Pam Langford made it her mission to inform and educate others after she was diagnosed with a disease 10 times more infectious than HIV.
Langford, a retired electroencephalogram technician from Colorado, became president of Tallahassee’s Hepatitis Education Awareness and Liver Support Group or ”H.E.A.L.S.” after she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease spread through contact of the blood with an affected person.
“I found out I had Hepatitis C in 1997 at the age of 49,” Langford said. “I kept contracting strange cases of pneumonia and fatigue. The doctors thought it was HIV but I knew I didn’t have any risk factors. After receiving several negative results for HIV and a biopsy, I was told it was Hepatitis C.”
In the late 90’s only two treatments were available for Hepatitis C that proved effective, Interferon and Ribavirin.
“The odds of being cured at the time were slim,” Langford said. “Interferon had an 8 percent cure rate and Ribavirin had a 25 percent rate. I decided to go with Ribavirin and was asked by doctors to sell everything and move back home because of the effects of the treatment. I packed up and moved to Tallahassee.”
Langford started the 48 week treatment which resulted in a near death experience.
“My hemoglobin fell so low I ended up on life support,” Langford said. “I had to have four units of blood pumped into my body. That set me back.”
Eventually, Langford was offered a new combination of drugs called Sovaldi and Olysio, a combination Langford was told to have a 99 percent cure rate. The treatment proved effective and Langford was cured.
“Once I found out I was cured, with my knowledge, I knew I had survived, so I could help others in their battle with this disease,” Langford said.
Langford currently spends her time running the H.E.A.L.S support group, traveling and educating others on the dangers of Hepatitis C and Hepatitis C prevention.
Educator and Vice President of H.E.A.L.S, Miriam Altieri, met Pam Langford over the internet when she was searching for a Hepatitis C support group.
“We met at a restaurant for the first time and she was so inviting,” Altieri said. “It was nice to meet someone who went through the same things I am going through and to have that support. It made me want to join and help others as well.”
Chef and member Tricia Neal contracted Hepatitis C after receiving five blood transfusions and said she wouldn’t be where she was today if it wasn’t for Pam Langford and the support group.
“I visited several doctors and kept getting the run around,” Neal said. “I met Langford and she shared her story with me and how she was cured. You could tell she did her research and that gave me hope.”
H.E.A.L.S meets every first Monday of every month in the education room of the TMH Diabetes Center from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.