Wednesday June 19, 2013
Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis Insidious Disease of DeathLela Taylor, Salem-News.com
The subject comes painfully close to home for one reporter.
(SALEM, Ore.) - This article is about alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis can be caused by other physiological problems and diseases, but alcoholic liver cirrhosis is a social issue that affects not only the person suffering, but also their family and friends.
Hopefully, my story may help someone you or someone you know to recognize the symptoms of this disease and take the steps to end the process before it is too late. Death by alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver is devastating, but there can be hope if it is recognized in a timely manner and medical help is obtained.
For many years I watched my husband slowly drink himself to death. Because of the nature of “alcoholism” he was convinced he had no problem. He drank because he liked it.
He was what I refer to as a “functional alcoholic.” He seemed to maintain and function quite well. He was not vicious nor out of control. He didn’t do inappropriate things. He always got up in the morning; he attended to activities he wanted to accomplish, and he went to work on a daily basis.
After retiring, he maintained our household responsibilities of paying bills, shopping, playing with his grandchildren, and occasionally going on trips to visit relatives in another state.
Two years ago though, his body started slowing down. He refused to go places because he was afraid to travel too far from home. His many trips to the bathroom during the day began to interfere with his ability to even go to the store.
His skin began to resemble yellow, aged paper and the whites of his eyes took on the same yellow tinge. Red spots started appearing on his arms and legs. A slight bump would leave a red bruise under his skin that didn’t go away.
His feet, legs, and stomach swelled to the point that he could no longer fit comfortably in his shoes or clothes.
Yet in spite of all of this, he refused to go to the doctor. He refused to talk about his declining health. He would go to the liquor store and buy his whiskey before he started drinking for the day, as he didn’t start still after 2;00 PM and then continue till 2:00 AM.
After watching his decline and listening to his refusal to admit to his problem, I printed an Internet article describing his symptoms, only the article referred to congestive heart failure. I taped this article to his arm chair and wrote “READ THIS!” He did; it scared him; he called the doctor. Sadly, only because he thought he had something wrong with his heart! The alcoholic is so unwilling to admit to his disease. Someone told me once alcohol convinces its victims they have no disease.
According to an article written by Howard J. Worman, M.D., “Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world... Alcohol affects many organ systems of the body, but perhaps most notably affected are the central nervous system and the liver. Almost all ingested alcohol is metabolized in the liver and excessive alcohol use can lead to acute and chronic liver disease. Liver cirrhosis resulting from alcohol abuse is one of the ten leading causes of death in the United States.”
After going to the doctor and after the EKG and other tests showed no significant heart problems, it was identified he had suffered a couple strokes, which had gone unrecognized as he was usually so intoxicated by bedtime his strokes must have appeared to have been just “too much booze.”
His primary care physician referred him to a gastroenterologist to identify and confirm her suspicion of cirrhosis of the liver. This took almost a month to get the referral and the appointment.
By this time, he realized his “drinking” must be causing a problem and he slowed down to just having two drinks a night and felt proud of himself as he was “watering” them down. Upon seeing the specialist, he was told “Do not drink another drop of liquor, do not look at it, and don’t even smell it! You have to abstain from drinking for six months before you can even be considered for a transplant. You could die from this.”
The doctor was firm. He looked him in the eyes, and told him the same things I had been telling him the last two years. He quit drinking that very day but it was too late. In six months he was dead. He died a horrible death.
After many trips to the hospital, the decision was made to place him in a care facility as his needs were too much for me to assist with at home. His decline was heartbreaking to watch as his body wasted away. His inability to do the physical therapy and his frustration over not being able to come home sent me home in tears many times.
Watching him go through the bouts of draining up to eight pounds or more of fluids off his stomach and seeing his mind slip to another place where his reality was “never-never land” became unbearable and sad to witness. After two months in the care facility, the days of violent vomiting of blood began - the prelude to the end.
Fear came to his eyes as he became aware his life was nearing the end. His reaching for my hand to hold as if it was a lifeline before letting go to the “other side” was at times more than I could bear.
This man who I loved for 18 years finally slipped into the silent sleep just before death. I looked at him lying there and knew he was finally at peace. As I felt his cold hands I knew death was near and bent down and kissed his forehead and said my farewell. I had to leave as I knew the solitude of the moment was between him, death and God. After I left, he silently slipped away.
I hope in telling my story, which after only two months, still bears the pain of loss, I can help someone recognize the need to reach out for help if they recognize symptoms of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver of someone they love or of self. I offer, again, another quote from Howard J. Worman, M.D., “REMEMBER, LIVER DISEASE IS NOT THE ONLY LIFE-THREATENING COMPLICATION OF ALCOHOL USE DISORDERS. ALL ALCOHOLICS MUST ABSTAIN FROM DRINKING AS NUMEROUS OTHER ALCOHOL-RELATED MEDICAL, SOCIAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS CAN LEAD TO MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY.”
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