Country Star Naomi Judd and My Mother Unknowingly Shared a Common Bond
Naomi Judd, the award-winning country singer and half of the duo 'The Judds', recently passed away. The music world was rocked when her daughter, Wynonna Judd, revealed her death was by suicide due to mental illness.
Mental illness is not the only life-threatening disease that Naomi faced in her 76 years.
Naomi Judd was an RN and worked in hospital settings for years prior to her success in music. In telling her story, HepMag.com reports that as a nurse she had numerous needle sticks, and one of those sticks gave her the Hepatitis-C Virus. She unknowingly lived with Hep C for eight years before symptoms debilitated her with nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and joint pain.
In 1991, Naomi was forced to retire from the road due to the liver virus, and given three years to live.
Hep Magazine also reports that Naomi and her team found the doctor who was working on a new treatment for Hep C with a drug called alpha interferon. At this point, it was a long, arduous treatment with less than 50% survival rate.
Because Naomi was forthright about her liver disease, the story was covered extensively in the news.
In 1998, the Chicago-Tribune ran a story about how alpha interferon worked for Naomi, though not without pain and brutal side-effects. Nonetheless she persevered, and established the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund, providing grants for liver research.
The Chicago-Tribune also says that Naomi was able to make a complete recovery from Hepatitis-C, meaning there was no detection of the virus in her body. However, she was dealing with anxiety and depression from the whole ordeal.
In 1980, my mother, Carmella, was told she needed a quadruple heart bypass. During the surgery, she needed multiple blood transfusions. At that time period, blood was in short supply, so people would often give walk-in donations at hospitals and were paid for their blood.
This was an easy way for drug users to make money. The blood was not screened the way it is now. Drug use is one way to contract Hepatitis C, called non-A non-B back then. Little was know about Hep C, except it destroyed the liver and could cause liver cancer. Either way, it's not a pleasant way to pass, and there was no cure.
Ten years later, in 1990, my mother was diagnosed with Hepatitis non-A non-B. We were devastated.
My brother was watching the news and saw a story about Naomi Judd contracting Hepatitis non-A, non-B. The news anchor said she was receiving treatments through a new protocol drug called alpha interferon.
That was it for my brother. He called Naomi's record label in Nashville, was persistent, and finally was connected with someone who could help. All he wanted to know was the name of the doctor who was providing this treatment, so our mom could potentially be saved. This was our only hope for her.
Sure enough, my mom's hepatologist (doctor who treats liver diseases) had a consult with Naomi's doctor, and it was determined that my mother could try alpha interferon. We had hope. It was a 50/50 chance she would survive, but we had to try.
Alpha interferon did not work for Carmella. She succumbed to liver disease 4 months later.
However, we are grateful for all Naomi Judd did to bring Hep C and liver disease to the forefront by using her country star platform for doing good in the world.
Two strong women, and one disease that brought them together unknowingly, forever.