When Mary Ann Krezan was being treated for Hepatitis C, she saw first hand the lack of support services here for woman suffering from the disease.
So now, with the creation of the valley’s first support group for women with Hep C, the Kelowna resident has teamed up with the owner of a local health and esthetics spa to provide aftercare services for female patients.
“There is such a stigma attached to Hep C,” said Krezan, who contracted the disease 35 years ago from a blood transfusion but whose illness was not discovered until two years ago.
Hep. C is transferred via blood and is often— but not only—spread through the sharing of dirty intravenous needles during illegal drug use. Krezan said as a result many patients are treated as if they brought it on themselves. She said often, it is assumed patients are drug addicts. But that is not always the case.
Hep C is a blood-borne pathogen that damages the liver. Given that the liver is the filtering system for the body, it can lead to many other problems, illnesses and even death. But medical treatment is available.
The treatment, however, takes a toll on the body.
Regular symptoms of Hep. C can include severe fatigue, skin rashes, aches and pains and loss of appetite. The treatments, similar to those offered to cancer patients, carry whole range of debilitating side effects including nausea and hair loss.
The new support group, in addition to helping increase public awareness and education about the disease, will also have a social component to counter some of the side effects of treatment. The Pamper Me is what Krezan is helping organize.
It will offers spa services to help women recovering from the often harsh medical treatments needed to fight Hep C.
Similar to chemotherapy treatments for cancer, the treatments Hep C patients must undergo often result in hair loss, painful blisters and rashes and joint and pain.
And that’s where the Pamper Me program comes in.
Krezan has teamed up with Jason Ackerman, the owner of Lipo Laser Spa, a Kelowna facility that will offer Hep C patients use of its array of equipment that can ease the symptoms associated with the pain of Hep. C.
Equipment such as the low level lasers, vibration machines, healthy lights, esthetic procedures, massage and even wigs can help women feel better physically and about themselves as they go through their treatments.
“We want to help women regain their confidence and help them renew their self-esteem because that will help them get better faster,” said Ackerman.
He said he volunteered use of his business after hours because it’s important local companies give back to the community.
He said he also hopes his example will spur other business, especially thiose in the downtown area, to get involved with similar community-based programs.
The Hepatitis C support group is being organized through the Hep C clinic at Kelowna General Hospital.
The group’s first meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 9, at Lipo Laser Spa, 454 Bernard Ave., starting at 5:30 p.m.
For more information, call Donna Zukowski KGH Hep C clinic at 250-862-4435.