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Former patient 'paying my debt'

By West Briton  |  Posted: August 14, 2014

Stuart Smith, former Hepatitits C patient and worker with Addaction

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Stuart Smith, 42, is the brains behind the project, but his association with the region goes back way beyond his current project leadership role. In 2000, while living in London, Stuart was packed off to the South West for drug rehabilitation. Nine years later he left Cornwall, free of drugs and free of hepatitis C.

STUART first knew he had hepatitis C in 1997. Following his girlfriend's diagnosis, he went for a test and this turned out positive.

A couple of years later, he finally got to see a consultant to discuss his options to treat his potentially fatal disease. However, Stuart said he was shocked when he was told by the hospital that "he wasn't suitable for treatment".

While he was given no support for his hepatitis C, 12 months later he was offered drug rehabilitation in Cornwall. Stuart spent six weeks in Plymouth before transferring to a residential centre near Hayle, and on leaving he decided to live in the area. It was while at the treatment centre that someone suggested he call the local hospital to discuss treatment for his hepatitis C. A month later he was taking his medication. Within seven months he was cured.

For Stuart, treatment was not without its challenges. Loss of appetite, nausea, night sweats, weight loss and depression were just a few of the treatment side-effects he suffered.

It was only through the "incredible support" offered by the rehabilitation centre that he managed to stay on his treatment.

However, the challenge in supporting someone through treatment meant that Stuart was the first, and the last, person the centre supported so actively.

"Treatment for me was a horrendous experience, but the rehab centre made this so much more bearable," he said. "The level of support I received is simply not available to others and the pilot project will help address this. This region was so good to me, on so many levels.

"I am therefore delighted to pay back my debt of gratitude by piloting the programme in Cornwall. By working together, I am confident that we can turn elimination of hepatitis C from a dream to reality."

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