unexpected ways. Sometimes, the patient has a fighting chance, based on something he wasn’t even aware of until the specialist told him. These are happy moments in healthcare.