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Billy’s Story, by his sister, Kathy Gacos


On the 26th day of January 2013, the candle of life which had always glowed brightly, flickered and went dark with the passing of my mother Kathryn Lieberman.

Kathryn, age 79, suffered a life-ending fall while we were on vacation in Puerto Rico—in spite of valiant efforts on the part of all the doctors and medical personnel to save her.

In lieu of flowers our family asked that memorial donations be made in her memory to the Hepatitis Foundation International.  My father and I have been overwhelmed by the support of family and friends with the contributions to the foundation.

My mother wrote a story that was published in Liver Health April-June 2007. I want to briefly share this story again to explain why my mother worked so hard to bring awareness and education to Hepatitis.

My brother Billy's mysterious death left her a grieving mother with more questions than answers. Bill passed away on January 16, 2006 from a profound hemorrhage of the posterior nose. An artery had broken for some reason, and his heart gave out from loss of blood. He lived alone, and he did not call 911. He lived only four minutes from the hospital.

Billy was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2000, when he was 39 years old.  He had probably had it for twenty years. He immediately decided to take the treatment available at the time, which was interferon and ribavirin.   After six months, he was taken off the treatment because it was not working. In the meantime, Billy finished school for a new career he was pursuing as a medical laboratory technician. He struggled to complete his degree, now hampered by severe fatigue.

Billy finished his degree, and it was the highlight of his life, despite the hepatitis C. When he graduated in 2003, it was a proud moment for him and our family but especially for my mother.

Around this time his latest biopsy showed that his liver was becoming worse, he immediately started the “new way” treatment (pegylated interferon and ribavirin) in spring 2003. This time it was working.  We were all so happy and grateful. He was going to get another chance at life, or so we thought.

Billy was supposed to feel well, now that the treatment was complete.  Well, he didn’t.  Six months passed—no luck. He continued having fatigue and joint pain, and other strange side effects (that we assumed) were associated with interferon. By this time, he was on temporary disability.

To make a long story short, Billy never got his second chance at life. He never had the opportunity to begin the career he worked so hard to achieve. He left behind two young daughters and a devastated family. He left behind a devastated mother who had been desperate to find the cure for her son. Billy was 46 when he passed.

My mother stated, “ Some people wonder why it matters so much to me.  They advise me to get on with my life and that I probably will never know. However, we read every day about people, especially parents, who take on causes because their loved one has died. Perhaps this is mine.”

I hope I am able to continue in my mother’s footsteps to bring awareness and education to Hepatitis.

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