I am a 57-year-old white American male infected with Hepatitis C. I am involved in a controlled medical research study by Roche Pharmaceuticals of an experimental Polymerase Inhibitor (RO5024048 also known as RG7128) drug therapy for the virus. This document is the story of my illness and the experience of treatment. My lovely and pretty damn wonderful wife will be contributing her take on the experience as well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Avoid Being a Ralph Star on the Job

Rules for managing nausea at work:

1. Recognize when those waves of nausea you occasionally feel become more insistent.
2. Make sure the rest room is available and not in use.
3. Move quickly to the rest room when needed.
4. Make sure the rest room has a solid, thick door and is not one of those hollow pocket doors or, even worse, a jalousie style door.
5. Attempt to void your digestive tract in as quiet a manner as possible.
6. Clean all affected areas thoroughly.
7. Attempt to return to your work area discreetly.

I think I managed to follow rules 2, 3 and 6 pretty well; the others not so much. It was last Friday afternoon and I suspect that it all happened the way it did because it had not happened before. I have been remarkably free of the truly vicious nausea that afflicts many people on Hep C treatment. I get waves of it from time to time, but usually by drinking some water, getting up and walking around and doing some controlled breathing, I have been able to manage it. On Friday, things were different.

In mid-afternoon I began to have some waves of nausea. I used my usual tactics to try to manage them, but they didn’t really go away. I felt them get stronger and realized that this might require a trip to the toilet. Then I began to cough (as you sometimes do during these delightful events) and realized it was game on. I ran to the bathroom. As an aside, I work on a mezzanine with a small bathroom close by. Unfortunately because of the design, the bathroom has a hollow pocket door that slides closed. As I ran into the room, I slid the door closed (or as it turned out, almost closed). I then began to noisily lose my stomach contents. It was over quickly enough and after pulling myself together and cleaning up a bit, I walked out of the bathroom. To see my boss standing there with a concerned look on his face as he asked me if I were going to live.

It turns out that because of the flimsy nature of the door and the fact that it did not close completely as I rushed in, it was quite clear throughout the building that someone was having digestive problems. Luckily it was late enough in the afternoon that there were only my boss, one coworker and one volunteer left in the building. If it had all happened about a half-hour earlier, I might have had a crowd of concerned volunteers waiting for me outside the bathroom wondering if my internal organs were still internal.

It’s not exactly that it is embarrassing to have this happen, it’s more that I like to be somewhat discreet and not subject everyone in the building to my health issues. I don’t hide the fact that I have Hep C, but I don’t advertise either the fact that I have it or the fact that I am undergoing treatment. It is just something that doesn’t need to be rubbed in everyone’s face. No doubt an artifact of my Minnesota upbringing.

But it did lead me to formulate the 7 simple rules for avoiding becoming a center of attention at work. So take it for what it’s worth. To be a star or not to be a star, aye, there’s the rub.

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