The following was submitted by a Q-Notes reader who wishes to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the information he shares.

At the beginning of December 2006, I was in perfect health. Looking forward to Christmas and the New Year, I was working hard, playing hard and hanging out with friends and a boyfriend. By the end of the month I was sick, in the hospital and facing a possible liver transplant — all the result of contracting Hepatitis B.

The first mistake I made was not being aware of all the health issues associated with being a gay man. The second mistake, not asking enough questions at the doctor’s office.

So let me ask you, “Mr. and Miss Reader,” how much do you know about Hepatitis B? Have you ever discussed the disease with your doctor? Did you know that Hepatitis B is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S.? Did you know that there is a vaccine?

Neither did I.

My doctor never mentioned the disease or the vaccine, and I even have a gay doctor. I suspect the majority of you are like me, happily unaware of this disease and the havoc it can cause in your life.

So, for the past five months I have been trying to recover. Because Hepatitis B can cause major liver damage, that might never repair itself, I was initially placed on the liver transplant list.

Imagine living every day for months waiting on the call from the transplant center and wondering what is taking so long and wondering if you will survive until you receive the transplant. Imagine wishing for a liver but terrified of the surgery and the aftermath. It’s hard to pray for an organ knowing someone will die in order to supply it.

Luckily or by a miracle (I choose to believe miracle), my health has continued to improve and I have been taken off of the liver transplant list. My doctor says he has never seen anything like my recovery and that I have defied all of the odds.

I write this to bring awareness to the LGBT community. After I contracted Hepititis B, I became aware of all the friends that have never been vaccinated. I encourage you to talk to your doctor and get vaccinated. While you’re at it, go to www.donatelifenc.org and become an organ donor. Currently, there are over 3,000 people in North Carolina waiting on a donor.

Finally, I could not have survived that last five months without my family, friends and boyfriend. Their support has been a true blessing.

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